Manchester: Tottenham Hotspur have quietly crept up on the two Manchester clubs but will blast out a loud message that they are serious Premier League title contenders if they beat Wolverhampton Wanderers to pull level at the top this weekend.
Harry Redknapp`s side beat Everton 2-0 on Wednesday to join second-placed Manchester United on 45 points. Both will go level with City on Saturday (1500 GMT) if Spurs beat Wolves and United overcome Bolton Wanderers, as the leaders do not play until Monday.
Showcasing an attractive brand of soccer that has had even United manager Alex Ferguson drooling, Spurs have racked up the points, losing just one league game since August, but have kept a low profile while Manchester grabbed the headlines.
"They play the best football in the country and their current form is the best in the country," Ferguson said of Redknapp`s side last month. "Tottenham can definitely win it (the title)."
The top three all face struggling opponents this weekend but United could have the most to worry about as they host a Bolton side who have just strung together back-to-back league matches without defeat for the first time this season.
Victory over Everton and a draw against Wolves has lifted Bolton to 18th in the 20-team league and boosted spirits at a club that pushed United all the way in this fixture last term before a late Dimitar Berbatov goal sunk them 1-0.
By contrast, United go into Saturday`s game after successive league defeats and still troubled by injuries.
While Sunday`s 3-2 victory over neighbours City in the FA Cup third round and the surprise decision by midfielder Paul Scholes to come out of retirement has lifted some of the gloom, Ferguson is more interested in stamping out sloppiness.
"We had a clear scoreline (3-0 up at halftime at City) but we were too careless and that`s the area where, if we keep doing that, we will make mistakes," he told MUTV.
Scholes is not the only old hand to make a return in recent days with fifth-placed Arsenal hoping their leading goalscorer Thierry Henry can make as big as splash in the Premier League as he did in Monday`s 1-0 FA Cup win over Leeds United.
The Frenchman, back at the club he played for from 1999 to 2007 on a short-term loan from New York Red Bulls, came off the bench to score the winner and is looking for more goals to help Arsenal, who travel to Swansea City on Sunday (1600).
"I do think this team has what it takes to be in it (the top four), if you think about the way the team has come back from the beginning of the season," Henry said on the club website (www.arsenal.com).
Manchester City make the short journey to 19th-placed Wigan Athletic on Monday (2000) with Roberto Mancini`s men hoping to halt a wobbly patch after losing three out of four matches in all competitions this month.
Mancini`s predecessor Mark Hughes will take charge of his first game since being appointed Queens Park Rangers manager when the 17th-placed west London side travel to Newcastle United on Sunday (1330).
Fourth-placed Chelsea host an improving Sunderland, sixth-placed Liverpool entertain Stoke City, Everton travel to Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers are at home to Fulham and West Bromwich play Norwich City (all Saturday 1500).