Tottenham, Man City fight for Champs League spot
Tottenham and Manchester City meet today in a Premier League match that has become an unofficial playoff for England's final place in next season's Champions League.
The teams have shared fourth place in the Premier League since the end of December and Liverpool's season-long slump has left them with the opportunity to reach the Champions League for the first time.
With just one point separating City from Spurs above, success in finally making it into club football's most lucrative competition could simply be down to which team deals best with the pressure of what is, financially at least, more important than a cup final.
"We didn't go into the season expecting; we were hoping," Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said. "We all felt that if one team would break into the top four this year, realistically it would be Manchester City, with the resources and money they spent.
"So there's no real pressure on us."
Even so, Tottenham playmaker Luka Modric won three league titles in Croatia with Dinamo Zagreb but says the game may be the biggest he has ever played in club football.
"This is probably the game of the season," Modric said. "In fact, not 'probably', it's definitely the game of the season for both us and them."
Most of Tottenham's players have experience of big occasions, having reached the League Cup final in 2008 and 2009, while City's costly squad stumbled at its first major hurdle - losing a two-legged semi-final in the same competition to Manchester United in January.
City's 200 million-pound ($304 million) expenditure on players over the past two years is far in excess of Tottenham's outlay over the same period, but a poor run of form at the end of 2009 and a change of coach stymied progress.
That loss to United denied City a long-awaited appearance in a major final, but City manager Roberto Mancini is unconcerned.
"It's going to be a final," Mancini said. "We wanted one final this year and we have it. Now we must win against Tottenham.
"It's maybe the most important game in the last year and we must win."
Both teams have showed flashes of devastating attacking verve this season - Tottenham mauled Wigan 9-1 before beating Arsenal and Chelsea two weeks ago, while City have beaten Chelsea and Arsenal on their way to racking up 72 goals from 36 Premier League games - but the crucial position on the field today could be in goal.
In today's other match, Fulham continues its warmup for next week's Europa League final with a home match against Stoke.
Neither team is in danger of relegation or in contention for European competition, so the match mainly represents a chance for Fulham players to impress manager Roy Hodgson ahead of the May 12 match in Hamburg.