If you’re a Manchester City fan and you’ve followed the last two seasons—2015/16 and the ongoing 2016/17—closely, then the fixtures against the top dogs in the division probably do not excite you, including tonight’s Premier League clash against Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur. Rather, you feel a trepidation and are in hope, more than anything else, that the Blues play to their potential and gain an enviable result.
And your feelings are absolutely fathomable: ignominious defeats to Liverpool and Spurs, in particular, in the last two seasons, have not shown the Cityzens in good light at all.
The fact of the matter is, Manchester City players themselves have lacked confidence when they have gone up against players who are on the same pedestal as them. More specifically, the likes of Sergio Aguero, Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva haven’t delivered in these marquee fixtures, and City have lacked leaders and identity on the pitch.
So, forget Pep Guardiola, his replacing Manuel Pellegrini, the director of football at City (Txiki Begiristain), and the Catalan’s failure, so far, to turn the tide in these big games, because your big players who have won you five titles since the start of this decade (two Premier Leagues, two League Cups and one FA Cup), aren’t delivering.
You can point to the recruitment and the management’s failure to address an overly leaky defence, but you have no leaders and the key personnel aren’t delivering, for which no one other than the players themselves, can be blamed. Yes, Guardiola will say that he takes responsibility for the team’s results, but the blame cannot be entirely attached with him and shouldn’t have been, even with Pellegrini at the helm either.
And, in my opinion, if an enviable result has to be attained at the Etihad Stadium tonight against Spurs, City’s marquee players have to show up and show that they still are vital to their team.
Manchester City are averaging exactly two points per game and if they maintain it, they should probably achieve another top-four finish. But then, fixtures like tonight’s are a reminder to City’s players, that they cannot take anything for granted.
The fact that Spurs, who are in second place at the moment, themselves are seven points adrift (45) of 2016/17 Premier League leaders Chelsea (52), tells you how far-fetched Man City’s title chances are this season.
Why can’t City take anything for granted?
Because two teams (Spurs and the Reds) who have had the wood over City in the last couple of seasons, are playing well and more importantly, do not lose the marquee fixtures, in other words, games against contenders for the league or a place in the top four. So, even to finish in the top four in the 2016/17 Premier League season, Manchester City absolutely need to win their fixtures against Spurs, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester United.
From which viewpoint, tonight’s home clash against Spurs carries immense significance: a defeat and Guardiola’s men, who are currently fifth on the table, could drop to sixth, but more importantly, be six points adrift of one of their top-four rivals.
Pochettino’s Spurs are a confident, robust and dynamic side, who will test Manchester City’s confidence and wherewithal, after the Blues’ 4-0 thrashing against Everton at Goodison Park last weekend. The North Londoners were the first team to defeat Guardiola’s City and at White Hart Lane in October, Spurs’s relentless pressing and energy caught what was a dynamic City side who had been undefeated in 11 games then, off guard.
Now, the landscape is extremely different, so tonight’s home clash against Spurs becomes a hugely nervy and confidence-testing game for Manchester City.
Manchester City’s Starting XI v Tottenham Hotspur
Here’s the starting XI which Guardiola should ideally go in with, but probably won’t (4-2-3-1): Willy Caballero (GK); Bacary Sagna, Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones, Aleksandar Kolarov; Yaya Toure, Aleix Garcia; Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva (C), Raheem Sterling; Sergio Aguero.
How do you foresee tonight’s game at the Etihad? Can Manchester City repeat their performance from the clash against Arsenal, another North London club? Tell us in the comments below.