Barclays Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City

Manchester City face an away clash on Sunday against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, in Matchweek 35 of the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League season.Mauricio Pochettino’s side come into this pivotal fixture on the back of an entertaining 2-2 draw against the Argentine manager’s old club, Southampton.

Manuel Pellegrini’s men, on the other hand, were involved in a topsy-turvy Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium against FA Cup finalists Aston Villa who pushed the reigning English champions all the way, but couldn’t stop them from registering all three points.

The Sky Blues have yet to win a league game – in five attempts – in London this season, losing to West Ham United and Crystal Palace and drawing the other three fixtures against Arsenal, Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea.

Can the 2013/14 title winners, however, script an important win in the capital, that could go a long way in reinforcing their second place on the Premiership table? Read on…

Spurs

Spurs, apart from their 0-3 defeat to Liverpool early on in the season, have not lost at home to any of the current top eight sides on the league table and will be keen to hold onto that record after the final whistle on Sunday.

In the grand scheme of things, however, this season hasn’t gone to plan for the North Londoners.

They sit in 6th place on the league table but, if they can avoid a major slump in form over these last four games, should make their way into next season’s UEFA Europa League group stages on account of Chelsea winning the Capital One Cup and Arsenal, even if they win the FA Cup, being favorites to finish in one of the four UEFA Champions League places.

Spurs have played a good brand of football at times this season, most notably in their derby victories over the Blues and Gunners – who lost their games after scoring the first goal.

Harry Kane’s magnificent goal scoring form since the beginning of November, has given his side an identity and they really have thrived on the Englishman’s 20 league goals.

Someone like Christian Eriksen, having scored 10 league goals and created an impressive 72 chances in 34 appearances, has also been enjoying a very good second season in England, but has had little impact on his club’s ambitions of fighting for a top four spot.

The likes of Nacer Chadli, Ryan Mason and Mousa Dembele play with a lot of flair and can cause problems for the opposition, if they are feeling good and it is their day.

It is by way of attacking oppositions and scoring goals, that Spurs have been able to remain in touch with the league’s top four for a major part of this campaign.

Defensively, they have been rather poor this season, conceding close to 1.5 goals per game and relying on their attackers to score 2 or more goals per game to win football matches.

Hugo Lloris has been making 2.55 saves per game, which is the second-highest for a goalkeeper from a top eight side, during the season, and if not for the Frenchman, Pochettino’s side may not even be in the top half.

That is why Sunday’s visitors can breathe easy, as they can rely on their strongest suit – which is also attacking – to deliver on the day.

Spurs, as part of their game plan, will want to press City in defense and midfield, and test out the slow movers in Fernando Reges, Martin Demichelis and Aleksandar Kolarov.

When in fine fettle, Spurs can play at a really good tempo and be tough to play against. I think the hosts’ style of play – high-pressing and possession based – will make for an exciting viewing come Sunday.

City

Sunday’s visitors, with their victory over the Villains last Saturday, registered back-to-back victories in the league for the first time since February.

Such has been the devastating dip in their overall form, that they have had to relinquish their title to Jose Mourinho’s side and fight for Champions League qualification, which, however, shouldn’t be a problem from here on.

Pellegrini’s side has had defensive problems of its own, and there really was no surprise over the way they conceded the two goals against Tim Sherwood’s side last weekend; it really has been a way of life for the Manchester club this season.

While the rearguard has struggled and conceded 36 goals in 34 games, the attack hasn’t exactly flourished, either.

Sergio Aguero, barring a surprising dip in form for a majority of the last two months, has been consistent in providing goals for his side, and will look to end this campaign as the league’s leading goal scorer.

David Silva is the club’s second leading goal scorer with 11 league goals, but the Spaniard hasn’t registered a lot of assists (only 4) this season.

Yes, he has played the second most key passes (74), behind Eden Hazard’s 79, in the league, but it has not been good enough for City, who have struggled to break down congested defenses in almost all their games.

Yaya Toure picked up a hamstring injury against Villa and is likely to miss the trip to White Hart Lane. And the Ivorian, contrary to popular belief midst the club’s supporters, will be missed: Toure brings power, goals and serenity to City’s midfield, though his lack of work-rate can be a disadvantage.

Though Toure and Silva – City’s two most influential midfielders – haven’t had their best seasons, the likes of Jesus Navas, who has made the most number of assists (8) for a City player in the league, and Pablo Zabaleta have been enjoying good outings recently.

The duo work well as a partnership that was key to their side’s victories over Villa and Hammers.

Eliaquim Mangala has vowed to stop Kane from scoring against City, and the Frenchman will have his task cut out against a Spurs side loaded with pacey players.

It will once again be intriguing to see how Pellegrini sets his side up, although the Chilean doesn’t really make major tactical changes, if his two seasons in England are anything to go by.

Wilfried Bony played a cameo role against Villa last weekend, but this Sunday maybe a bit too soon for him to start a game. However, if he has made good recovery from the ankle injury, I think he needs to start alongside Aguero.

Other than that shift in personnel, you don’t expect many changes to the City side from the one that started against Villa last weekend; Fernandinho, obviously, will replace the injured Toure.

The Citizens, if they need to win this game, ought to compete with the tempo at which Spurs play. They cannot let the home side dictate play like they allowed Villa to, as it will be nothing less than what Pochettino and company would revel in.

If they can match Spurs for pace and speed of play, they should be strong favorites to win Sunday’s game. The visitors will get chances to score goals and the home side, other than Kane and Danny Rose, if he plays, shouldn’t pose major problems to City’s backline.

Score Prediction:

Tottenham 1:2 City

Final Thought

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City
Pellegrini has not lost to Pochettino in 11 previous meetings between the two

Both clubs’ fans can anticipate an attractive football match that these two sides are capable of producing.

City will look to build on from their two previous league victories, but they have yet to win an away game across all competitions since beating Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium way back in February.

Spurs’ defense will have its task cut out against Aguero and other City’s attackers. Their own attack led by Kane, can match the visitors’ but their result will depend on whether or not their backline can stay watertight for 90 minutes.

2 comments

  1. Even without our best player City should have the wood over the Spurs, expect a 0-2 result.

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