Eastlands encounter of epic proportions
TEAMtalk reckons it is difficult to put a price on victory when Manchester City and Tottenham lock horns in Wednesday's game at Eastlands. Harry Redknapp has talked up some football matches in his time. But even Redknapp could not overplay the importance of Manchester City v Tottenham at Eastlands on Wednesday night. Quite simply, potentially it is the most crucial match in the history of two proud clubs. Bigger than the FA Cup final in 1981 when Ricky Villa slalomed his way through the City defence to score arguably the tournament's best solo goal to take the cup back to White Hart Lane. Bigger than any of City's derby wins over neighbours Manchester United, including the famous one in 1974 in which Denis Law backheeled the goal which relegated United for the only time in their history. Tomorrow's match is difficult to put a price on, but if you started at £50million, multiplied it by 10 and added a few million for good measure you might not be far out. In short, it is the match which could shape the future of two great clubs. A match in which the winner will almost certainly clinch fourth place in the Premier League and a spot in the Champions League, albeit in the qualifying phase, for the first time in their history. For Tottenham that would be some achievement considering 18 months ago under Juande Ramos they were rock bottom of the Premier League with two points from eight games and hurtling towards the Coca-Cola championship. The speed with which Redknapp has turned things round has been astonishing. A few key signings helped, none more influential than Wilson Palacios who brought much-needed bite to the midfield. When it comes to transforming a side there is no shrewder wheeler-dealer than Redknapp. But it is also the way he stuck by goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes after the most uncertain of starts which proved there is more to Redknapp than a turn of phrase and a mastery of the transfer market. He has coaxed the best out of Gareth Bale, given striker Roman Pavlyuchenko the chance to prove him wrong for overlooking him, prolonged the career of the chronically injured Ledley King and perhaps given England an in-form central defensive alternative in Michael Dawson. Tottenham have also lifted football fans everywhere with the dash of their play. That is down to Redknapp's love of football played with style and vigour and, but for Roy Hodgson's managerial magic at Fulham this season, surely he would be up there in the contenders for Manager of the Year. But while Tottenham hold a slender one-point advantage over City in the Premier League table it is Roberto Mancini's side who are best placed to transform the landscape of English football. Many critics thought they were wrong to sack Mark Hughes mid-way through the season. Yet beat Tottenham tomorrow and the richest club in the world could take one huge step to becoming the dominant force for the next decade. City have unlimited funds provided by the billions of Sheikh Mansour. All they lack to attract the world's finest players, such as Kaka who turned them down for Real Madrid, is the credibility of Champions League football. Once that is delivered then watch them go. Redknapp himself has already predicted City will win the Premier League "within the next few years". Will Mancini still be in charge? It is doubtful, especially when football's great trophy deliverer, Jose Mourinho, has expressed his wish to return to England. Control of City's billions would appeal to Mourinho, whose first-choice stop at Old Trafford might well be delayed by Sir Alex Ferguson's ability to defy the ageing process. The point is that the Champions League makes all things possible. It is the jet thrust which could propel City past United and Chelsea into football's most rarefied territory. City could turn English football's future light blue for years to come. That is what is at stake at Eastlands tomorrow night.
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