A storming start to our Premier League title defense this past weekend, but there is no time to rest on our laurels. Our good old friends from last season Tottenham Hotspur come to town on Saturday in an early season blockbuster. This match promises to be full of tactical battles, moments of individual skill, and much more. Daniel Levy was very unlike himself this summer, and there could be a few new faces in the Spurs side since last seasons 1-0 win in the same fixture. What kind of team are City in store to face?
Last season was quite a rollercoaster for Spurs. The delays in opening the new stadium, couped with a dreadful start to their Champions League group stage campaign portrayed a very bleak future. However, Inter Milan slipped up on the ultimate banana peel in the final match, giving Tottenham a get-out-of-jail-free pass, and into the knockout stages of the tournament. From there, the new stadium was finally opened in 2019 and the squad went on an unprecedented run to the Champions League Final, as City fans know all too well.
After the heartbreak of the final, the club wasted no time in giving Mauricio Pochettino what he had been craving for months: reinforcements. Spurs blindsided many teams as they waited for other transfer developments, by swooping in for Olympique Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele; this presented a massive statement of intent early on. Discussions were held with Juventus over a move for Paulo Dybala, and while a deal never materialised, a deadline day double signing of Ryan Sessegnon from Fulham and Giovani Lo Celso of Real Betis rounded out an extremely strong summer for the North London side.
Probable Formation and Lineup
Most of the time it is easier to guess a side’s formation than their lineup, but with a coach such as Pochettino, the way he will line up his side can be a total toss up. The most likely scenario this Saturday is a hybrid between the 4-2-3-1 and a narrow 4-4-2. Hugo Lloris will start in goal, with Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez the most likely centerback pairing. Danny Rose will be looking to continue his impressive form to start the season, and Kyle Walker-Peters seems to be the man entrusted with taking over the rightback spot following Kieren Trippier’s departure to Atletico Madrid. Moving forward is where it gets a bit more into the guesswork.
In my opinion we will see the same midfield that was put out to open the season against Aston Villa. Ndombele, Harry Winks, Mousa Sissoko, Erik Lamela, and Lucas Moura will make up the midfield, with the latter joining Harry Kane in attack depending on formation. Winks and Ndombele sit in a double pivot in the 4-2-3-1, with Sissoko moving out wide left and Lamela central. In the 4-4-2, Winks, Ndombele, Sissoko, and Lamela will create a diamond, allowing Lucas the freedom to get forward in support of Kane.
Strengths and Tactics
There’s a reason why Tottenham are now a regular around the top of the table nowadays. Pochettino’s squad is well balanced and plays very pleasing football. All over the pitch you will find world class players that can punish the opposition if you aren’t careful. Pep Guardiola will be hoping that Eriksen doesn’t start amid contract disputes, as they are a much better team with him in the starting eleven. The game against Aston Villa changed on its head after the Danish midfielder was brought on with 20 minutes to go.
City have first hand knowledge of the ability Ndombele possesses. The French midfielder is almost certain to start, and will present an issue to Guardiola both offensively and defensively. He will not get forward as much as he did this past weekend, but expect a dominant performance once again, as we saw in both games against Lyon last campaign.
Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino have similarities in the way they approach matches. Both like to control the majority of the ball, push high up the pitch, and defend compactly. However, we have seen Pochettino take a more defensive approach to matches against City in recent years. Much like the second leg in the Champions League Quarterfinals and the game right after at the Etihad, expect a lower block than most Spurs sides, with the expectation that there will be mistakes in the City back line and chances to counter. Should Rodri start this weekend, there is a good chance they will look to target him to attempt to create turnovers.
As I said earlier, Spurs have quality all over the pitch, so finding areas of weakness can be tricky. Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez or Bernardo Silva should look to attack the fullbacks. Rose has been in great form but has been out of favour in recent memory and can get caught up trying to attack too high up the pitch. On the other side, Sterling would take the chance to welcome Walker-Peters to regular first-team football.
For all of Spurs’ quality in midfield, what they truly lack is a true defensive minded player. More often than not Winks is the deepest player for Spurs, which could allow City’s midfield a lot of room to operate.
Lastly, Lloris must be pressed when he is on the ball. Pochettino likes to play the ball out from the back, but his keeper has a tendency to let the pressure get to him. Look for City to attempt to take away the Frenchmen’s passing options when he receives the ball. Forcing a bad pass or turnover could be the difference in a match like this.
The Xtra View
I can’t help but have a bad feeling about this match. We are capable of beating Spurs any day of the week, but I think a mixture of early season rust and Spurs’ new signings will even this game out. I predict a very interesting and stress inducing match that will end 2-2. If this is the case hopefully it will act as a wake up call to kick-start our title defense for a second season running.
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