Richard Buxton: In-form Spurs favoured against injury-hit City
Victory over Citizens will embolden Pochettino's men as they chase elusive title
MAN CITY v TOTTENHAM
(Tomorrow, 12.15am, Singtel TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
Brendan Rodgers may soon need to choke down another slice of humble pie.
"Look at Tottenham," he implored in his 2014 giddiness. "If you spend more than £100 million ($202.5m), you expect to be challenging for the league."
Still smarting from the ignominy of his mid-season firing as Liverpool manager, Rodgers words threaten to haunt him even while he is in the relative sanctuary of a Doha television studio.
Look at Tottenham now.
A top-four place is no longer the target for Tottenham - topping the English Premier League table is what they've set their sights on.
They are out to end 55 years of hurt and become kings of English football, again.
First, though, they will have to prove the doubters wrong; that lessons from recent history have finally been learnt.
They have been here before, against the big guns, more times than their long-suffering supporters will care to remember.
Invariably, that sense of occasion has continually got the better of them.
They will face Manchester City tomorrow morning (Singapore time) at the Etihad Stadium, where the historical parallels are even greater.
It was there, on an ill-fated afternoon in January 2012, that the prospect of a surge into the title race fell away.
A potential two-point gap stretched to an insurmountable eight after a 3-2 loss to City.
Should they remain similarly off the pace when Mark Clattenburg calls time on the latest proceedings on City's turf, Spurs would have gift-wrapped the title for Leicester, even more than Manuel Pellegrini's side, Arsenal or even Manchester United have done this season.
But it does look like a case of anything Claudio Ranieri's high-fliers can do, a Spurs side brimming with quality in depth being more than capable of emulating.
City's mounting injury crisis means that everything is currently in Spurs' favour.
September's pummelling of their hosts in the corresponding fixture now serves as a marker of the club's improvement under Mauricio Pochettino and the fact they've stayed the course and are serious title challengers is further indication of the Argentinian's worth.
Their largely under-the-radar ascent into the title race has no doubt helped.
Honed away from the spotlight, Pochettino has made Spurs everything champions-elect should be; industrious and understated, energetic yet unspoken.
Hungrier for success than possibly any Tottenham side since the FA Cup-winning class of 1991, the current crop appear to have banished the discrepancies which often characterised their persistent shortcomings.
Only Leicester's smash-and-grab win last month serves as a blot against an impressive run of eight EPL games without surrendering a lead.
Throwing away victories was once a hallmark of what made them the very definition of "Spursy" - a term which continues to lurk over them, particularly at this crucial juncture.
City themselves know all too well that not all setbacks are absolute.
They floundered in the weeks after snatching that last-minute victory over Spurs in the 2011-2012 season and were left with a five-point gap to bridge over leaders United with just five games remaining.
The Citizens turned it around in dramatic fashion.
They were sucker-punched by Liverpool with six games left in the 2013-2014 season, but still ran out as champions.
Their assailants proved the architects of their own downfall, but Pellegrini's side possessed the quality to see out the final furlong.
Tottenham have that championship look.
Further tests await both sides beyond this weekend; 12 of them in the Premier League, a minimum of two in the Champions League and Europa League, respectively, and potentially more than one in the FA Cup. City also have the small matter of a League Cup final with Liverpool.
Talk of the title remains taboo at White Hart Lane, but Pochettino's turbo-charged machine has a menacing look at the moment.
"We are in a position where there are 13 games ahead, but after the next game it is 12 and we are going into the more important period in the league. "
— Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino
BY THE NUMBERS
Man City have beaten Tottenham in each of their last five home games.
Spurs have won four successive league games, the best current run in the division.
Their last nine league meetings have produced 41 goals, an average of 4.5 goals per game.