Manchester City and Tottenham guarantee goals at the Etihad
Manchester City and Tottenham's histories have run broadly parallel courses during the past five decades. From the swinging sixties of Jimmy Greaves and Mike Summerbee, through the seventies of Martin Peters and Dennis Tueart, the nineties of Jurgen Klinsmann and Uwe Rosler, the watchword has been "attack."
City and Spurs have always been associated with free-flowing, attacking football. Perhaps not always with the rewards to show for it -- although that, too, has played a part in their rich pasts -- but with a team ethic and an approach to the game that has won them admirers far from their traditional supporter bases of north London and Manchester.
Both clubs have known hard times, too. While City's recent travels in obscurity are well-documented, some forget that Spurs also spent a season in the second tier in the mid-seventies, from where they bounced quickly back to more glory years.
The two sides have often come together to produce some of the most fabulous games of football in modern history. From the Ballet on Ice in 1967, as City danced their way to a famous league title triumph, to the stunning 5-2 City win in 1994, when a Spurs side heavily laden with international talent (Klinsmann, Gica Popescu and Ilie Dumitrescu) was overwhelmed by a City side playing the most swashbuckling, devil-may-care football under the unheralded stewardship of Brian Horton.
Between these two glorious landmark games, the sides met in the 1981 Cup final, the centenary final at Wembley, and enjoyed themselves so much they came back for a replay. It was a replay that dripped with drama and style from the first minute to the last, with a sumptuous volley from Steve Mackenzie for City eventually overshadowed by that most televised serpentine slalom from Ricky Villa to win the day.
In recent times the clubs have also produced fireworks and continue to do so right up to the present day.
The FA Cup's most unbelievable comeback was staged at White Hart Lane in 2004, when City, under Kevin Keegan, trailed 3-0 at half time, having lost their main striker Nicolas Anelka to injury and central midfield hot head Joey Barton to a red card. With 10 men and the growing realisation that a cup exit would announce the premature end to their season, City mounted the most astonishing comeback in the old trophy's history to win it 4-3 in normal time.
An avalanche of goals has been almost guaranteed whenever the two sides have met in recent seasons. In August 2011 City hit five at White Hart Lane -- a feat copied in 2014 -- along with six in the same season's home game. Last campaign there were four more deposited in the Tottenham net.
Then Spurs repaid the compliment with four of their own back in September. It is perhaps to this most recent of fixtures between the sides that we must look for clues. City, starting the game well and looking capable of returning north with another comfortable three points, were eventually taken to the cleaners by a hungry and well organised foe, something that has become a recurring theme in their season.
Tottenham, rampant in their finishing and delightful in their build-up, ran amok with the title favourites. Five months later and the victors on that occasion are closer to the title than City. It may be Spurs' best opportunity to win it, in fact. With Leicester out in front and the usual suspects failing to produce a tangible response, it is now Spurs who have taken up the responsibility of chasing the leaders down.
To underline the strength of their charge, they must now take something from the Etihad. With City in stuttering form and licking their wounds from a terrible home defeat by Leicester, Spurs have a rare chance to thrust the dagger deep. A defeat for City will leave them badly adrift, with time running out and injuries mounting.
There have been no fewer than 41 goals scored in the past nine meetings between the two sides, a healthy average of 4.5 goals per game. City have notched 10 goals against their rivals in the previous two games staged in Manchester, 15 in the past four fixtures home and away.
Looming large in this havoc is Sergio Aguero, who has notched 10 goals of his own in only eight games against Spurs so far. If Tottenham are to prevail, they know exactly who needs to be marked the closest.
Spurs will be buoyed by the fact that City are still to beat a side currently in the top six of the Premier League, drawing three and losing four, and that psychological burden may well be crucial to their hopes of winning.
Whatever the outcome of a match that is rich in history and difficult to predict an outcome for, you can be assured there will be plenty of attacking football on show and plenty of goals to enjoy.