So here we go, without doubt the biggest game since our last eye-catching fixture for which three points were at stake. While the win over a pretty inept Everton had all and sundry proclaiming this lilywhite vintage the greatest thing since Danny Blanchflower sliced a loaf, the draw with uber-negative Wolves had Hansen imploring all Spurs-supporting MoTD viewers to find their nearest cliff-top and hurl themselves in anguish – so whatever the outcome against table-topping City the reaction will presumably border on the apocalyptic. Win, lose or draw, somebody somewhere will explode in a cloud of uncontainable hyperbole.
In truth however, “phlegmatic” is the word of choice at AANP Towers ahead of this one. Winning the title would be quite a bonus (never, ever in my wildest dreams did I anticipate writing those eight words), but we are third favourites for a reason, and defeat on Sunday would make that whole jamboree far less likely. What seems absolutely paramount is that we finish in the Top Four (preferably the Top Three), and this is ours to throw away. For that reason my uncontrollable shivers break out at the prospect of the impending games with l’Arse, Chelski, Liverpool and Newcastle. “Six-pointers”, as the sages knowingly intone, and if they speak thus then it must be so.
That said, if the closing rounds of the Rocky Balboa – Ivan Drago clash taught me anything it was that the best time to play a well-financed foreign giant is when he is sweating buckets and he’s taken such a hammering that his eye is beginning to swell. City are without the gloriously named Yaya chap, which should make Modders’ life a tad easier, and my spies tell me that they’re also missing a handy centre-back. Time to charge into battle with a cry of “Adriaaaan” methinks.
Being owned by one team whilst playing for another could potentially lead to quite the philosophical quandary on the halfway line when the two outfits meet, but alas we will be spared the sight of Adebayor slowly degenerating into madness on the centre-spot as he ponders his obligations and liberty, for he is ineligible. This may mean ‘Arry takes a punt on Pav producing his standard 1 minute of magic amidst 89 of standing about whingeing, or, as is the AANP preference, he lets Defoe off the leash to shoot from all angles and then look in disbelief as he is flagged offside.
Otherwise, for better or worse, our lot pick themselves. Dawson, Kaboul, Ledley, Sandro, Parker – jumble them up, name a few injuries and you get the gist. We are underdogs for this one, but in a season in which we just keep doing the unexpected by golly this would be some feather in the lilywhite cap. Fingers crossed