Emmanuel Adebayor is the perpetrator of one of the most memorable celebrations in Premier League history and there is a chance he could reprise it when he returns to the Etihad on Sunday. It was on this ground that, in 2009, he scored for Manchester City in a 4-2 victory over his former club Arsenal and sprinted the length of the pitch to rejoice provocatively in front of the away fans.
He now regrets those antics but the emotion that fuelled them could come flooding back if he scores for Tottenham against City, who cast him off soon after Roberto Mancini's arrival as manager, twice farming him out on loan before he was sold to Spurs for £6m in the summer. This would be the first time he has faced his former club and the strength of his desire to prove that they were wrong to let him go may help persuade André Villas-Boas to give the Togolese his first Premier League start of the season. "For sure we take that into account," says the Tottenham manager. "Revolt and motivation are always factors that I keep on speaking about but I'm still to make my decision on the starting XI."
The formation is another factor in that decision. Villas-Boas has preferred a slightly more cautious 4-2-3-1 this season, with Jermaine Defoe as a lone striker and an advanced midfielder just behind him. Clint Dempsey is the obvious candidate to fill that role at the Etihad, given that he has made a better start to his Tottenham career than fellow summer recruit Gylfii Sigurdsson. However, part of the reason that Villas-Boas has deployed that system is that Adebayor was unavailable through injury and illness; now he is back and, on the evidence of Thursday's showing in the 3-1 Europa League win over Maribor, has quickly regained the understanding with Defoe that enabled the duo to share 10 goals in their eight starts together last season, Villas-Boas would have good reason for believing the time is right to start with a 4-4-2 in the Premier League. Especially as, on the back of three wins from four league away matches, including one at Old Trafford, he is determined to attack City. "That responds a little to Tottenham's philosophy and we want to be brave away from home," says the manager.
"I'm not sure if it is going to pay off but we will certainly try to have a go. Our away form is certainly very pleasing and we know that we will play in a very confident way."
Defoe seems certain to start, with Villas-Boas saying the player is "on stilts" after hitting a hat-trick in midweek. The manager believes the rest of the team is equally confident, the success on the road so far this season and the midweek win at home to Maribor offsetting any anxiety caused by Last Saturday's home defeat by Wigan and the absences through injury of several important players, including Mousa Dembélé, Scott Parker, Younes Kaboul and Benoit Assou-Ekotto. "Whatever you get out of the playing the Premier League champions on their own ground is excellent so we will go to win but understand that to give them a run for their money will be difficult. But we have strengths and hopefully if we put on a performance like this we can do something ... We will go up there to play our style of football knowing that we have nothing to lose."
Villas-Boas says that with so long still to go this season, this match, and next weekend's north London derby at Arsenal, are "important but not defining moments". What is probably certain is that there are not two other teams against whom Adebayor craves a start more.