Roberto Mancini has warned his Manchester City players that their 5-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur will mean nothing when the title rivals clash again at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow. The Premier League leaders will open up an eight-point lead over their third-placed opponents with a win, but their manager is taking nothing for granted even though his side routed Spurs in August.
That win at White Hart Lane announced City's arrival as genuine title contenders, but Harry Redknapp has transformed the north London outfit into a force to be reckoned with thereafter, while Mancini's men have seen their form dip in recent weeks. All of which explains why the Italian is so keen to downplay the result of the last meeting between the sides.
"That was five months ago, their second match of the season and it was totally different," Mancini said. "You know when you start the season anything can happen. Everyone in the squad is not ready to play 100 per cent. Everyone needs four, five, six games to be confident. Now it is different and I think Tottenham are one of the best teams.
"It is better to lose one game 5-1 than to lose five games 1-0. You can have one bad day when you concede three, four or five goals. We won 5-1 because it was only the second game of the season, for that reason only. Now it is more difficult."
Spurs have rarely been involved in the English top-flight title battle since they last won it in 1961, but Mancini believes they could go all the way this season.
"Tottenham are a very, very strong team," said the former Sampdoria forward. "They have 20 to 22 international players, and not all of them are young players. For me they can win the title.
"I think at this moment, three clubs - City, Manchester United and Tottenham - could win the title. After the next five or six games that could change. Maybe Chelsea could come into it, but for them to recover 11 points on the three teams ahead of them is difficult."
Redknapp vows to attack City
Mancini will have Micah Richards and Mario Balotelli available for the game after short-term injuries, while Redknapp has decisions to make before naming his starting XI. William Gallas and Sandro have been ruled out with calf problems, while Emmanuel Adebayor cannot play against the club that loaned him to Tottenham.
However, regardless of whether Spurs get a positive result, Redknapp believes the title race still has plenty of twists and turns left. "A six, seven or eight-point lead can evaporate very quickly," he said. "We've seen it so many times. It's all to play for, for everyone.
"Top four is where we want to be. We want Champions League football, and everything above that is a bonus. We have played fantastic and have 46 points - that's incredible for us."
Redknapp also suggested his team will attack when they face City. "They will know they have had a game, for sure," he stated. "We'll go with a positive team, I wouldn't want to sit back. We've got players to hurt them and are looking to take the game to them."