Mancini: Spurs are title challengers

BY foxsports • January 22, 2012

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini views Tottenham as serious title challengers, but hopes to deliver a hefty blow to their chances today.

The Barclays Premier League leaders host the Londoners in an eagerly-anticipated clash at the Etihad Stadium.

City, who thrashed Spurs 5-1 when the sides met at White Hart Lane in August, can move eight points clear of Harry Redknapp's men by completing a league double.

Mancini said: "I think when you play against a top squad like Tottenham, (Manchester) United or Chelsea and you win it, your mentality improves.

"Your feeling is better, your confidence is better. I think that is very important, like when we beat Arsenal at home.

"It is not easy to recover eight points if they (Spurs) lose, but everything can happen.

"We maybe didn't think United could lose at home to Blackburn or at Newcastle.

"So, for this reason, if you don't take every game 100% it is difficult."

City and Spurs are growing accustomed to playing each other for high stakes.

In each of the last two years they have met late in the season with a place in the Champions League on the line.

In 2010, Spurs prevailed to snatch fourth place in the Premier League, but City turned the tables last year and went on to finish third while the Londoners had to settle for the Europa League.

Mancini said: "It is now three years we have played against Tottenham in an important game. This says us and Tottenham are good teams, we are always there.

"This year is different because we are playing for the title and I think this is a good thing for us and Tottenham."

Redknapp has taken a swipe at City ahead of the clash by referring to the huge amount of money invested in the club since their Abu Dhabi-led takeover in 2008.

However, City had finished ninth the previous season and Mancini believes the club could only quickly become title challengers by spending heavily.

He feels the situation was different for the other clubs - even though they have paid out some large fees anyway - because they already had players to sustain higher league positions.

Mancini said: "All people say this, he (Redknapp) is not the first.

"For Tottenham, Man United it is different because when you always play at the top you can maybe change only two or three players per year.

"Now the difference is every time City goes to buy one player that costs maybe eight or nine million, when City arrive there, (the price) is £20million.

"But if you have a chance to spend, buy good players if you can. I think they [Tottenham] have bought good players.

"Maybe not in two years like us, but in the last 10 years they have bought good players and spent money like all the teams.

"We have good players but Tottenham are the same - Van der Vaart, Bale, Gallas, Kaboul, Lennon, Adebayor, Modric - and I don't think they are young players without experience. For this reason they can win the title."

Emmanuel Adebayor is actually on a season-long loan from City and will not play this weekend due to the restrictions of the deal.

Adebayor has thrived at White Hart Lane with nine goals, but Mancini has no regrets over letting the £25million man leave, having been satisfied with the goal output of

Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli.

He said: "We have good strikers, we have scored a lot of goals until now and we did well."

City have dipped from their free-scoring form of earlier in the campaign with league defeats to Chelsea and Sunderland followed by consecutive cup losses to Manchester United and Liverpool.

They got back to winning ways at Wigan on Monday, but only by a narrow 1-0 scoreline.

City still have two games to play without their suspended captain Vincent Kompany, while Kolo and Yaya Toure are away at the African Nations Cup.

Mancini said: "Wigan was important but we have had four or five games in this situation. We can have difficulties, like against Wigan.

"We deserved to win because we had the chances to score the second goal, but I think every game is difficult in this moment."

Balotelli and right-back Micah Richards are fit to return after ankle and hamstring injuries respectively.

Meanwhile, Redknapp has backed Jermain Defoe to fill the void left by Emmanuel Adebayor's absence as Tottenham look to blow the title race wide open.

Redknapp's team have only been beaten once in the league since Roberto Mancini's men strolled in to north London and underlined their status as title favourites by putting Spurs to the sword in a merciless 5-1 win last August.

Adebayor's arrival in the aftermath of the City humbling has helped Spurs turn around their season, with the former Arsenal striker slotting comfortably in to a strong strike partnership with forward Rafael van der Vaart.

The terms of Adebayor's loan deal from City mean he is ineligible to play in Sunday's game, so Redknapp has been left with no other choice but to put Defoe alongside Van der Vaart - a combination that has rarely worked since the Dutchman signed from Real Madrid two years ago.

Last season Redknapp preferred to combine Van der Vaart with mis-firing Peter Crouch and the Spurs boss has tried to pair Defoe with the Holland man on just one occasion in the league this term - the 3-0 opening day defeat at Manchester United.

Defoe is becoming increasingly unhappy at his lack of game time this season, but Redknapp has no doubt that the 29-year-old will rise to the occasion and combine well with Van der Vaart on Sunday.

The 64-year-old said: "I went to Villa last season and played Defoe and Rafa and we won 2-0. Defoe got sent off that day, but I quite fancy Defoe's movement with Rafa.

"Jermain has been bursting for a chance to get back in and play so he has got the opportunity now.

"We have to play good football in to them, though. We can't be hitting long forward balls up to Defoe expecting him to win challenges with their central defenders."

The 5-1 hammering at White Hart Lane proved to be a turning point in Tottenham's season.

That, and the defeat at United the week before, signalled to chairman Daniel Levy that the club were desperately in need of new signings and Adebayor and Scott Parker duly arrived, while Luka Modric was persuaded to stay on despite Chelsea's interest.

At that point, critics were already predicting Tottenham would be vying for a Europa League place this season, but they have defied all expectations and now sit third in the table, 10 points ahead of fifth-place Arsenal and just five adrift of City.

Redknapp insists he never panicked last August despite his team's poor start.

"I knew we would be a different team in a week or two," Redknapp said.

"It wasn't as if I said to myself: 'This is my team for the season, I'm in trouble here'.

"I knew we had reinforcements coming in that would make the difference and we were hopeful Luka would stay.

"I didn't go home that night despondent.

"When we brought a couple of faces in, everyone got a lift. It was a different team."

Redknapp is rightly confident of his side's chances of breaking City's 100 per cent home record on Sunday.

His team do look a completely different outfit to the one that performed so meekly against Mancini's men and for that reason he is hopeful last summer's hiding will not play on his players' minds at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

"I don't think it will (be a factor)," Redknapp added.

"We have been up there and played well the last couple of years."

Tottenham's hopes of victory appear to have been weakened, however, by the likely absence of captain Ledley King, who has been struggling to recover from a hamstring injury for the last four weeks.

King has not been on a losing Spurs side since August 2010 and Redknapp admits it will be a big blow if the centre back is ruled out.

"He always gives the team an air of confidence when he plays," Redknapp added.

"You always feel he's in control of the situation a bit like (Alan) Hansen or (Mark) Lawrenson or like Bobby Moore.

"They were always in the right place - they see something developing before it develops and Ledley is like that."


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