The Big Match Tactical View: Man City v Tottenham

Sergio Aguero enjoys facing Tottenham
Sergio Aguero enjoys facing Tottenham
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Sunday's final game is another cracker - Tottenham are one point ahead of Manchester City, but can they prove their superiority here? Michael Cox looks at the tactical battle while Alan Thompson provides the betting lowdown...

"This is essentially a contest between individual talent and collective organisation."

Manchester City v Tottenham
Sunday 16:15,
Live on Sky Sports 1


Match Odds: Manchester City 2.26/5, Tottenham 3.711/4, The Draw 3.711/4.


Manchester City's record against the title contenders this season is awful - they haven't beaten any of the other top four sides. They desperately need a positive result here to bounce back from last weekend's 3-1 defeat to Leicester City, and ensure they're still a serious title contender.

Manuel Pellegrini's side were completely outclassed last weekend, and the Chilean will surely want to make changes. The question, though, is exactly where the changes will come. One probable switch will be in defence, where captain Vincent Kompany is finally available and ready to start his first game of 2016. Nicolas Otamendi is more likely to retain his place, with Martin Demichelis dropping out.

Yaya out of the engine room?


One potential switch is taking Yaya Toure out of the deep midfield role he played last weekend. His defensive qualities are still highly questionable, and against a high-pressing, compact side he could be overrun, with Fernando exposed and Spurs storming forward quickly.

It was interesting that Pellegrini sacrificed Toure early in the second half last weekend, with Fernando introduced in his place. The same might happen here, perhaps with Toure pushed forward to the top of the midfield trio - Raheem Sterling didn't play well there last weekend. Sterling could move to the left, with David Silva (if fit) on the right. Fabian Delph is expected to be out for at least a month with an Achilles injury. Kevin de Bruyne, Wilfried Bony, Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri are also unavailable, meaning Pellegrini has relatively few attacking options.

Silva will be a threat between the lines - he looked lively against Leicester - but Mauricio Pochettino will ask his full-backs to bomb forward and exploit City's attacking players' occasional slack defensive work. Will Silva sprint 50 yards towards his own goal to track Ben Davies? Spurs' full-backs were crucial in the win over Watford and they could play a huge role here.

Neither Aleksandar Kolarov nor Pablo Zabaleta played well against Leicester, so Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna could return. The return of Kompany should improve City's defence, but if he's not 100% fit he could struggle against Harry Kane. The Spurs forward might be better off making runs on the outside of the centre-backs, rather than between them - City often look poor when balls are played into the channels.

Mauricio Pochettino appears set to make one chance from the XI which defeated Watford last weekend. Dele Alli was omitted from that side after suffering dizziness against Norwich, but will surely re-take his place this weekend, which is probably bad news for Nacer Chadli. Christian Eriksen will move to the left, with Erik Lamela likely to start on the right flank.


Big test for Wimmer


Mousa Dembele will shuttle forward from midfield with Eric Dier sitting deep - and he'll be particularly keen to protect Kevin Wimmer. The young Austrian has started the last two games against Norwich and Watford in the continued absence of Jan Vertonghen, and this will be his first serious threat against the pace of Sergio Aguero.

Spurs' high line is always a risk against Aguero, who has scored nine goals in his last six starts against them. His pace, especially in the opening period of the game with both sides trying to push high up the pitch, could be one of the game's main factors.

At the other end, Mauricio Pochettino will ask his full-backs to bomb forward and exploit City's attacking players' occasional slack defensive work. Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier were crucial in the win over Watford and they could play a huge role here.


Intensity

This is essentially a contest between individual talent and collective organisation. Spurs can't count upon a striker as dangerous as Aguero - but their compactness without possession and their intensity with the ball means they're much more of a team than City.

That difference was obvious in Spurs' 4-1 win in the reverse fixture back in September - and Tottenham should go into this game strongly believing they can win.

The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

Despite their defeat at the Etihad last week, City are still the best (statistically) home side in the league, winning nine of their 13 games, scoring 34 times and only failing to score once (0-0 Everton).

They face a Tottenham side who are not only above them in the league but also boast the best defensive away record, conceding just 10 goals on the road in their 12 away days and have only lost once (opening day at Old Trafford).

This should be a great encounter and historically they haven’t disappointed, Spurs battered City 4-1 at White Hart Lane in September and they have shared 20 goals in their last four meetings at the Etihad (City winning them all 4-1, 6-0, 2-1 & 3-2).

The Citizens come into this knowing it is almost a must win game, with them six points off the top and not able to really afford to drop behind any more.

Their opponents though also have a real shot at the title, well placed in second and looking for their seventh straight win in all competitions.

Both teams to score at 1.664/6 and Over 2.5 goals at 1.84/5 both look likely but that's reflected in the price, so I'll be looking elsewhere.

The players will be aware of the earlier result from the Emirates and depending on what that is, it could affect the way they approach this game. An early goal, especially for Spurs, and this really could be anything, but I like the odds in the Half Time/Full Time market for Draw at the interval and either side to go on to win.

So I will be dutch backing Draw/Tottenham @ 9.617/2 and Draw/Man City @ 7.06/1 giving approximate combined odds of 4.1.

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