Tottenham Hotspur's Andros Townsend has come in for criticism of late, but will be keen to start again versus Manchester City.
The two teams currently sit in seventh and eighth place respectively and will be desperate for a result that keeps them in reach of the clubs currently occupying the top four spots.
Tottenham earned a first win in six attempts over Man City back in April, but have not beaten them at the Etihad Stadium since piping them to a Champions League place in May 2010.
Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas and his team will be hoping to replicate the bouncebackability that has marked their previous returns from the international hiatus in Sunday's meeting.
"It’s been good in the sense that every time we’ve suffered a defeat we’ve had a couple of weeks to mull it over and it’s made us even more hungry to get the win when we do have a game," Andros Townsend reflected talking to TottenhamHotspur.com earlier this week. "Everyone is focused on getting a good result on Sunday."
Townsend starred the last time Spurs did as much, following up his England escapades with a goal in a 2-0 win over Aston Villa. Just as they had beaten Norwich City after losing to Arsenal, Spurs here responded well to their 3-0 defeat to West Ham United.
In selecting a starting XI to take on Man City, Villas-Boas will be grateful the form of his defence has improved since those earlier pre-international losses. The 1-0 loss to Newcastle United last time out was not so much down to them as it was a failing by the team as a whole.
Having played in both of France's World Cup playoff games with Ukraine, Hugo Lloris is fit to play in goal for Spurs having missed the Magpies match as a precaution after suffering a head injury the previous week.
Kyle Walker will take his usual spot at right-back and is likely to be joined on the opposite side by Jan Vertonghen. The Belgian may not have to deputise at left-back too much longer, with SkySports.com reporting Danny Rose is not too far off a return to full fitness.
Skipper Michael Dawson should start in central defence, while Vlad Chiriches could well slot back in alongside him. Despite breaking his nose against Newcastle, Chiriches played 90 minutes for Romania on Tuesday and Villas-Boas has confirmed to Spurs' website he is fit to play.
With City having scored 25 times in their last six homes games in all competitions, Villas-Boas will be expected to provide his defence with as much help as possible against marauding talents like Sergio Aguero, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo.
Tempted as he might be to field two defensive midfielders in Etienne Capoue and Sandro, the Portuguese is well aware of the risk of his team getting pegged back too much with an overly cautious approach, telling Spurs' official Twitter page:
Andre: 'We’ll go there to play the game, try to attack them but with the understanding that their potential at home is extraordinary.' #THFC— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) November 22, 2013
After seeing his team suffer a similar fate against City in the North-West last November, the three-man midfield that finished the return fixture struck a happy balance between defensive and attacking duties.
Both clubs' circumstances have changed since April, but a similar approach might suit Spurs again.
Sandro's recent form should earn him the nod over Capoue as the main holding player. Paulinho has been ever present this season and should continue that run, leaving a toss-up between Mousa Dembele and Lewis Holtby. Having not been on international duty, the latter's freshness as well as his tenacity might see him edge it.
With Roberto Soldado almost certain to start up front, there are two wide positions to be filled.
Townsend has come in for criticism from some supporters for his last couple of Spurs performances, but it was interesting to read him reveal to The Observer's Paul Wilson last weekend that he has been largely acting on the adjusted game plan set for him:
As soon as I came back from international duty we played Aston Villa and I noticed straight away I had no space at all. They were doubling up on me as soon as I got the ball. Ever since then it has been more difficult, but if I want to be a top player that is something I need to deal with.
Andre Villas-Boas told me to come inside and let the markers follow if they want to. Then we've got a player of Kyle Walker's pace on the outside and he'll get through.
Despite Townsend's struggles, it would not be a surprise to see Villas-Boas give him another chance against City before considering something else if he does not play well.
The manager's concession to changing things up—something he has previously done vs. Norwich and Villa—may be to hand Erik Lamela his first Premier League start. Tough as it may be against such strong opposition, the Argentinian's recent cup form warrants him getting a chance to make an impression.
Bar a few midweek cup fixtures, it is full on Premier League football now until the New Year.
Tottenham lost only one league game from the end of November until March last season. Starting with Manchester City, the plan will be to launch a similar run of form.