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Spurs visit vulnerable City as title race heats up

Updated: January 20, 2012, 09:01


Tottenham Hotspur's Luka Modric celebrates his goal against  Wolverhampton Wanderers during their English Premier League soccer match at White Hart Lane, London, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

LONDON(AP) 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.

Two of the Premier League's old stagers could line up against each other at the Emirates stadium, with Thierry Henry and Paul Scholes already back in the goals following their returns to Arsenal and United, respectively.

United is three points behind City as the team bids to extend its record haul of titles to 20 but for Arsenal, qualification for the Champions League is the priority this season.

Arsene Wenger's team could drop seven points off the top four if it loses to United and fourth-place Chelsea wins at Norwich on Saturday.

"I still think that when we have everybody available we are a strong force in this league,'' Wenger said. "That's why it is important that we fight very hard not to drop points.''

Arsenal, though, has lost its last two matches - to Fulham and Swansea - and is still without a fit full back, although central defender Thomas Vermaelen could return from a calf injury. Henry, hoping to feature in his third match since joining on a two-month loan for a second spell at Arsenal, will have a fitness test on a calf injury.

United, which thrashed Arsenal 8-2 at Old Trafford in the first match between the teams this season, is set to welcome back England defenders Chris Smalling and Phil Jones from minor injuries.

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.

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