Spurs Visit Vulnerable City as Title Race Heats up


Tottenham will look to take advantage of a Manchester City team going through its most vulnerable period of the season when the two new pretenders to the Premier League trophy meet Sunday in a pivotal match in the title race.

After moving to the top of the standings with a freescoring start to the season, City surrendered its unbeaten league record with a 2-1 loss at Chelsea on Dec. 12 and then stuttered over the holiday period.

Monday's 1-0 win at bottom team Wigan was only City's second victory in its last six matches in all competitions. And with captain Vincent Kompany suspended and key midfielder Yaya Toure at the African Cup of Nations, Tottenham will hope to capitalize at the Etihad Stadium.

Since being thrashed 5-1 by Roberto Mancini's side in August, Spurs have lost just once in the league and have climbed to third — five points behind the leaders.

"We played them five months ago and it was totally different," Mancini said. "I think Tottenham is a very strong team. For me, they can win the title."

In what is the most crucial weekend in the title race so far, second-place Manchester United will also look to keep the pressure on City when it travels to fifth-place Arsenal on Sunday.

That has been one of the Premier League's most entertaining matchups over the past decade but it could be trumped hours earlier, with City and Tottenham playing the most attractive football in the division this season.

Once a match between two perennial underachievers in the English game — neither side has won the league since the 1960s — it has suddenly taken on a much bigger profile.

"They are not invincible," Redknapp said of City, which has won all 10 of its league games at home this season.

"I think we can win. We will go there as a positive team. I wouldn't want to go there and sit back. We have people who can hurt them."

Defensive midfielder Scott Parker and striker Emmanuel Adebayor, signed in the summer transfer window, have both played significant roles in Tottenham's resurgence.

Adebayor, however, is unavailable on Sunday under the terms of his loan deal from City, depriving the visitors of a vital component of their lineup. Jermain Defoe is likely to come into the side as the partner for Rafael van der Vaart up front.

City welcomes back striker Mario Balotelli and right back Micah Richards from injury but is feeling the loss of Kompany, who serves the third of a four-match ban, and Toure.

The rest of the matches come on Saturday, when defender Gary Cahill could make his debut for Chelsea at Carrow Road following his move from Bolton.

Sixth-place Newcastle visits Fulham and Liverpool travels to next-to-last Bolton.

Mark Hughes takes charge of his first home league match at third-bottom Queens Park Rangers when Wigan visits in a key match in the relegation battle.

Also Saturday, it's Everton vs. Blackburn, Stoke City vs. West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland vs. Swansea and Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Aston Villa.