The Big Match Tactical View: Tottenham v Manchester City
Manchester City travel to Wembley on Monday night. Michael Cox and Alan Thompson preview the fixture...
"Spurs are accustomed to playing high up the pitch, but Spurs made two bad mistakes in the midweek draw at PSV involving their high line"
Tottenham v Man City
Monday 20:00, Sky Sports Main Event
Tottenham [4.8], Man City [1.8], The Draw [4.4].
Matches between Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham and Pep Guardiola's Manchester City usually produce high-tempo, entertaining contests - and this should be another fascinating tactical battle.
City strong favourites
Spurs have sometimes caused City problems with their energetic pressing, but there's a sense that Pochettino's side have evolved and are playing a slightly more reserved, patient game here. With question marks about the mobility of Harry Kane and his ability to set the tone for the pressing, Spurs might have little option.
City, on the other hand, look as good as ever. New signing Riyad Mahrez is looking dangerous on the right, Bernardo Silva is arguably their most in-form player after a relatively quiet debut campaign, and Aymeric Laporte has added more quality at centre-back. City might just be better than their 100-point campaign from last time.
Both sides are very unpredictable in terms of system. Pochettino has used a 4-3-3, a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-1-2 so far this season, and that's without even considering his use of a three-man defence. However, with Jan Vertonghen out for at least a month, it seems very unlikely he'll use that approach here.
Spurs to stand off?
Instead, we can expect Davinson Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld to play as the two centre-backs. They're accustomed to playing high up the pitch, but Spurs made two bad mistakes in the midweek draw at PSV involving their high line - first Alderweireld found himself robbed for the opener, and later goalkeeper Hugo Lloris stormed off his line and launched himself into a red card challenge. Against the threat of Sergio Aguero's speed, Pochettino might ask his side to sit deeper.
Kieran Trippier is an injury doubt at right-back so Serge Aurier should come in, and might be better suited to facing the speed of Raheem Sterling or Leroy Sane. On the opposite flank, Guardiola might deploy Mahrez or Bernardo rather than a natural winger stretching the play, so Ben Davies will probably sit narrower on the left of defence.
The midfield battle seems likely to be won by City. Fernandinho is in impressive form at the base of the trio, while Kevin De Bruyne should be in a position to make his first start after his recent injury lay-off - although he could be fielded on the right flank, too. David Silva continues to dominate matches, and it's difficult to see how Spurs will be able to cope in this zone.
Mobility seems to be the problem for Pochettino's players. Mousa Dembele is no longer speedy enough, Eric Dier often seems a couple of yards slow to challenges, while Harry Winks is still learning to compete with this calibre of player. Victor Wanyama is another option, but it's been a while since he's dominated a big game, and Spurs might find themselves under sustained pressure here.
Kompany likely to miss out
Guardiola's decision at the back is whether to play John Stones or Vincent Kompany. In truth, Kompany was fortunate not to be dismissed against Burnley last weekend and will do well to keep his place here, with Stones likely to move inside from right-back. Kyle Walker should return against his old side, with Laporte and the dangerous Benjamin Mendy on the left side of defence.
Spurs are unpredictable going forward. Dele Alli is doubtful and Christian Eriksen has only just returned. We can probably expect a quartet of Eriksen, Kane, Lucas Moura and the in-form Erik Lamela, with Son Heung-min likely to miss out.
It remains to be seen precisely what format they play in, however. Lucas might be used to pin back Walker, with Eriksen fielded centrally in order to occupy Fernandinho. The versatility of the front four, and Pochettino's tactical flexibility, makes it difficult to predict the formation.
I think the result is relatively easy to predict, though. Spurs are no longer causing the big sides such problems as a couple of years ago, while Guardiola's City seem as good as ever. I'll back City for the win at [1.8].
The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson
Spurs welcome table topping Manchester City to Wembley Stadium in what I believe could be an entertaining encounter. This fixture has averaged four goals a game from the last seven meetings between the sides in London.
The Lilywhites have lost just two of their last 21 Premier League games at Wembley (W15 D4 L2), although one of those defeats was against City in April. The Citizens are now unbeaten in their last 15 Premier League games and have conceded just six goals in those outings and never more than once in a match.
While City have been impressive so far this campaign they look a bit short to me at around [1.8], I certainly wouldn’t want to put anyone off just laying them at this price to get the draw onside. They have drawn two of their four away games (Liverpool and Wolves) this season.
However, I just think Spurs priced at [4.9] at home are too big to ignore and at this price I am prepared to take a chance on Tottenham being the first side to beat Pep Guardiola’s men this season.