On the eve of a Super Sunday of football there is tension in the air. Four of the top teams of the Premiership in the form of Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham hotspur, will tomorrow battle it out to close in on the league title, all four teams still in a chance of winning it. Arsenal play host to Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium while Manchester City host Spurs at the Etihad stadium, where they haven’t lost in the league for thirteen months.
Back in August, in reverse fixtures, City wounded Spurs by pasting them 5-1 at White Heart Lane, only to be outdone by their Manchester rivals who thrashed Arsenal a whopping 8 -2 at Old Trafford. If history repeats itself, this will leave Tottenham 8 points behind the league leaders and Arsenal even more off the pace at 18 points behind.
The last two encounters of this fixture between City and Spurs has been a battle for the final available place in the Champions League. Spurs won the battle two seasons ago with a winning goal from Peter Crouch, and in a twist of irony, City won it last season also by a goal from Peter Crouch – in his own net. But now both clubs ambitions have grown and scraping Champions League positions is no longer good enough. Both teams want to go into next year’s Champions League as Champions.
In such a crucial battle City will miss their Captain Vincent Kompany, who is still suspended after being sent off in the FA Cup clash against United, along with the Toure brothers, who are still on International duty for the Ivory Coast. Micah Richards and Mario Balotelli return after missing City’s Monday night game against Wigan through injury. Tottenham are also missing some key players. Their top goal scorer Adebayor, who has started every league game since scoring his debut at Wolves in September, won’t play due to agreements in his loan from City. Adebayor is likely to be replaced by Jemaine Defoe who will join van der Vaart up front. Ledley King also looks doubtful for the game after being sidelined for the last four weeks with a hamstring injury.
City hasn’t completed the double over Spurs since the season of 1991-1992. In the last fifteen times the teams have met Spurs have won eleven, however, City have won the last two. Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp has pledged a fight, and I don’t doubt it. Spurs will play to win; they have good attacking players to really go for it. The problem for them is that this leaves City the gaps to score, which other teams haven’t been doing. If Aguero gets the ball he can turn on a speed which could not be matched by anyone on the pitch.
I don’t think for a second that there will be a repeat of the hiding City gave Spurs at beginning of the season. City have lost at home twice recently in cup games; they aren’t indestructible. They are no longer the unstoppable goal scoring form that they were at the beginning of the season. They did what they had to do on Monday night and came away from Wigan with three points. It may not have been a comfortable win, but United have won the league by scraping victories for years. I hope the game will be as entertaining as it should be on paper. I imagine the game won’t end goalless.
I actually think Spurs may win the battle tomorrow, but in the end it won’t matter; City will win the War.