Following an ordinary performance against Celtic on matchday two of the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League, Manchester City’s starting XI v Spurs could well have changes made to it, especially at the back.
After an emphatic start to the 2016/17 season and the Pep Guardiola era, Manchester City have shown a few frailties in their last couple of games—even though those frailties have not cost them much at all—against Swansea City in the Premier League and Celtic in the Champions League. Swansea and Celtic have to be applauded for not being intimidated by City, being proactive and imposing themselves.
On that note, a trio of related articles for you to read:
In the Premier League, Swansea posed a lot of questions for last Saturday’s visitors at the Liberty Stadium and the final scoreline, 1-3, was not exactly a true reflection of how well Francesco Guidolin’s men had fared for the vast majority of the game.
And, on Wednesday, Celtic, by making a quick start and being energetic in and out of possession throughout the 90′, caused plenty of concerns for the City backline. Only if theirs had fared better, could Brendan Rodgers’ side have shocked Europe after the 7-0 thrashing at the hands of Barcelona on matchday one.
Possession percentage is, in my opinion, a very good measure of how a Manchester City’s opponent has fared against them, because Guardiola’s Manchester City want to have a high percentage of possession and given an opportunity, will try to keep the ball for an entire game. So, when you starve them of possession, you deny Manchester City and their manager something which is their craving and by having the ball, you can create chances of your own, too.
Just to give you an idea, Swansea enjoyed 47% possession against City last weekend and that is the highest possession percentage by a Manchester City’s opponent in the Premier League so far this season. Even Manchester United managed to keep the ball for only 43% of the time in the 172nd Manchester Derby, providing an indication of how dominant City were.
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s game at the White Hart Lane, Tottenham Hotspur are more than capable of disconcerting Manchester City with their high-press and causing dangers to Claudio Bravo’s goal when they have the ball.
Look what Celtic did on Wednesday night: they pressed City high and forced them to play long balls. And, with Aleksandar Kolarov, who has been Manchester City’s chief passer from the back under Guardiola so far, having a really bad night in central defence, a lot of his passes went astray—the Serbian completed only 76% of his passes—although we can say that Manchester City, in general, struggled with their passing. Rodgers’ men have to be commended for making life difficult for City!
Mauricio Pochettino’s men are the only other unbeaten side in the Premier League, along with Manchester City, and with the quality in both the ranks, we should have a good football match.
From the visitors’ perspective, what should be Manchester City’s starting XI v Spurs in matchweek 7 of the 2016/17 Premier League season?
Premier League 16/17, Matchweek 7: Manchester City’s Starting XI v Spurs
Guardiola, at his pre-Tottenham press conference last evening, confirmed that Kevin de Bruyne (hamstring), Vincent Kompany (groin), Fabian Delph (muscle strain), Nolito (suspended), and Yaya Toure (dispute) are the players unavailable for tomorrow’s meeting with Spurs.
In complete contrast to last season and even in the season before (2014/15), Guardiola has preferred using Bacary Sagna for the Premier League games and Pablo Zabaleta for the Champions League fixtures. The France right-back has started City’s last three Premier League fixtures and was substituted after 77 minutes against the Swans. I expect Sagna to retain his place in the Manchester City starting XI from last weekend’s clash against Swansea.
Guardiola’s decision to drop John Stones for the Champions League game against Celtic was perplexing because Nicolas Otamendi and the Englishman have worked well as a central defensive pairing who also passed the Zlatan Ibrahimovic-Marcus Rashford -Marouane Fellaini test, their first real major one of the ongoing season, quite emphatically. And, Gael Clichy, apart from scoring the opener in the third round EFL Cup clash against Swansea, has not provided City much of a dimension as a left fullback.
I expect Kolarov to move to left-back and make space in central defence for Stones to feature in Manchester City’s starting XI v Spurs, meaning the backline which faced Swansea last weekend is likely to start against Tottenham Hotspur tomorrow as well. Even without their premier striker, Harry Kane, Pochettino’s Tottenham are a dynamic attacking side boasting the likes of Eric Lamela, Heung-Min Son, Christian Eriksen, to name a few who could cause a real headache for Manchester City with their one and two-touch football.
At central midfield, with de Bruyne injured, the troika of Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan and David Silva—also who started Swansea City v Manchester City—should retain their places. The Fernandinho-Gundogan-Silva trio have not exactly fired in the two games they have played together and if Manchester City are to come away from North London with all three points, this trio will need to have a good game.
De Bruyne’s absence, in addition to Nolito’s three-game suspension, has made a place vacant on the flanks for Jesus Navas or Leroy Sane to slot in. Sane has yet to start a Premier League game and went an unused substitute in Manchester City’s last two games.
Does Leroy Sane feature in Manchester City’s starting XI v Spurs?
Has to, because the former Schalke forward will not have a better opportunity this season to prove himself and Guardiola, I think, will be aware. With Raheem Sterling on top of his game and Nolito providing industry and linking up well with Silva, his countryman, this duo will start on the right and left flanks, respectively, when they are fit and free from suspensions. Sergio Aguero should lead the line, hoping to lead Manchester City to a victory against the club he has scored the second-most number of Premier League goals (10) against during his time in England.
Manchester City’s Starting XI v Spurs (4-1-4-1): Claudio Bravo (GK); Bacary Sagna, Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones, Aleksandar Kolarov; Fernandinho; Ilkay Gundogan, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane; Sergio Aguero.
As you can see, picking Manchester City’s starting XI v Spurs should be quite straightforward for Pep Guardiola, who, however, has to make a decision with regards to who starts on one of the flanks, as de Bruyne and Nolito are missing. The aforementioned Manchester City starting XI is a strong one and Guardiola will want the team he picks, to play the way they did in the first 45′ against West Ham United and Manchester United.