After their 10-match winning streak was brought to a halt by Celtic in the UEFA Champions League, Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City team is now focusing attention on the visit to White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspurs on Sunday in an encounter that headlines this weekend’s Premier League fixtures. City will also want to avenge their double defeat in the hands of the LilyWhites in last season’s league
The Premier League’s only remaining unbeaten records are on the line on Sunday when Tottenham Hotspur will hope to follow Celtic and inflict another dent in Manchester City’s superb start to the campaign. The City juggernaut had crushed all before them, winning every competitive game they had played this season, until they were held to a surprise 3-3 draw with Celtic in the Champions League on Wednesday.
That result, and the way the Scottish side exposed chinks in City’s defensive armour, will have given a fillip to Tottenham, fresh from a crucial Champions League win in Moscow, before England’s top two clash at White Hart Lane.
Pep Guardiola’s impressive start at the Etihad Stadium had made City many people’s favourites for the title, and Spurs will need all the grit they showed in their victory over CSKA Moscow on Tuesday to avoid losing further ground to their opponents.
Both sides will however be without key players for Sunday’s clash.
Harry Kane, Spurs top scorer for the past two seasons, is expected to be out for at least another month after suffering ankle ligament damage against Sunderland on September 18, although Son Heung-min’s stunning form has ensured they have not missed him as much as fans feared. The South Korean scored his fifth goal in five games in Spurs’ 1-0 win in Moscow.
“He is on fire,” Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino told reporters. “To keep this form is very important for us.”
City, four points clear of their opponents and out to avenge their double defeat to Spurs in the league last season, will also be without several important players, including Vincent Kompany and Kevin De Bruyne, who were injured in last Saturday’s 3-1 Premier League win over Swansea City.
City could have the opportunity to equal Spurs’ record of 11 consecutive wins had they won against Celtic, but Brendan Rodgers’ side did the unthinkable and held the City to a 3-3 draw.
Now, the Blue Moon will travel to London and hope they can best Mauricio Pochettino’s impressive side. At Espanyol, Pochettino only won once in nine games against Guardiola’s Barcelona, but the Premier League is a different game, and the Argentine has a far more even squad with him at the moment.
Heung-Min Son is one of the outstanding player for Tottenham this season, the South Korean is in incredible form at the moment and has scored three goals in Tottenham’s last two games, delivering crucial away wins at Middlesbrough and CSKA Moscow. Against the Russian side, it was only when Victor Janssen, Spurs current number one striker, was substituted, and Son moved into a central role, that Spurs began to look dangerous.
Pochettino might be tempted to use the player in a similar position against City, who defend very high up the pitch. It would also allow the coach to play three attackers behind him in Eriksen, Lamela and Dele Alli and use a midfield double pivot in the heart of the pitch.
Nicolas Otamendi will have the task of keeping the South Korean international at bay. In the absence of Kompany, the City team has always struggled defensively. However, Pep has managed to make sure this isn’t a problem, which is essential because the Citizens have the attacking power to outscore the opposition in case of stuttering defensively. This, however, won’t be the case against Spurs, and the defence will have to be on top of its game. With young John Stones alongside him, Otamendi will have to lead at the back.
After a high-profile move from Liverpool, Sterling began his Manchester City stint well, but as the season progressed, his performances took a significant dip, and he couldn’t come close to realising his potential.
However, under Guardiola, Sterling has rediscovered himself and is playing with the confidence that made him such a key player at Liverpool. He has four goals and two assists in six matches in the league. His end product has evidently become better, but Sterling hasn’t lost any of his flair averaging 3.9 successful dribbles every 90 minutes. With Kevin de Bruyne injured, the attacker will have added responsibility for the game and he will have to make sure he can make an impact in this crucial tie.
The task of keeping Sterling’s threat minimal will be with Spurs’ summer signing Victor Wanyama. The 25-year-old has found himself become a first team starter immediately. The London side has the best defence in the league right now, and Wanyama’s performances in the heart of the pitch are central to that. He averages 2.7 tackles and 1.2 interceptions every 90 minutes. He will have to make sure Tottenham dominate the second third of the pitch.
Sergio Aguero has an incredible record against Spurs – 10 goals in nine games. However, with Spurs’ excellent defensive form of last season, Aguero failed to score in both the home and away games. Certainly, the acquisition of Alderweireld played a part in ensuring Aguero didn’t make the record against Tottenham worse.
Alderweireld is an excellent defender and has done supremely well for Spurs since he gave away a penalty on his debut for the club. After that mistake, the former Atletico Madrid defender has not put a foot wrong. He was a major reason why Pochettino’s side made a title challenge last season, and why they find themselves unbeaten in the league, and with the best defensive record of only conceding three goals in the league so far.
While Alderweireld can boast the record of only conceding once from Aguero in his two seasons in England, he will be well aware of Aguero’s quality. He knows that the Argentine has the pace to move away from any defender, and the goalscoring prowess to score a goal out of nothing. The Belgian will have to be at his impeccable best to ensure Spurs can hold their own against Pep’s side.
Arsenal, who are third, and Liverpool fourth, will both expect to maintain their challenges away to struggling sides.
Arsene Wenger’s men will be bidding for their fifth league win in a row on Sunday at newly promoted Burnley, who won for only the second time this season on Monday when they beat Watford.
Arsenal, just a point behind Spurs, will hope top scorer Alexis Sanchez continues his impressive record against Burnley, having scored three goals and made one in his three appearances against them.
Swansea City beat Liverpool 3-1 at home last season, but with Swansea manager Francesco Guidolin under pressure following their poor start to the campaign and Liverpool revitalised under Juergen Klopp, they will be hard-pushed to match that in the corresponding fixture today.
Manchester United with Captain Wayne Rooney by no means certain of a recall will be looking to extend their impressive home record against struggling Stoke City on Sunday, having won their last eight league games against Mark Hughes’s side at Old Trafford.