Manchester City look to be saving their best until last as they aim to finish a testing season on a high.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side have a Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid to look forward to in the Chilean’s last few weeks in charge at the Etihad Stadium.
And when City travel to relegation-threatened Newcastle United on Tuesday, they will be chasing a fourth successive Premier League win.
A sustained title challenge never really materialised as City suffered from injuries and a loss of form at key moments as both Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur got away from them at the top of the table.
But City’s late burst should be enough to secure them a top-four place and guaranteed Champions League football for next season.
Saturday’s 3-0 win over soon-to-be-deposed English champions Chelsea, which featured Sergio Aguero’s hat-trick, suggested City are nearing top form and midfielder Yaya Toure said: “We played very well. I thought the whole team played really well.
“I think it was one of the best games we’ve played this season, because it is not easy to dominate the way we did when playing at Stamford Bridge.”
Toure was back in City’s starting line-up for the first time in five games following a spell out with a knee injury.
– De Bruyne and Nasri boost -City have also benefitted from the recent return to fitness of creative midfielders Kevin de Bruyne and Samir Nasri.
And Toure believes that if all City’s key men avoid further injury to offer continued support to top scorer-Aguero, then Pellegrini’s side will take some stopping.
The Ivory Coast international added: “When Samir, de Bruyne and Aguero are on the field together they play very well and can hurt the opposition.
“I’ve missed two or three games through injury and it’s always difficult for me to watch my team-mates play without me.
“I always want to be involved and help my team whenever I can. I always want to work hard and that’s what I will continue to do because we want to finish the season as strongly as possible.”
City should also be buoyed at St James’ Park, where they are unbeaten since 2005 and have won on eight of their last nine visits, by the return of captain Vincent Kompany and winger Raheem Sterling.
Kompany has missed City’s last six games with the latest in a long line of calf injuries, while England international Sterling has been out for five games with a groin problem.
Meanwhile, Andros Townsend has set Newcastle a minimum target of three wins from their remaining five games to clinch Premier League safety.
Victory against City will see Rafa Benitez’s side climb out of the bottom three for the first time since early February as they look to build on Saturday’s 3-0 home win over Swansea.
Second-bottom Newcastle are aiming to avoid a second relegation form the top flight in seven years, and England midfielder Townsend said: “A lot of people have already written us off but the Swansea result has given us a lift and we take a lot of confidence from having three of our last five games at home.”
One of their two remaining away matches is at already-relegated Aston Villa, and Townsend added: “Winning three of those final five will be difficult, but if we perform like we did against Swansea, then we’ve got a chance. There’s a belief in the dressing room that we can go on a run and get ourselves out of trouble.”
Injured defenders Fabricio Coloccini (calf) and Daryl Janmaat (groin) are both unlikely to return in time for Tuesday’s match.