Manchester City hope to capitalise on Manchester United’s UEFA Champions League distractions by re-launching the defence of their Premier League title, starting with Saturday’s trip to Southampton.
City’s 2-2 draw at home to Liverpool last weekend enabled United to stretch their advantage at the top of the table to nine points, with only 13 games of the season remaining.
However, while United will have half an eye on Wednesday’s trip to Real Madrid when they host Everton on Sunday, City’s own failure in the Champions League means their agenda is free of European commitments.
Aside from a home game against second-tier Leeds United in the FA Cup on 17 February, City can therefore channel all their resources into the pursuit of United.
Ivory Coast’s quarter-final exit at the Africa Cup of Nations means that City manager Roberto Mancini will have both Yaya and Kolo Toure at his disposal for Saturday’s visit to the English south coast.
Everton’s last visit to Old Trafford, in April last year, saw them come back from 4-2 down to force a 4-4 draw that played a pivotal role in tilting the momentum of the title race in City’s favour.
As well as a two-legged tie with Madrid in the Champions League last 16, United are also scheduled to face Reading in the FA Cup this month.
Spurs host improving Newcastle on Saturday lunchtime and with Chelsea playing at home to Wigan Athletic later that afternoon, victory for Tottenham will provisionally take them above their London rivals.
In another part of the capital, bottom club Queens Park Rangers are running out of time to close the six-point gap that currently separates them from safety.
With nearest rivals Wigan, Reading and Southampton all facing sides in the top half of the table, second-bottom Aston Villa could make up ground in the fight for survival by defeating West Ham United on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Jamie Carragher can expect an emotional reception when Liverpool welcome West Bromwich Albion to Anfield on Monday, having announced that he will retire from football at the end of the season.