Van der Vaart questions City's mettle
Rafael van der Vaart believes Tottenham Hotspur are perfectly placed to make a serious challenge for the Premier League title as Manchester City wobble at the summit.
City have been beaten in four of their last eight fixtures in all competitions, including their last two home games, and have lost the Toure brothers to the African Nations Cup and Vincent Kompany to suspension.
Van der Vaart, who has seven league goals and four assists to his name this season, thinks the pressure is now starting to tell on Roberto Mancini's men and Spurs could take full advantage. The two teams meet at Eastlands next weekend in what is now a six-pointer in the title race.
Van der Vaart said: "City have many good players. They have many individual players who can score goals and decide a game. But we are more like a team I think. So it's going to be an interesting game.
"They are not so consistent any more. They have lost a few games recently and maybe that's a little bit in their heads so we can take advantage. Also they will not have Vincent Kompany or Yaya Toure. They are good players. Will City miss them? Of course they will.
"When we played at the start of the season Manchester City were too good for us. But we are much better now. It's going to be a massive game and we're really looking forward to it. First we must play Wolves.
"We know we are good. Last season as well we played some great games, but we were not consistent. This season, apart from the first two games, we have played well.
"I knew we had a great squad and big squad when I arrived but there were maybe a few parts missing. Now we have another fantastic striker and signing Scott Parker was really important for us. I think maybe they were the two missing links.
"So now you can see we are a fantastic team. Everybody can score, everybody can play. It's a nice mix. I think now everybody knows Tottenham have a great team and if we can keep playing like this we will be one of the favourites to win the title.
"It is absolutely important for us to have a big lead over Chelsea and Arsenal but we are now getting so far in front we have to look up the table and not down. At the moment it's difficult to say we will win it but nobody likes to come to White Hart Lane to play us because at home we are unbelievable.
"After next weekend against Man City we will know where we stand. But everybody in the dressing room believes we can win the League. Absolutely."
City assistant manager David Platt insists the Blues are not feeling the pressure.
"No one expected us to continue winning games without having a difficult moment,'' said Platt. "We can't accelerate the season by four months to see how it is going to turn out.
"But we are still in the Carling Cup semi-final and our players are quite capable of turning the situation around, and 19 clubs would like to be where we are in the championship. It is not a bad position to be in - some crisis.''
Gareth Barry is preparing himself for the managerial mind games.
"We can't really worry about other teams," he said. "We should be focusing entirely on ourselves and winning a game of football.
"Any great club needs that sort of mentality to go on and achieve things. When you look at other clubs like United, that have dominated for a while, you need that to be put into the squad.''