The FourFourTwo Preview: Tottenham vs Man City
Battle of the blunt sharp-shooters.
- Spurs 1-2 Arsenal (LC)
- Spurs 1-0 Palace (Prem)
- Spurs 3-1 Qarabag (EC)
- S’land 0-1 Spurs (Prem)
- Spurs 0-0 Everton (Prem)
MAN CITY FORM
- S’land 1-4 Man City (LC)
- Man City 1-2 West Ham (Prem)
- Man City 1-2 Juventus (CL)
- Palace 0-1 Man City (Prem)
- Man City 2-0 Watford (Prem)
It’s one thing having your week ruined by Mathieu Flamini; it’s quite another seeing your worst enemy’s supporters ripping out hoardings from the upper tier of your stadium while celebrating the fact.
Tottenham’s recent upturn in form came juddering to a halt in the most painful of ways on Wednesday night and now – in what will, remarkably, be their fourth home match in nine days – they come up against a Manchester City side that has, to put it mildly, had their number of late. The teams’ last four meetings have finished 6-0, 5-1, 4-1 and 1-0 to Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
Even if that sequence suggests a more positive outcome for Spurs this time out, an extrapolation over the last four seasons shows seven wins for City, one for Spurs, 27 goals for City, nine for Spurs.
All of which means you probably need your strikers on form. Sergio Aguero is yet to hit any heights for City this term but the attention on Harry Kane will intensify after his selection against Arsenal failed to yield a first club goal of the campaign.
Kane, of course, is neither as good as last season’s bewildering haul indicated nor as bad as a few more wayward performances would make him out to be, but Tottenham are short of out-and-out goal threat beyond the England striker. As much as Son Heung-min looks an excellent addition, it would be dangerous to pin too much hope on the versatile Korean at this stage.
Son’s directness and nimble feet have certainly added an extra string to his team’s bow, though, and perhaps Spurs are beginning to add a little verve to what had been a fairly stodgy start to 2015/16.
City cannot be accused of lacking flair and it says something that, although their home defeat to West Ham was a major shock given the victories that had preceded it, not too many alarm bells rang out.
The second half at the Etihad Stadium last Saturday resembled a siege; the only real concerns were that the first period had showed a renewed propensity for defensive carelessness from a team that had previously not conceded a league goal, and that the likes of Aguero and Raheem Sterling – whose own form could be far more clinical – could not convert one of the numerous chances that came their way.
You get a couple of games like that every season, whoever you are. City won’t want too many more at this stage, having already demonstrated that it was far too early to call this title race off after five games. If they lose at White Hart Lane, they could even be leapfrogged by those noisy neighbours of theirs, Manchester United, who host hapless Sunderland. As Tottenham, who won’t want to be falling too much further adrift of the top five at this stage, will tell you, chirpy local rivals can cause a fair amount of damage.
Christian Eriksen completed 90 minutes against Arsenal on his return from injury, although that may suggest Dele Alli will come back into the starting line-up in his place for now. Nabil Bentaleb is a week or so away from his own comeback but Spurs, who will probably change around seven of those who started on Wednesday night, are fairly light on injury worries. Manchester City put out a strong team for their 4-1 League Cup win at Sunderland and appear to have got away with it, with several other big guns in contention to return this weekend. David Silva and captain Vincent Kompany, both badly missed against West Ham, could both be back and Wilfried Bony has a chance, too. Samir Nasri and Eliaquim Mangala are doubts, while this game definitely comes too soon for Pablo Zabaleta, Fabian Delph and Gael Clichy.
Key battle: Toby Alderweireld vs Sergio Aguero
While City flew out of the traps this season, their attacking talisman has had a quieter time of things and Tuesday night’s penalty against Sunderland was only his second goal of the campaign. It's not quite a drought but the Argentine looks a shade down on his confidence, perhaps as a result of the litany of injury concerns that have dogged him in recent times. Who better to raise the spirits, then, than Spurs?
Aguero loves the sight of a cockerel – he has scored 10 goals in seven games against Tottenham, including all five that City netted against them last season, and while it isn’t quite 'Luis Suarez vs Norwich' territory, it’s one of the more impressive personal antagonisms among current top-flight players.
Alderweireld has started in composed, commanding fashion for Spurs after his move from Southampton and seems to be getting the best out of compatriot and fellow centre-back Jan Vertonghen, too. Will that be enough to shut a rusty Aguero down, or is the striker edging back into form at exactly the right time?
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Spurs 0-1 City (PL, May 15)
- City 4-1 Spurs (PL, Oct 14)
- Spurs 1-5 City (PL, Jan 14)
- City 6-0 Spurs (PL, Nov 13)
- Spurs 3-1 City (PL, Apr 13)
These two met several times in Spain before their four meetings to date in the Premier League, but Mauricio Pochettino is yet to defeat Pellegrini unless you count a victory for Espanyol in the latter’s first game technically in charge of Malaga, which he watched from the stands. Neither can feel the winds of too much discontent just yet this season: Wednesday’s defeat hurt Tottenham but the bigger picture is their back-to-back league wins, even if you sense that their attacking play has another gear to shift into; Manchester City and Pellegrini can absorb the West Ham setback and the manager’s most decisive test of the week may come on Wednesday when his side travels to Borussia Monchengladbach in search of some much-needed points in the Champions League. Not too much needle to be seen here in the meantime, but a first Pochettino win against his opponent would augur well for Tottenham.
Facts and figures
- Hugo Lloris has conceded 17 goals in 5 Premier League games against City, at a rate of 1 every 26 minutes.
- Manchester City have won 5 successive Premier League away games - they haven’t won 6 away games in a row in the top flight before.
- Wilfried Bony has scored in his last 2 Premier League starts against Spurs, but has netted just 2 goals in 15 PL appearances for Manchester City.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Aguero and Kane to rediscover their shooting boots, and an improving Spurs to earn a draw. 2-2.