The Big Match Tactical View: Tottenham v Man City

Sergio Aguero enjoys playing against Tottenham
Sergio Aguero enjoys playing against Tottenham
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Matches between these sides have averaged 4.4 goals per game over the last five seasons - Michael Cox expects another thriller, while Alan Thompson fancies an away victory...


"This should be a topsy-turvy, end-to-end thriller"

Tottenham v Man City
Sunday, 14:15
Live on Sky Sports 1

Match Odds: Tottenham 3.185/40, Man City 2.56/4, The Draw 3.613/5.

This Premier League season is full of intriguing tactical battles, but this might be the most exciting fixture so far. Pep Guardiola's side are the team to beat, but Tottenham are still a well-drilled, brilliantly efficient pressing side. We should be in for a cracker.

Tottenham squeezed past CSKA Moscow on Tuesday night - and Son Heung-min's goal quite literally squeezed Igor Akinfeev - and they've had four days' rest ahead of this Sunday afternoon clash.

While Mauricio Pochettino doesn't particularly need to rotate, the exception is at full-back, the position he tends to switch most frequently. Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies started in Moscow but Kyle Walker and Danny Rose - assuming he's fit to return from a hamstring problem - should re-take their places in Spurs' first-choice XI here.

Pochettino might be able to count upon the return of Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele, which would provide him with something of a dilemma in the midfield zone. Dier would probably replace Victor Wanyama, while Dembele's return could push Dele Alli into a more advanced role at the top of the midfield trio.

That, however, would produce a further debate about who to omit higher up. Christian Eriksen is rarely left out, Erik Lamela should be perfect for this high-tempo game, while Son is on fire and can't be dropped.

Centre-forward Vincent Janssen, still yet to convince as Harry Kane's stand-in, is the most droppable. But would Pochettino switch Son to a centre-forward role? The South Korean has been used there on occasions, usually in the FA Cup and Europa League last season, but has very rarely started up front in major games. However, with Janssen struggling, it seems the best option.

Guardiola is also without arguably his star man, Kevin De Bruyne. But City have an excellent squad, and they should be able to cope without the Belgian.

De Bruyne's central midfield role should be filled by Ilkay Gundogan, who might provide more balance and defensive security. It's not unthinkable that Fernandinho could be pushed forward slightly with Fernando coming into the side in the holding role, but a trio of Fernandinho, Gundogan and captain David Silva remains most likely.

With Nolito suspended, Raheem Sterling might switch to the left to allow Jesus Navas to come into the side on the right - they'll play either side of Sergio Aguero up front.

City stretch the play brilliantly, and while Spurs have arguably the most disciplined backline in the competition, they'll find it difficult not to be dragged across the pitch and leave space for Aguero, who has a superb record against Spurs.

At the back, John Stones should return alongside Nicolas Otamendi, after Aleksandar Kolarov looked poor at centre-back against Celtic. Yes, Guardiola is an attack-minded manager, but he'll be furious about conceding three goals to a relatively poor side, and Kolarov will surely return to left-back.

Where will this game be won and lost? In such a complex tactical battle, with questions about Spurs' midfield shape, it's difficult to say. But that midfield battle should be fascinating, with both sides pressing high and playing advanced defensive lines. It could be congested, and both teams might find the best approach is attacking in behind.

That could play into the hands of Aguero for City, while Spurs' best option might be, slightly strangely, Alli. There are few better players in European football at breaking from midfield to collect long balls in behind the opposition, and Alli is a master at racing onto diagonal balls from the right, particularly when Toby Alderweireld steps forward from the back. He had a great chance against CSKA from this approach play, only to clumsily miscontrol, but is unlikely to make the same mistake again here.

Silva will be constant influence in City's midfield but finds himself shut down more effectively without De Bruyne alongside to distract opposition defenders, while Gundogan will probably play a relatively cautious role.

Out wide, City's wide forwards will track Spurs' full-backs into their own half, but they're also capable of springing forward on the break. For all the talk of Guardiola loving possession play, City's counter-attacks have been irresistible this season.

I really fancy goals here - both sides will attack, and I'd be amazed if this wasn't a topsy-turvy, end-to-end thriller. I'll be bold, and back over 3.5 goals at 3.02/1.


The Betfair Traders View - Alan Thompson


Tottenham may well have taken six points off Manchester City last season, winning home (4-1) and away (2-1) but that was one of only three home wins for Spurs when facing the top 11 finishers in the Premier League.

Having failed to win for the first time under Pep Guardiola in midweek, it’s the first mental test for his impressive squad. Of course they still have a 100% win record in the league, and with Tottenham being their closest challengers so far, they will be looking to maintain their positive start.

The mood around White Hart Lane must be positive with them having won four straight games in all competitions, albeit they were games they were expected to win and this will be a different challenge. Completing the double over City last season was impressive as Spurs had only won one of the previous 10 meetings between the sides, losing eight.

Both teams had Champions League away duties this week, Tottenham’s trip to Russia may have fatigued them a little more than City’s trip to Glasgow. But City will have to go into this one without the exceptional Kevin De Bruyne and Nolito through injury and suspension respectively. De Bruyne especially is a big loss having scored twice and created four already this season.

Spurs may have only conceded once at home this term, but they have conceded in the first half in each of the last five home meetings against Manchester City. With the Citizens scoring at least twice and conceding in all but one game this season, it suggests we could see a few goals here.

I think City will just have too much for Tottenham on Sunday and will be splitting my stake, backing them to take all three points. I will be backing half my stake on Man City in the Match Odds at 2.427/5, but I am also going to back them in the Half Time/Full Time market at around 4.03/1.

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