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Spurs visit vulnerable City as title race heats up

Updated: January 20, 2012, 19:06


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) Loaned out by Manchester City for the past 12 months, Emmanuel Adebayor will be denied the chance to show what the Premier League leaders are missing when his new club Tottenham visits the Etihad Stadium for a key match in the title race on Sunday.

The restrictions of Adebayor's season-long loan move to Spurs prevent him from facing City, robbing them of their attacking spearhead for arguably their biggest game of the season.

The Togo striker has become a crowd favorite at White Hart Lane, scoring a team-high nine league goals to justify Harry Redknapp's controversial decision to bring in a player who turned out for the team's fierce rival Arsenal from 2006-09.

His situation at City couldn't have been more different, dropping down the pecking order soon after his 25 million pounds move from Arsenal and quickly out of favor with manager Roberto Mancini. He was farmed out to Real Madrid for the second half of last season.

"Sometimes it's possible that you have a situation like this - you have good players but he wants to play always and this is difficult in a top team,'' Mancini said. "If you have one striker who needs to play always it is not easy.

"I am happy for Manu because he is playing very well for Tottenham.''

City has key players missing themselves as the team looks to extend its perfect home record to 11 league matches.

Captain Vincent Kompany serves the third match of his four-game suspension and key midfielder Yaya Toure is at the African Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast, along with his brother and fellow City player Kolo.

Striker Mario Balotelli and right back Micah Richards return from injury but City has been lacking the class and verve that saw them take the league by storm in the first few months of the season, including a 5-1 win at Spurs in August.

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

"They are not invincible,'' Redknapp said. "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.''

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.

United is three points behind its neighbor 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. Thierry 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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