Spurs could win at Old Trafford but that proved ill-founded. United's win, I thought, was not as impressive as the media made out at the time as Spurs had matched them for an hour.
Perhaps I just made an error over the site of Spurs' success in Manchester this season just as I did in 1966 when throughout the World Cup I was certain that Jimmy Greaves would score a hat-trick in the Final only for his replacement, Geoff Hurst, to snatch the glory.
The match on Sunday can't be classified as the 'winner takes all' scenario that the games in Manchester against City have been in the past two seasons but Spurs must take something from the match to prevent City from opening an eight advantage over them at the top of the Premier League table. City have a formidable home record in the Premier League this season. They have won all ten of their home games, scoring 31 goals with only four conceded. City have however, lost both of their last two home games to United and Liverpool in the Cup competitions. It is City, however, who are probably under more pressure to succeed as the expectations for them are so high.
Reasons for Spurs to be Positive:
- Setting aside the game at White Hart Lane in August when City had started the season at a pace while Spurs were still in the starting stalls, encouragement can be taken from the fact that since that game Spurs have taken more points, 46, than any other club in the Premier League. City had a nine point advantage then but that has been reduced to five.
- Encouragement can be taken from Tottenham's Premier League record at City's various stadia.
- The past two seasons have seen Spurs play City at the end of the season with a Champions League place up for grabs. No-one will forget Peter Crouch's goal in May, 2010 which provided Spurs with their passage to Europe's top club competition. On the night Spurs deservedly took the spoils. A year later while Crouch's own goal handed the Champions League place to City, it was Spurs who finished the stronger and City fans who were relieved to hear the final whistle. In that game City had already put together much of the team which Spurs will face tomorrow while Spurs are considerably stronger with the introduction of Scott Parker, Brad Friedel and Kyle Walker. The team will also include Gareth Bale who was injured at the end of last and Ledley King is rumoured to be ready for this weekend's game.
- If Ledley King is available to play he brings a much needed assurance to the defence and whoever partners him in central defence, Younes Kaboul or Michael Dawson, will be much more confident and reliable in their play. King brings with him a record of success to the side - he has not appeared in a losing team in the Premier League since August, 2010 when Spurs lost unexpectedly to Wigan Athletic at White Hart Lane. He has played in 17 games since then in all competitions and has remained undefeated with 14 wins and three draws. His last appearance was against Chelsea when Spurs drew 1 - 1.
- Spurs will be without Emmanuel Adebayor who can't play as he is on loan at Spurs from City. City, however, will be without a number of key players - Vincent Kompany who is suspended while Yaya and Kolo Toure are playing in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. The absence of Adebayor will be a chance for Jermain Defoe to show that he is the striker with a goal scoring instinct that the team has lacked in previous games. For all their creative, skilful football Spurs have failed to take opportunities which have presented themselves and so victories have been hard-earned against lesser opposition. This game would be a perfect time to find that clinical goal scoring touch.
Equally, it will be test for City to face the pace and attacking skills of Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker, while Rafael Van der Vaart can usually be relied upon to raise his game in a match of this importance. A win for Spurs would increase their belief for their prospects for the season, a result would restrict City's progress while a defeat would make life more difficult for Tottenham but would not bring an end to what, so far, has been a fantastic season.