Emmanuel Adebayor believes Tottenham Hotspur retain realistic aspirations of claiming a first league title in more than half a century and hopes his side can take advantage of the departure of players from rival clubs for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Spurs will not be depleted by the tournament, which takes place in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea from 21 January to 12 February, with none of their players involved following the failures of Cameroon, South Africa and Togo to qualify. While Chelsea contemplate the departures of Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou to play for Ivory Coast immediately after the FA Cup third-round tie against Portsmouth on 8 January, the Premier League leaders Manchester City, from whom Adebayor is on a season-long loan, will lose Yaya and Kolo Touré at the same time.
The Spurs loanee has identified that as a potential source of disruption at the Etihad Stadium and further cause for optimism at White Hart Lane. Asked whether Tottenham, who are nine points from the summit with a game in hand on the leaders, can still claim the title, Adebayor said: "Why not? Manchester City are first at the moment but they still have to play all the big clubs because we've only had the first half of the season. That is what is going to be over very soon, and then we attack January. Are City going to keep playing their football the way they are now right up until the end of the season? We will have to wait and see.
"But, while we have everyone here, they have two players going to the African Cup of Nations. Kolo Touré is not playing a lot but he is a great player for them. Yaya Touré has been amazing for them this year, so I don't know. In football you can suffer two or three injuries in a week – that has happened to us with Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon. We all know they have a great team with a great team spirit and, at the moment, they are playing good football. But, if they get a couple of injuries, I think it would be very difficult for them."
There is positive news for Spurs on the injury front, with Rafael van der Vaart set to face Norwich on Tuesday night after the hamstring injury he suffered against Chelsea last week proved less serious than first feared. "He looks OK," the manager, Harry Redknapp, told Sky Sports News on Sunday. "He looks like he could be fit … He went for a scan and it didn't show a tear." Van der Vaart trained on Sunday and is due to do so on Monday. "I think I'm going to be fine," he said.
Spurs have suffered a solitary defeat – at Stoke – since losing their opening two games of the season against the Manchester clubs and are not due to confront any of the other title contenders until they visit City on 22 January. After Norwich come games against Swansea, West Bromwich Albion, Everton and Wolverhampton Wanderers, matches they will consider as opportunities to retain momentum in pursuit of a first league championship since 1961.
"I'm not saying they are going to be easy games but, if you want to be in the top four, those are the types of games that you have to win, home or away," Adebayor said. "We have to do no matter what it takes to win those games if we are going to achieve that much. Otherwise, forget about it. But for me Tottenham are improving game by game. We have better players this year. We are improving and we have to keep our confidence high."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Alfonso Jimenez
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