Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has warned his side they face a tough test when they travel to Crystal Palace on Monday.
The Chilean knows the Eagles have become a tougher proposition under Alan Pardew and his side can ill-afford to drop points ahead of the Manchester derby next week.
Fading champions City had to watch in frustration on Saturday, not only as Chelsea extended their lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League, but as Arsenal and Manchester United shunted them down to fourth.
Ahead of the trip to Selhurst Park, Pellegrini said: "Maybe they are playing different. They are in a good moment and they are playing with a lot of trust.
"With the other manager also Crystal Palace was a difficult team, but now they are playing at home."
City laboured to a 3-0 win over Palace at the Etihad Stadium in December in what proved Neil Warnock's penultimate match in charge.
Pardew was appointed early in the new year and since then they have proved highly resilient, losing just three times in the Premier League and removing relegation fears.
The Monday fixture has meant both sides have had to be patient for their return to action after the international break.
It is a wait that could have been advantageous in terms of extra rest had their rivals lost over the weekend.
It has not turned out that way with Saturday's positive results for Chelsea, Arsenal and United turning the heat up on City, but Pellegrini claims it does not make any difference.
The Chilean said: "I don't think we have excuses about those things. We are going to play the last game of this matchday but that doesn't matter.
"It is not an excuse and not an advantage. All the national players arrived back on Wednesday - most of them - so every team had three or four days to prepare. It is not so important."
Should Pablo Zabaleta feature for City it would come just two days after his wife gave birth to a son, Asier.
Argentina international Zabaleta previously announced his wife's pregnancy to the wider world with a baby-themed goal celebration during a 4-1 win at Sunderland in December.