Though fans of both sides would be quick to distance the two clubs from one another for a variety of reasons – wealth, playing style, and fan loyalty among them – Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur actually have a lot in common. Both are chasing ambitious dreams: City locked in an increasingly desperate bid to retain their Premier League title and Spurs aiming to crack a top four place. Both are impeded by their biggest rivals: United the thorn in City’s side while the duo of Arsenal and Chelsea are the menaces to Spurs. Finally, both are running out of time to achieve their goals, making Sunday’s tie at White Hart Lane all the more crucial.
The visitors come into the match in far better form than their hosts. Three wins on the trot in all competitions, and meaningful ones at that against the likes of United and Chelsea, have seen City gain some ground on their neighbors. Striker Sergio Aguero and midfielder Yaya Toure have been the driving forces behind City’s form improvement, and will come in to Sunday’s game as the clear danger men. Defensively, they have looked a tad suspect, but when Yaya drives them forward and Sergio finishes off the moves so ruthlessly, they can usually afford to leak a goal or two in games.
Spurs, however, are struggling a bit of late. Winless in their last three, including two draws against Basel that saw them dumped out of the Europa league, they are a side short of confidence. Their struggles are not entirely down to form though, with recent injuries to Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon, and most significantly Gareth Bale compounding their problems. Factor in the long-term absence of first-team regulars like Younes Kaboul and Sandro, and it is easy to see why Spurs are suffering. There are positives, though. For one, the form of Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson has steadily improved, and he’s recently added goals to his playing repertoire. Defender Jan Vertonghen, whose form as been slightly less impressive on the defensive side recently, has also found a vein of goal scoring form in the second half of the season. Still, the midfield remains Spurs’ Achilles heel when Lennon and Bale are unable to play.
Of course, the big question this weekend will not be about player form, but rather player selection. Both managers have injuries to worry about. City’s Roberto Mancini must decide whether to risk or rest David Silva, while Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas has indicated that Bale trained earlier this week and is available for selection. The Portuguese seems to be set on playing Bale as long as he is fit enough, and the Welshman will again be the key man for a Spurs side who are likely to be without the services of their other flying winger, Lennon, for at least another week.
I expect both teams to name as strong a side as possible for this one. Those claiming City have nothing to play for are clearly not familiar with Mancini’s managerial style; if there is a mathematical possibility that they can win the title, he will be pushing them to the very end. With his side in good form and United slipping up of late, the Citizens may well smell the red blood of Manchester’s other half in the water and be looking to gain more ground. Spurs need the points just as desperately, especially with Arsenal picking up three more against an unlucky Fulham side on Saturday. With Bale, Spurs stand a decent chance of causing an upset, so this one is tough to call. Heart says narrow Spurs victory. Head says a 1-1 or 2-2 draw. Either way, a vital point or three for the home side.
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