October 16, 2014

Tottenham Hotspur aren't used to being talked about as title challengers. But beat Manchester City on Sunday and they might just have to start getting used to it.

Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs (13-9-3) have won four straight games to jump into second in the league ahead of a pivotal clash against third-placed City at the Etihad.

The last time the north London club were even talked about as possible title winners was back in January 2012, when Harry Redknapp's squad were well positioned ahead of a crucial away trip - also to the Etihad. A last-minute Mario Balotelli penalty saw City emerge 3-2 winners, and Spurs haven't been talked about as potential Premier League winners again until now.

Sunday's meeting has a similar air of importance about it for Tottenham, but there are still 13 games of the campaign remaining and the pragmatic Pochettino is keen not to invest too much into Sunday's game.

"It's very important but it's not the last game," Pochettino said. "They know and we know we are in a position where there are 13 games ahead, but after the next game it is 12 and we are going into the more important period in the league.

"Maybe, this is the most enjoyable time I have had as a manager, if I am honest. My philosophy is that I try to be better every day. It's not always possible, but we try.

"We try this week to work very hard and be focussed because I think the process - how we build from the back and play in the opposition half we are happy with - but we need to be more clinical when we create a lot of chances. Sometimes we have luck, sometimes not, but we work hard to improve."

Spurs routed Manchester City 4-1 in September in one of their most impressive performances, but it hasn't been plain sailing for the Lilywhites in general with this fixture. Manchester City (14-5-6) had won four straight meetings prior to this campaign, scoring 16 goals in those matches, while in-form Argentine striker Sergio Aguero has netted 10 in his eight Premier League appearances against Tottenham.

Aguero is fit to start Sunday, but City have a number of injury problems. Fabian Delph, Jesus Navas, Kevin de Bruyne and Samir Nasri are out, while Wilfried Bony is a doubt, but David Silva and captain Vincent Kompany are in the squad after resuming training.

Kompany was sorely missed to marshal the defence last Saturday when Manchester City conceded twice on set pieces in their 3-1 home loss to front-running Leicester City. The Citizens were outplayed for much of the match, with Aguero's goal a late consolation.

"You've seen Kompany play for so many years I don't have to say what qualities he brings, he's one of the best defenders in the league," Pellegrini said in his pre-match press conference. "Every player must play a game when they're 100%. Vincent has worked for three weeks with no problems. He played 45 minutes in a friendly game against the under-21s and I think he's ready to play.

"We'll see what the starting XI is tomorrow - we're not just thinking about one player and one game, we're involved in a lot of competitions, Maybe we have a lot of criticism when we don't play well, but I'm happy with the squad over the whole season."

A win for City would move them back ahead of Spurs and keep the chasing pack compact behind league leaders Leicester City. However, Man City are winless and taken only three points in seven matches against sides currently in the top six of the table.

Spurs have the best defensive record in the division and conceded just one goal from outside the box all season. But Tottenham have lost all of their last five league games at the Etihad by a combined 16-4 scoreline.

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