Can Spurs top City? (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
After comfortably putting away an understrength Everton side on Wednesday, the talk of Tottenham Hotspur as a legitimate Premier League title contender reached a new high and for good reason. With 45 points from 20 matches, Spurs are on pace to be the 2011 Premier League champions, besting the 44 points that Manchester United had through 20 matches a year ago and the 85.5 points that Spurs are on pace for would have been enough to win the league in 2011 and 2003.
Of course, Spurs aren't competing for the 2011 Premier League title. That they could best Manchester United and win last year's title or a nine-year-old title mostly just reassures Tottenham supporters that their excitement is due to real, extraordinary play from their beloved team and now just a product of years of disappointment, but it also establishes their play as title-winning quality.
While Tottenham are legitimate title contenders, they are in no way favorites. Manchester City will hold the title favorite tag under May 13 and their 2/1 odds to win the league is a fair number. With their incredible depth, they have more than enough bodies to handle Europa League and that's even assuming they play to win the competition and don't throw it away like Spurs do. At most, City has just two more Carling Cup matches and they are in the same stage as Spurs in the FA Cup so extra matches are unlikely to make much of a difference in the title race.
City are showing cracks though. They have won just one of their last five matches as injuries have taken their toll and they will be without Yaya Toure for the next month as he competes in the Africa Cup of Nations. Vincent Kompany, who many refuse to recognize as one of the top defenders in the world for reasons beyond comprehension, is out with injury too.
Without Toure and Kompany, the Citizens' midfield and defense looks far less imposing and with matches against Spurs, Liverpool, Everton, Fulham and Aston Villa in succession, they're at less than full strength at the worst time possible. If they drop points in this stretch and fall back into a fight for first with Spurs and United, it's not inconceivable to see them have trouble dealing with the pressure from their owner, supports and the media as the runaway favorites lose their perch atop the league.
If that happens, Spurs could pounce. They've scored in their last 19 matches and are leading the league in both possession and pass completion percentage. They'll get to play City with Toure and Kompany sidelined and while Spurs won't play a "Sky Six" team after March 24, City have Manchester United in their third to final match.
With their current play, Spurs have proven they have more than enough to challenge for the title. To dismiss them would be ignorant and with City facing a couple lengthy absences, it may not take more than 85 points to win the title, but even If it does, is it too hard to imagine Tottenham adding a couple more points in the second half of the season?
Whether you can imagine Spurs picking up extra points or the Citizens dropping points, if Tottenham can continue this form and hit 85 or 86 points, they will be right there near the top. City are rightful favorites, but Spurs believe it or not, Spurs are Premier League champion quality. At least that's what the numbers say.