Spurs vs Man City
Venue: White Hart Lane
Kick off: 4pm
Two sides that look set to fall short of achieving their targets meet in the capital on Sunday (today) when Tottenham Hotspur host Manchester City at White Hart Lane.
Spurs are looking to keep alive their slim hopes of qualifying for the Champions League, while City will be keen to finish the season strongly after struggling in the defence of their title.
In a season, which has contained highs and lows in equal measure, many Spurs supporters will be preparing themselves for a familiar feeling as they appear on course to miss out on Champions League qualification.
The introduction of Mauricio Pochettino last year was done with the aim of bringing out the best in some of the club’s high-profile signings, and while a few players have improved under the Argentine, it is the development of the younger members of the squad which is likely to see another summer of change for Spurs.
Harry Kane has often dragged the team forward with his superb form, while both Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb have caught the eye with their midfield partnership, but those factors do not seem to be enough to take Spurs into the top four of the Premier League.
Currently sitting seven points adrift of Manchester United, sixth-placed Spurs have often dropped points against sides they expect to beat and Pochettino will look back at the draw with Burnley and defeat to Aston Villa when he attempts to work out where the team have fallen short in the second half of the campaign.
There have been signs of added resilience in this current squad, and that was certainly on show last weekend as they twice fought back from behind to earn a 2-2 draw against Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium.
With just four games remaining in the season, Spurs will need a lot of results to go their way if they are to somehow force their way into the Champions League picture, but a victory over City would hand the squad a huge confidence boost.
Matches against Stoke City, Hull City and Everton will follow today’s test, but anything less than three points from their meeting with the champions is likely to dash any remaining hope of a top-four finish.
When City fans look back at this campaign in the summer, they will do so with disappointment due to their struggles in another title defence.
A poor run of results in the second half of the campaign handed full control to Chelsea, and only successive wins in the last two weeks have prevented them from opening the door to teams outside the top four.
As reports continue to suggest that Manuel Pellegrini could be on his way out of the Etihad Stadium, the Chilean must focus on preparing for four games, which could see his side finish second or as low as fourth.
Automatic qualification for the Champions League group stage is the main aim, but Pellegrini will also be keen to restore some pride as he bids to finish the season strongly.
Last week’s performance in the 3-2 victory over Aston Villa displayed the two sides of City as they followed some impressive attacking play with poor defending before snatching the win with a late Fernandinho goal.
Changes are certain to be made in the summer, whether Pellegrini remains at the club or not. The current squad have delivered so much success, but next season’s side is likely to look very different to the one which has failed to hit the heights of last year.
The next four games will offer some players the chance to prove their worth to the club, and victory over Spurs will allow them to maintain the momentum gained from back-to-back wins since the disappointing defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Spurs face a defensive dilemma after it was confirmed that Ben Davies would miss the rest of the season following surgery on a shoulder injury he sustained against Southampton.
Danny Rose missed last Saturday’s draw, and Spurs will be hopeful that he can prove his fitness to ensure that Pochettino does not have to move Jan Vertonghen to his unfavoured left-back position.
City are likely to be without Yaya Toure due to the hamstring problem he picked up against Villa, and Pellegrini could respond by using Frank Lampard in a deeper position alongside Fernandinho or Fernando.
The visitors will be without captain Vincent Kompany once again, but Samir Nasri is available, and the Frenchman and James Milner are both in contention for starting spots.
Spurs possible starting lineup: Lloris, Dier, Fazio, Vertonghen, Davies, Bentaleb, Mason, Chadli, Eriksen, Townsend, Kane.
Man City possible starting lineup: Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Mangala, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Lampard, Navas, Milner, Silva, Aguero.