Forget the annual slump, forget the league position and lost points. It all boils down to this – Tottenham have six games to qualify for the Champions League. Their fate is in their hands. If they win all six games, they will secure a top-four finish.
Which is why news of Gareth Bale returning to fitness, as well as Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe nearing a return, has been so welcome for Spurs fans ahead of Sunday’s clash with Manchester City.
With their best players at their disposal, Tottenham will be more balanced and much more of a goal threat to the champions.
Bale is 8/5 to score at any point in the game but if you’re expecting him to have a match-winning impact, consider the first and last goalscorer markets, where he’s much better priced at 5/1 apiece.
There is the added bonus that any losing single bet on these two markets – plus a handful more – will be refunded if a penalty is awarded as part of bwin’s money-back special.
Tottenham also have two key factors working in their favour. Firstly, they didn’t play last weekend or in midweek, giving them a long rest.
Such a break could leave some teams short of match practice but at this stage of the season – with only a month left – it would have helped Tottenham recharge their batteries and make a final push in the last six games.
Secondly, they’re underdogs again. Quite often we’ve seen Spurs slip up when they’re ahead of their more illustrious rivals in the league, constantly looking over their shoulders and clearly uncomfortable with their favourites tag.
Down in fifth place, with no other option but to attack and win games, the forward focus will help the team push on and play at their best.
Manchester City are also more comfortable with the underdog status – their collapse and subsequent comeback last season was proof enough of that, as is their upturn in form after Manchester United had built a sizeable lead this season.
However, at this stage of the campaign, they’ve waited too long for United to slip up and are too far back to capitalise on any mistakes. City will keep fighting, but how many of their players believe it’s worth it any more?
With so many games behind them and City playing their third match in a week, fatigue can definitely play a factor and that will determine the tactics used by both teams as much the availability of players.
Whereas Tottenham will be counting on their freshness and looking to use their (returning) fast wide men, you can expect City to play a more controlled game, using Edin Dzeko as a focal point up front, before pushing forward in the second half and looking to break Tottenham down.
City’s excellent recent record against Spurs – they’ve won their last four games against them – means that Roberto Mancini’s men will go into this game as favourites on paper and on recent form. They are also undefeated in 34 of their last 38 games in the Premier League – a frightening statistic.
However, Tottenham are also undefeated in nine of their last ten home matches in the Premier League, so it’s nowhere near a foregone conclusion.
Dzeko is 9/4 to score at any time during the game and that looks a great bet considering his record at White Hart Lane (he scored four goals as City romped to a 5-1 win in last year’s corresponding fixture) and a potential injury to Sergio Aguero which should see him restored to Mancini’s starting line-up.
Expect a few goals. Consider these stats:
Tottenham have seen over 2.5 goals scored in seven of their last eight home matches against Man City in all competitions.
There have been over 2.5 goals scored in six of Tottenham’s last seven games in the Premier League.
Tottenham have scored at least two goals in six of their last seven matches in the Premier League.
Man City have scored at least two goals in their last three matches against Tottenham in all competitions.
The key question is of balance. Tottenham, with their fit-again players, seem to have regained theirs at a key point of the season. They are capable of going on to beat City and make a big move towards pushing Arsenal (or Chelsea) out of the Champions League spots.
The game is set up for Tottenham to get a tough, backs-to-the-wall 2-1 win at 39/4 (free £20 bet wins you £195) but if you’re being cautious, back the 2-2 draw at 11/1 (£20 stake wins you £240).