This title clash has come at a bad time for Manchester City. Injuries to Fabian Delph, Kevin de Bruyne, and Jesus Navas have virtually guaranteed that Manuel Pellegrini will continue with the 4-4-2 formation used in City’s last two fixtures.
Given Tottenham’s superb defensive organisation, the dearth of ingenuity and attacking movement in the Man City XI hands the advantage to the visitors.
Tottenham’s own attacking style has certain similarities with Leicester’s long ball approach. They've added variation to their game this season via long, diagonal passes into the channels (31.8 successful long passes per game - sixth most in the division) aimed at speeding up transitions and getting the front four on the ball as quickly as possible.
This tactic should prove fruitful against Man City’s chaotic defence and high full-backs – and in a similar way to Leicester’s dominant win last weekend.
Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov may have difficulty coping with Spurs’ full-backs who, to help stretch the pitch whilst the wingers drift infield to overload the middle, play almost as wingers themselves – receiving long diagonal passes to feet.
As Harry Kane enjoys making runs into the left channel and Dele Alli makes excellent late runs in behind, Man City’s backline is likely to be breached, although the returning Vincent Kompany could be a big obstacle for the visitors if he starts and is match-fit.
If the Citizens' go for a 4-4-2 formation the match could well play into Mauricio Pochettino's hands, with the centrally focused Spurs then dominating the middle of the pitch before they launch these searching balls into City’s vulnerable zone.
At the other end, the hosts will be relying upon Yaya Toure and David Silva for creativity, with the latter most likely playing in a wider role than normal, along with the nimble Sterling. Pellegrini could opt for both Fernandinho and Fernando in the centre to wrest control of the match, and push Toure further upfield.
Mousa Dembele and Eric Dier face key battles in the centre, but if they can win the majority of possession then they could force Sergio Aguero to come increasingly deep in search of the ball.
City’s best chance is to play a narrow 4-3-1-2 with Fernando and Fernandino operating in dual centre/wide midfield roles and Sterling playing as a number ten, or a 4-2-3-1, with Toure further forward.
Both set-ups would ensure that Tottenham do not have a numerical advantage in central midfield, whilst giving Sterling more freedom to link the lines. But if City's formation mimics that used in the 3-1 defeat last Saturday, expect a similar outcome.
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