[Editor’s note: we presently have no information about the status of this weekend’s Premier League matches after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. Until we hear otherwise, we are assuming matches will take place as scheduled.]
Three points were all that mattered Tottenham Hotspur Wednesday evening when they managed to score two goals in the second half against ten Marseille players. Towards the end of the match, Spurs spelled out some of their starting lineup with perhaps one eye towards the big game at the weekend when they travel north to play. Manchester.
This season, Man City are once again the title favorites with Erling Haaland’s summer signing on the scene. Many wondered how Pep Guardiola would manipulate his team to sign a natural striker like Haaland, but the inclusion of the Norwegian international has been smooth so far, with Haaland scoring ten goals in just six matches of the English Premier League. City’s prowess and dominance of the ball will not frustrate Spurs, considering the north London side may have been the biggest thorn in Pep’s side in recent years. While City have won four of their last five Premier League titles, they have not beaten Spurs since October 2018 when Spurs were still playing their home games at Wembley. Saturday’s match will be at the Etihad Stadium, but arguably the best match of the season was played between the two teams in Manchester last season when Harry Kane scored the winning goal in injury time to grab the three points.
And on Saturday, the two teams will face each other as the last undefeated team in the league. It will be a big test for Spurs and a real challenge for them because their methods go against each other. City may be the best ball-playing team in the world, and Tottenham have the firepower to make opponents pay the price at the table. We all know Spurs have been doing well this season when they let their opponents get the ball while using their defense to block good chances. Against City, Tottenham will certainly have to keep fit and make things difficult, but they will also have to take advantage of limited goal-scoring opportunities.
This is the side that Heung Min Jr. thrives on. And while the South Korean player hasn’t opened his own goal-scoring account this season, there should be plenty of room for him to get into scoring positions against a team with a lot of history. In the last five league games against City, Son contributed three goals and two assists on his way to Spurs winning four of their five games.
With both teams playing in Champions LeagueThere may be some fatigue in this game. City played on Tuesday and thrashed Sevilla, while Tottenham’s game on Wednesday means he will have one less day off before this game. However, with City going to dominate the ball and push to get into Spurs’ compact form, Spurs must have legs to make them pay the price if they pile on the ball.
To prepare for this match, we are bringing back the “Know Your Opponent” series by talking to Citizen Duck From Bitter and Blue, SB Nation’s Manchester City blog. We asked five questions about City, what they’ve done this summer and what to expect on Saturday. In addition, we returned the favor by answering questions from the Spurs side. If you are interested in it, come back to Bitter and blue Blog in the coming days.
RR: While Pep and City have been top in four of the last five Premier League titles as well as other domestic leagues during his tenure, the Champions League trophy seems to have eluded him. How important is it for Pep and the club to win the Champions League? Could it be more important than winning the league?
CD: Champions League is the obvious target. It’s the only trophy the City Football Group hasn’t received, which is why Pep was brought to Manchester. However, this season it does not have the feeling of a Champions League or a meltdown. Guardiola’s job is not in danger. As important as it is, the UCL title will surely replace winning the league once again. Pep has said several times that he wants to win every competition, but I think the club would trade any of their Premier League titles for the big-eared tournament.
RR: City have overseen a number of departures this summer including some young players with huge potential. What is the thinking behind leaving like Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Romeo Lafia, Sam Iduzzi, and others?
CD: Most deals for young players like Lavia and Edozie include buy-back items. So City has protected itself against charging a future star. As for first-team departures, Pep said several times that if a player wasn’t happy he wouldn’t stand in the way of that player leaving. However, evaluations must be met. Such was the case with Bernardo Silva’s courtship of Barcelona recently transfer window. Jesus, Zinchenko and Raheem Sterling all left for more playing time and to increase the role of their new clubs. This was something that could not be promised to them in Pep’s setting.
RR: City has been this dynamic side for a number of years due to the team’s talent, technical ability and accelerated style of play shown in the patented “crossing triangles” approach. Outside of the Haaland/Alvarez inclusions, what is the difference in this City squad compared to previous years?
CD: Like I said, the increased depth and quality in the striker position has been the biggest difference this season over the last two seasons. More so, Pep built a flexibility into his side that allowed him to be more flexible in his form. For example, in the opening match of the city against West HamGuardiola used an inverted full-back setup that saw Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo pressure midfield. This allowed Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne to rise to an above-eight and was more of a 2-5-3 shape. In other games use 3 in the back. In the NBA today, the best teams use a type of centerless basketball. In some ways, what Pep does in City is very similar.
RR: With the team so stacked and expectations high again, what do you and the City supporters have to worry about regarding the potential weakness of this season?
CD: Counterattack. The city has been subject to it for several seasons now. match against Aston Villa The weekend was a good example of this. City dominated possession, as they always do and had the ball 73% of the time. Haaland opened the scoring in the 50th minute, but City actually failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities. Sky Blues hit the wood twice in the match. Then, with a not-so-dangerous reaction, Leon Bailey fired a superb shot from distance to equalize and stole a point for Villa and two from City.
RR: What is your expectation for this game? How do you see the game playing? And which player or which match is your x factor?
CD: Tottenham have been a problem lately for City. Heung Min Son in particular has been great against Baep’s team. I think this will be a tough match, as happened recently between the two sides. Even though we’re still early in the campaign, both sides will be keen to put their necks in front of the other. I think the player to watch will be Haaland. I know. shocking. How Spurs will be able to handle the great Norwegian will go a long way towards determining this. In the end, I like City nearby. The final score is 3-2.
Well, there you are. Cityzen Duck wins 3-2 for City. For Spurs supporters, getting a point out of this game will surely make us all happy. However, Spurs got a taste of winning in style last season at the Etihad. This is like the kind of game in which Antonio Conte can make magic happen, similar to last season. The result against City will be a powerful boost for Tottenham before they head to Portugal on Tuesday for their next Champions League group stage match.
h/t to Cityzen Duck at that time.
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