Aston Villa manager David O'Leary finds his already-thin squad tested to the limit this weekend - but he is still looking to them to find the consistency to earn a place in the Premiership's top half.
Villa are mathematically not yet clear of relegation trouble. But, with a ten-point cushion on Birmingham City in the first of the three relegation places following last weekend's 4-0 walloping of Middlesbrough, they are a lot closer to a successful outcome to this season.
A mere eight points shy of a likely European spot, they are only four points adrift of O'Leary's immediate ambition of a third successive topten finish. But, of all the frustrated managers in the top flight, this season's unpredictable results have made him realise better than most how quickly things can change.
"I want to put this club into the top half," he said, "I've done it for the last two seasons. And, if you're realistic, Birmingham and West Brom would say the same thing.
"But there's weekends ahead when we might lose, other teams might win and it all boxes up. That's how stupid the league is.
"At half time against West Ham, I'm thinking win this, and we're in the top half. But two or three losses and you can go just as quickly the other way.
"I never accepted we were in a relegation fight but I do accept you're never far off getting drawn into a battle. And the reason the likes of West Ham and Wigan are doing better than us is that they're more consistent than us."
Admittedly, although having guided his team back up to 12th in the table, O'Leary is worried by the absence of two key players for Saturday's visit of Newcastle United.
Already without James Milner, due to the Uefa rule which forbids loan players turning out against their parent clubs, O'Leary's midfield options are further restricted by the absence of Gavin McCann, who scored in the 1-1 draw with Newcastle at St James' Park in December.
It all just serves to pile on the frustration for O'Leary, who not only had to suffer the blow of not being allowed to bring any new players in during the January transfer window, but actually lost a key player when on-loan Eirik Bakke was forced to return to Leeds.
"It has left us very bare," he said. "But it was someone else setting the agenda and, while I didn't like it, I respected the decision."
O'Leary still has one player on his books clearly surplus to requirements - African flop Eric Djemba-Djemba - it has left him seriously short on numbers.
O'Leary has been tempted to give a full debut to youngster Craig Gardner. But he also has the option of Peter Whittingham, who has done well in the reserves since returning from his autumn loan at Derby County. Either way, it means going into Saturday's game with the comforting sight of an entirely homegrown midfield.