Emmanuel Adebayor believes that Tottenham Hotspur can take advantage of his old club Manchester City's tendency for in-fighting in order to confirm their place in the Champions League.
Tottenham have six matches in which they must, in the words of Clint Dempsey, "salvage" their season. A top-four finish in the Premier League would guarantee a place in Europe's main club competition and assuage the pain of their defeat to Basel on penalties in the Europa League last week.
Spurs did not return to training until Tuesday. Thereafter, they have had to prepare their minds and bodies for Sunday's match against Manchester City, the reigning champions, who sold Adebayor to Spurs for about £5m last summer.
Tottenham are three points behind third-placed Chelsea, and two behind Arsenal, whom Adebayor left to join City in 2009. Spurs have a game in hand on Arsenal but both their London rivals have a much better goal difference.
Yet despite Spurs' uncertain form, Adebayor is convinced that a win over City will revive them – and the forward alluded to a fragile team spirit at City that he is convinced Spurs can exploit. "I think that will be the decisive game for us," Adebayor said. "If we win that game, the confidence will definitely be back, we will have a chance to finish in the top four because we have got five more games to go, we get all our big players back.
"We have to put them under pressure and for sure, we have a chance to win. I played at City and whenever things are not going their way there will definitely be a fight or an argument on the pitch and that is how we can take them down.
"It's going to be important for me to prove how good I am, but I don't have anything to prove to City. They bought me expensively [for about £25m] and sold me cheap. I don't have any pressure that says I have to beat them for the way they treated me. I just have to find a way to help Tottenham win the game.
"Hopefully we will have some players back from injury like Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon, Younes Kaboul and Jermain Defoe. With a full squad, we have a good chance of finishing in the top four. Reaching the Champions League and the last eight of the Europa League would be a perfect season for us."
Adebayor took a very poor penalty in the shoot-out in Basel, lifting his shot over the crossbar, but was philosophical about the error. "It's a gamble: you miss or you score," he insisted. "We are out and we just have to keep going."
Head coach Andre Villas-Boas hopes Bale, the club's top scorer this season with 22 goals, will have recovered from his ankle injury in time to face City. Spurs' chances of reaching the Champions League depend heavily on how quickly the Welshman can return – as, indeed, do the club's prospects of keeping him beyond the summer.
When Spurs chairman Daniel Levy hired Villas-Boas to replace Harry Redknapp last summer, the Portuguese was told to deliver Champions League football. He stressed throughout the season that the Europa League would be a finishing school for more prestigious continental battles. Only time will tell whether Villas-Boas's insistence on playing strong teams in the Europa League has left his key players short of energy for the final push.
"We have to make sure we finish in the top four and that we're in the Champions League next year," said Dempsey, whose two goals against Basel were not enough to save his team. "That's the only thing we can do to salvage this season and say we had a good year. That's what we're focusing on.
"Is it as black and white as that? Yes, because that's been the goal for the season. We wanted to go as far as we could in all competitions and try to win something. We've not been able to do that so now the only thing we have left to play for is a Champions League place.
"It's just going to be a grind until the end of the season and I think it's going to come down to the last game. We're going to try our best to make sure we focus on the group we have. We can't control anything other than that."Reuse content