Champions League place on the line in enormous Eastlands encounter
Kick-off: Wednesday 5 May, 20:00 BST
City of Manchester Stadium, Eastlands
City of Manchester Stadium, Eastlands
There can be only one outcome to this game for Manchester City if they wish to take Champions League qualification into their own hands; three points is quite simply a must. With Tottenham Hotspur travelling to already relegated Burnley on the last day of the season, Roberto Mancini's side have to wrestle the initiative away from them with a win on Wednesday night. A loss, and it's all over.
If you believe the sounds emanating out of Eastlands, failure to qualify for Europe's elite competition is not a complete disaster this season, but, considering the significant investment made in the summer that included the purchases of Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor and Carlos Tevez, the board members at City will be privately aware of just how important a win really is.
City are well equipped to take the race for fourth place to the wire currently; their loss to Manchester United is their only defeat in their last six games. Last Saturday they ended Aston Villa's charge after going a goal down in the first half - can they significantly dent Tottenham's?
Spurs have been here before, though. In 2006, then managed by Martin Jol, Tottenham were on the verge of Champions League football, needing only a win against West Ham United to secure fourth place, leaving Arsenal in their wake. What followed has been consigned to Premier League history.
Ten members of the playing staff contracted food poisoning and fell violently sick the night before the game at Upton Park. Spurs officials tried to have the game delayed by 24 hours but to no avail and West Ham ran out 2-1 victors - leaving Spurs cursing the dreaded dodgy lasagne that caused the bug.
A handful of the Spurs squad from 2006 remain, and the likes of Ledley King and Tom Huddlestone remember the feeling of disappointment all too well. Now, Harry Redknapp's charges have the chance to put those memories to rest with victory on Wednesday, against a City side they beat 3-0 at White Hart Lane earlier in the season.
Man City 3-1 Aston Villa (Premier League)
Arsenal 0-0 Man City (Premier League)
Man City 0-1 Man Utd (Premier League)
Man City 5-1 Birmingham (Premier League)
Burnley 1-6 Man City (Premier League)
Tottenham 1-0 Bolton (Premier League)
Man Utd 3-1 Tottenham (Premier League)
Tottenham 2-1 Chelsea (Premier League)
Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal (Premier League)
Tottenham 0-2 Portsmouth (FA Cup)
Emergency loanee Marton Fulop is likely to start against his former club, for whom he never played, in the absence of Shay Given, and City look set to be boosted by the return of Gareth Barry - the England international who has been struggling with a hamstring injury for weeks.
Joleon Lescott's season has been hampered by the same problem, though he will not be available before the end of the season.
Possible Starting XI: Fulop; Zabaleta, Toure, Kompany, Bridge; Johnson, De Jong, Barry; Tevez, Adebayor, Bellamy.
Goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes pulled up towards the end of Saturday's win over Bolton; his availability is as yet unknown, but Ben Alnwick could be drafted in as his replacement.
Ledley King's troublesome knee is likely to be assessed in the hours before the game after he starred on Saturday. Vedran Corluka, Niko Kranjcar, Jonathan Woodgate and Carlo Cudicini are all unavailable.
Possible Starting XI: Gomes; Kaboul, Dawson, King, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Huddlestone, Modric, Bale; Defoe, Crouch.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The emergence of Adam Johnson since his arrival at Eastlands has been extremely impressive. The promising midfielder had spent half a season in the Championship with old club Middlesbrough before City came calling in January, and the winger has taken it all in his stride and firmly established himself in Mancini's starting XI.
Against Aston Villa, Johnson was brought down for Carlos Tevez's penalty, and coolly played in Emmanuel Adebyor for the crucial second goal in a 3-1 win. The young England hopeful's performance could prove crucial on Wednesday.
Much like Johnson, Gareth Bale has been a revelation for Spurs this season. Always a player of immense promise, the Welshman had struggled to make an impact at White Hart Lane until injuries afforded him his chance. Bale has not looked back since and, after a difficult outing against Manchester United, the left-sided player was back to his best against Bolton on Saturday, terrorising the back line.
Both sides' penchant for open, free-flowing and fast-paced football is sure to make for an entertaining encounter. On form, there is little to choose between the two, and the final Champions League place could be settled on the final day of the season.
Manchester City 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur
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