Manuel Pellegrini wants his Manchester City team to be in prime position to launch their title charge from February.
City are third in the Premier League ahead of the Boxing Day fixtures, six points behind leaders Leicester and four adrift of second-placed Arsenal.
They started the season well, quickly establishing themselves as favorites with five consecutive wins during which they did not concede a goal.
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But their form since has been patchy and momentum has slowed, with Monday's 2-1 defeat at title rivals Arsenal their fifth defeat of the campaign.
Pellegrini says he is not unduly concerned and insists staying in touch with the leaders is all that matters at this stage of the campaign.
"I think it's very important to be involved, as we are now, at the end of January," he said.
"If you can be leaders before then that is better, but I think you need to be there on the last day of January. Then, in the last three months, you can win the title."
City travel to Leicester on Tuesday for another big clash but must first negotiate Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium on Boxing Day.
"We need to focus game by game. The next game is Sunderland and we must try to beat them here, that's never an easy game," added Pellegrini.
"Only after that do we think about Leicester. It's very important to win these two games to finish off the first round [of fixtures].
"We lost important points against Arsenal. I said before the game that it was a game of six points but it was not a decisive game. I repeat that you never win the title in December."