Birmingham City's match at Tottenham Hotspur today is arguably the easiest of their three Christmas fixtures, which gives some indication of the gargantuan task they face in attempting to ignite their stuttering season.
Steve Bruce's side have suffered seven defeats in their last nine Premiership games and the odds are stacked in Tottenham's favour.
Bruce's Christmas mood is hardly overflowing with goodwill as the fixture computer has pitted his team against Manchester United and Chelsea to complete 2005.
However, while most critics are expecting Birmingham's relegation woes to continue, there is a glimmer of light for the manager.
Mario Melchiot and Muzzy Izzet are in the equation for Wednesday's home clash with Manchester United and with Walter Pandiani likely to move to Real Mallorca when the transfer window opens, Bruce should have funds to replenish his depleted strike force.
With Mikael Forssell struggling to regain full fitness, the burden has been left on Emile Heskey's shoulders. Bruce has been linked with Izale McLeod, Cameron Jerome and Steve Kabba but will have to negotiate his team's next three fixtures, plus the tricky home game with Wigan Athletic, before he can introduce any new blood.
The bonus for Bruce has been the emergence of Jiri Jarosik as an alternative front-man. The on-loan Chelsea midfielder is Blues' top scorer with five goals. Bruce said: "We would like a striker, but David Dunn and Jiri's best position is off the frontman.
"Jiri was our best player against Manchester United [in the Carling Cup defeat last Tuesday] and we have found out where he wants to play.
"We originally bought him here as a midfielder but it has emerged that his best position is off the front man and we can accommodate him better in that role.
"I can't say I will buy a striker in the window who will get us ten goals because, if you look at the Premiership statistics, there are only two or three players [three -Ruud van Nistelrooy, Frank Lampard and Aiyegbeni Yakubu] who have scored that many in the first half of the season. However, we need an injection of two or three players."
Bruce will be without the injured Forssell once again at White Hart Lane as the striker has a sore thigh. The Finland international's fortunes have mirrored Birmingham's this term, as he is still feeling his way back into action following a debilitating knee injury last season.
He is without a Premiership goal in this campaign and Bruce says the punishing schedule of four games in eight days will be a test for all of his squad.
Yet he is pragmatic enough to realise that there is no hiding place in the Premiership, admitting: "The simple fact is that not enough of our big players have performed, for whatever reason, mainly due to injuries.
"They are physically fit but you have to wait for them to get back to where they were. Yet we can't nurse anyone through the fixtures any more, as this level is unforgiving.
"We all know Mikael is capable. Unfortunately, he has been getting over a serious injury and the biggest problem is the other niggles that go along with it. We have reached Christmas and he still hasn't been 100 per cent."
Nevertheless, despite Birmingham's travails, Bruce remains convinced his team will turn the corner and is hoping to unearth one of his customary rabbits from the hat in the transfer window.
Christophe Dugarry, Matthew Upson and Jermaine Pennant are three of the diamonds he has uncovered in three seasons to help revitalise their campaigns.
Bruce, who will have his son Alex available from January, is aware that Blues' position in the Premiership table might deter some potential signings; however, he cites the arrival of Dugarry as the perfect example of someone relishing a challenge.
Bruce said: "We have been towards the bottom before, but this is the worst position we find ourselves in. People will look at the situation and know where we are, but Christophe signed for us when we were fourth-from-bottom and the challenge to any player is 'can they help keep us up, like he did?'
"We still have all the bottom teams to play at home and if we can hang in there, I am convinced the players who have had injuries will come good. It is going to be a tough three or four months." ..SUPL: