New lease of life at City for Lampard
MAN CITY v TOTTENHAM
(Tonight, 7.45pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
Football seldom shows mercy to those in their twilight.
As the talent erodes, the stars realign.
Brutally, he is found out.
The rare few, however, somehow find their Indian summer. Like Frank Lampard.
Lampard is a gem of his generation, a free-scoring midfielder whose record puts dozens of Premiership strikers to shame.
But even the 36-year-old has trouble reconciling his supposed decline with his rip-roaring start at Manchester City.
Last season, his days looked numbered at Chelsea, for whom he spent 13 years winning three league titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, one Champions League title and one Europa League title.
As Jose Mourinho led Chelsea on a charge for the Premiership crown, Lampard started in only about half their league matches.
The writing was on the wall.
No one was surprised when he left for New York City FC at the end of the campaign.
Then came the disbelief, when he returned to the Premiership to join Manchester City, in a loan arrangement that ends only in January when preparations for the 2015 Major League Soccer season gets underway.
Already, City manager Manuel Pellegrini has expressed an interest in extending the deal beyond that.
Barely months after being deemed surplus to requirements at Chelsea, he is set to play a significant role in City's title defence.
Such is the impact Lampard has made for the Citizens.
His four goals last month quickly won over City fans, as he claimed the club's Player of the Month award.
His first, one that may prove crucial at the finishing line, was a stunning equaliser against his former club Chelsea in a 1-1 draw.
The sublime volley, the poise amid a sea of desperate, lunging players, were evidence that class tells even when the body slows down.
He has appeared in six out of Man City's last seven matches, including twice in the starting 11.
He looks a likely starter against Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium today.
Yaya Toure was scheduled to return from international duty only yesterday, making him a big doubt.
Likewise, Fernandinho is still recovering from a hamstring injury.
Lampard may no longer be able to handle 60 games a season, but his calm, influence and his goal-scoring ability whenever he takes to the field continue to be great assets.
The travelling Spurs fans will probably give him a hard time, given his London ties (he also played for West Ham before joining Chelsea). Perhaps begrudgingly too, for they themselves could do with a player of his calibre.
Lampard, the only Premiership midfielder to have scored more than 150 goals, has a habit of making them suffer.
In a Chelsea shirt, he has lost only five games in all competitions to the Lilywhites.
During that period, he scored nine times against them.
Spurs not only have to deal with the formidable threats of Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko, but must also watch out for Lampard's trademark runs from deep.
At City, he has found a new lease of life. Mourinho, are you watching?
Pellegrini: Spurs are no softies
Manuel Pellegrini has warned that Manchester City will be facing a different Tottenham to the side that rolled over twice against the Premier League champions last season.
City triumphed 6-0 at home and 5-1 at White Hart Lane against Spurs in the last campaign, but the Londoners have made a promising start under Mauricio Pochettino.
Pellegrini said that he has admired Pochettino as an adversary both when the Argentinian was at Espanyol and at Southampton, and that he did not expect Tottenham to collapse so easily in the lunch-time kick-off today.
"Yes, I am sure it is a different Tottenham," said Pellegrini yesterday.
"Last year one of the best games that we played was against Tottenham away. Here also we played very well but we are not expecting that we can score six or five goals every time we play Tottenham.
"They are a very strong team. Mauricio Pochettino is a very good manager. I'm not saying Villas-Boas wasn't in that moment, but really we played our best last season. We hope on Saturday we can do a very good game also.
"He (Pochettino) is a young manager that was very successful in Spain with Espanyol, it was a team that always played good and attractive football and it was a creative team.
"He is trying the same way he did it last season at Southampton. They were a team that played very well, he continues now at Tottenham that is an important club with big players."
Eliaquim Mangala is set to miss out against Spurs with a thigh injury.
The defender was an unused substitute for France in midweek and should be fit for City's Champions League match in Moscow on Tuesday.
Pellegrini said that Yaya Toure was in contention for a place despite playing for the Ivory Coast in a 4-3 home defeat by DR Congo on Wednesday, with the midfielder returning to Manchester on Thursday.
All the other City players are fit, apart from Samir Nasri who is still recovering from groin surgery.
Meanwhile, Tottenham boss Pochettino (above) insisted that he is happy with Christian Eriksen after Denmark coach Morten Olsen's stinging criticism of the playmaker.
Olsen accused Eriksen of lacking impact on the field following the Euro 2016 qualifying loss to Portugal, but Pochettino has no such concerns.
"It's his (Olsen's) problem, not my problem," Pochettino said.
"My problem is to keep my players at a good level. I am very happy with Christian Eriksen. He's a very good professional. His commitment with the team, with the club, is full.
"I think he's consistent and I'm happy with his performances this season."
Pochettino places no significance on last season's heavy defeats to City.
"The reality is I don't remember the results," he said. "This is another season, another philosophy, another game and we need to arrive on Saturday with the idea to believe in our philosophy and style and try to get the points.
"It's not important now to think in the past. It's important to look forward."
- PA Sport.
Yes, I am sure it is a different Tottenham. Mauricio Pochettino is a very good manager.
— Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini