LONDON - Manchester City took over at the top of the Premier League table on Saturday (yesterday Fiji time) but only after weathering heavy pressure from Crystal Palace in a narrow 1-0 home victory.
Having described the English festive fixture schedule as "not normal", City manager Manuel Pellegrini made six changes to his side and Palace almost took full advantage at the Etihad Stadium.
With half-an-hour remaining, Pellegrini sent on Samir Nasri and Alvaro Negredo, and in the 66th minute the hosts made the breakthrough when Edin Dzeko slammed home from Jesus Navas's cut-back.
"I think the team that wants to win the title must have different faces," said Pellegrini.
"We usually score lots of goals at home but after 45 minutes we knew it would not be like that."
Victory took City two points above previous leaders Arsenal, who visit Newcastle United on Sunday.
Manchester United closed to within two points of the Champions League places after recording a sixth consecutive victory in all competitions with a 1-0 win at Norwich City.
The defending champions were without Wayne Rooney because of a groin injury and needed the half-time introduction of Danny Welbeck to secure victory at Carrow Road.
The win took United level on points with fifth-place Everton, although it has now played a game more than all of the teams above them apart from City.
On Sunday (this morning Fiji time), Everton host Southampton, while third-placed Chelsea tackle fourth-placed Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
Cardiff City began life after Malky Mackay, sacked from his post as manager on Friday, with an agonising 2-2 draw at home to bottom club Sunderland.
Elsewhere, relegation rivals West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion played out a richly entertaining 3-3 draw at Upton Park.
Fulham also remain in the drop zone after a 6-0 humiliation at Hull and Aston Villa were held to a 1-1 draw by Swansea City.