The Big Match Tactical View: Man City v Tottenham

In-form striker Sergio Aguero will sprint onto balls in behind
In-form striker Sergio Aguero will sprint onto balls in behind

Manchester City have a 100% home record, but Spurs have appeared better on the road this season. Michael Cox previews the tactical battle.

"The key area is the space in behind Spurs' defensive line - Aguero's acceleration can be devastatingly effective."

Back Aguero to score first at 6.05/1

Manchester City v Tottenham
Sunday 1:30, Sky Sports 1.
Match Odds: Manchester City 1.715/7, Tottenham 5.79/2, The Draw 4.03/1.

The first meeting between Manuel Pellegrini and Andre Villas-Boas should be an intriguing tactical battle, and after both sides were surprisingly defeated 1-0 by Sunderland and Newcastle respectively in their previous outing, both will be desperate for a result.

The key feature of this game, from Manchester City's perspective, is the fact it's being played at the Etihad. With a 100% home record, but just four points from six matches on their travels, it's impossible to ignore City's hugely contrasting record home and away this season. 

That said, Spurs have actually been better on the road - with Andre Villas-Boas even criticising the poor home support at White Hart Lane.

Pellegrini has few major selection decisions. There's no question that Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo are currently his best striking partnership, David Silva's absence means Samir Nasri will play from the left, while Spurs' lack of a good attacking left-back means James Milner's defensive discipline isn't required, and Jesus Navas should start instead. Fernandinho should be fit to play alongside Yaya Toure in the middle.

Villas-Boas' selection decisions have been almost impossible to predict this season, and with players in various conditions following an international break, he could make some surprising decisions this weekend. Aaron Lennon could be favoured over Gylfi Sigurdsson, who had a draining and ultimately disappointing week away with Ireland, while Danny Rose could be fit to return at left-back, providing much needed width.

You can pinpoint four key areas ahead of this contest.

First, Christian Eriksen's injury means Lewis Holtby will be used as the number 10 and, while Villas-Boas admires his discipline, the German has a great responsibility for getting forward in this match. The Toure-Fernandinho combination can be caught out at counter-attacks, and Holtby must exploit that space. This is one of the game's most important zones, and Holtby must demonstrate more attacking potential than in recent weeks.

The key area, however, is the space in behind Spurs' defensive line. Loic Remy was the obvious pick for first goalscorer in Newcastle's 1-0 over Spurs because of his pace, and while the return of Hugo Lloris gives Spurs the world's most effective sweeper-keeper, Aguero's acceleration can be devastatingly effective. Rose's return would mean Jan Vertonghen partnering Vlad Chiriches in the centre, and Spurs' backline would be much more mobile without Michael Dawson.

Third, the battle down Spurs' right will be interesting, as Andros Townsend and Kyle Walker have combined well at both club and international level this season. Nasri will drift inside and isn't the quickest at getting back and protecting his full-back, and Gael Clichy might find himself overloaded.

Finally, Roberto Soldado must seek to work the space either side of Martin Demichelis. The Argentine centre-back was excellent under Pellegrini at Malaga last season but is guilty of positional errors, underlined by his poor play for Phil Bardsley's winner in the defeat at the Stadium of Light. He failed to drop deep when the danger was unfolding, meaning he wasn't in a covering position.

Soldado's movement has been disappointing this season, but he'll be accustomed to playing against Demichelis from their time in La Liga together, and he might know how to exploit his opponents' weaknesses.

I think this is an obvious 'Both Teams to Score' match - Spurs haven't been banging in the goals, but City's defence is shambolic without Vincent Kompany, the midfield still lacks structure and defends opposition breaks poorly, while question marks remain about Joe Hart's form. 1.84/5 looks good.

I'll also back Aguero to score, for the same reason I backed Remy to score last time out - Spurs play high up the pitch, and if City thread the ball in behind - Nasri's assist for Aguero at Stamford Bridge is the template - they'll cause problems. I'll back Aguero at 6.05/1 or better.

Recommended bets:
Back both sides to score at 1.84/5
Back Aguero to score first at 6.05/1 or better

The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

Manchester City’s home form is extremely impressive in the Premier League this season: five games, five wins; 20 goals scored and just two conceded. Over a longer time-frame it's still pretty solid, they have won 50 of their last 62 Premier League home games (lost 4, drawn 8). The last time they failed to score at home was November 2010 (0-0 Birmingham City) - a run of 54 games.

Coming into this game on the back of a disappointing defeat at the Stadium of Light, I looked at how City have recovered from Premier League defeats in the past and found they have not lost consecutive league games since October 2010 (Arsenal followed by Wolves). And, when they get the opportunity to play a home game after an away defeat, since March 2011 (15 occasions), they have always responded with a home victory. The last time City lost away then followed that with a home defeat was April 2009 losing at Arsenal away then home to Fulham.

Tottenham have impressive away figures of their own, losing only one of their opening five away games and conceding only one goal in the process. However, when they have come up against top-half opposition home or away this season their record is won 0, drawn 2, lost 2 suggesting they might struggle against the better sides. Last season they recorded one away victory against the top seven (admittedly at Old Trafford) they also scored in all but one away game, but that was with a guy called Bale in the team who was responsible for over 30% of all Spurs goals last season!

Tottenham have failed to score at Everton and Arsenal already this season and coupled with City’s impressive Etihad stats I think a home win @ 1.7 is a decent bet, but to try and sneak a bit more value out of the game I will be looking to back City to win to nil at anything over 3.1.

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