Manchester City vs. Tottenham Has Become an Unmissable Fixture
It is a fixture which provides a real illustration of how City have risen so quickly to the top of the English game in recent years. It also puts together two teams who have historically lived in the shadow of their more successful neighbours, but who are each on a more level footing with their respective local nemeses than they have been for many a year.
Spurs have already claimed one victory in Manchester this season, winning a league game away at United for the first time in 23 years. City, meanwhile are the Premier League's only unbeaten side this term, although their failure to transfer their domestic form across to European competition for a second year running has heaped the pressure on manager Roberto Mancini.
While it is by no means one of the fiercest rivalries in English football, recent meetings between the Sky Blues and the Lillywhites have been both memorable and significant, and Sunday's game could produce something which ticks at least one of those boxes.
For many people of a certain age, the fixture evokes memories of one particular match which happened more than 30 years ago.
In the intervening period both clubs have enjoyed fluctuating fortunes, although City's relegation all the way down to the third tier of English football before returning to the top flight, being bought by a billionaire sheikh and winning the Premier League title last season is a far more extreme path than the one Spurs have trodden over the same three decades.
Not so long ago, this fixture was pretty much a banker for Spurs. Between 2004 and 2010, the Londoners won 11 and lost just one of their 14 league games against their Mancunian counterparts, although City fans will no doubt remember the FA Cup replay which they won 4-3 with 10 men the season before the start of that run far more fondly.
The final wins of Tottenham's dominance over City came in the 2009-10 season, and they were both hugely significant. The 3-0 win at White Hart Lane in December of that season was the final nail in the coffin for City boss Mark Hughes, who was replaced by Mancini soon afterwards. The following May, a 1-0 win at what was then called Eastlands saw Spurs qualify for the Champions League at City's expense.
Fast forward a year, and City's millions finally saw them assert their authority in the fixture.
After holding Spurs to a goalless draw in London on the opening day of 2010-11, the campaign ended with City winning 1-0 at home and taking their place in the Champions League. Peter Crouch, whose header had settled the match and Tottenham's top-four place the previous year, scored a near-identical goal from the same spot on the pitch, only this time the header beat his own keeper instead of Joe Hart.
In the reverse fixture at the newly renamed Etihad Stadium, Spurs made a much better fist of it, but they were made to pay for Jermain Defoe's late miss as Mario Balotelli's stoppage-time penalty gave City a 3-2 win which, ultimately, helped them win the title.
It is too early in the season to call such a fixture decisive for either side. The reverse fixture at White Hart Lane in late April of next year is sure to be far more pivotal for both teams. But Sunday sees the latest installment of a fixture which has become a must-see.
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