Tottenham and Arsenal will be looking to avenge heavy early season defeats on Sunday as the north London clubs take on Manchester’s Premier League pace-setters.
Spurs travel to Eastlands for a showdown with league leaders Manchester City, four months after Roberto Mancini’s side established their title credentials with an impressive 5-1 demolition of Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
The only consolation for Spurs fans on that miserable early season afternoon back in August came in the form of Arsenal’s record 8-2 humiliation against Manchester United at Old Trafford on the same day.
Since those twin thrashings, Spurs have made the more impressive recovery, reeling off 14 wins from 19 games, with four draws, and only two defeats to stand third in the table.
Although Harry Redknapp’s side spurned the opportunity to go level on points with City last weekend when they were held to a 1-1 draw by Wolves, midfielder Luka Modric believes Tottenham can close the gap on the leaders on Sunday.
City have a 100 percent home record in the league this season, but Spurs scored a famous victory at Eastlands two years ago to clinch qualification for the Champions League.
“The last two seasons we have played massive games there and this will be another one. I hope we will do well and maybe win, why not? We are going there with a positive mindset and we will try to win the game,” Modric said.
“We try to do that against every opponent. I think we are that good that we can go there and win them.” City meanwhile are in confident mood after bouncing back from FA and League Cup defeats to Manchester United and Liverpool this week with a gritty 1-0 win over bottom club Wigan.
City defender Joleon Lescott said his team-mates had been bemused by suggestions the club’s title charge was faltering following their cup defeats.
“People were saying we weren’t going to win the league and we are thinking, ’Hold on a minute, we have lost two cup games’,” Lescott said. “I don’t think we are doing too badly.” Lescott also said despite Tottenham’s form, which has taken them to within five points of the leaders, the club regarded second-placed Manchester United as their main threat.
“Tottenham have been talking us up but we haven’t mentioned any other team,” said Lescott.
“No disrespect to Spurs, our main rivals are Manchester United. They are second in the league and our focus should always be on the team immediately behind us.” Arsenal meanwhile will be fired by the bitter memory of their capitulation against United when they face Sir Alex Ferguson’s side at the Emirates.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has challenged the Gunners to rise to the occasion after back-to-back away defeats against Fulham and Swansea which have stalled their bid for a top-four finish.
“It is a massive opportunity because you feel we have given six points away in the last two games in a way that is unbelievable,” Wenger said.
“It is time for us to wake up and be focused - we have a good opportunity to do that against Manchester United.” Another defeat to United on Sunday — and a victory for Chelsea at Norwich on Saturday — would see Arsenal fall seven points adrift of the fourth Champions League qualifying spot, currently occupied by Chelsea.
Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is adamant however that the Gunners will be able to record a top-four finish.
“I am confident we will get into the top four,” Szczesny said. “We don’t deserve to be outside the top four.” The Arsenal goalkeeper admitted however that his team-mates were baffled by their indifferent away form.
“I have no idea why we can’t win away from home,” he said. “The results speak for themselves and we have been really poor away this season. I really can’t explain it.”