The Big Match Tactical View: Tottenham v Man City

Pep Guardiola
Can Pep Guardiola's side bounce back after three straight defeats?
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Contests between Mauricio Pochettino and Pep Guardiola usually produce high-tempo, exciting matches. Michael Cox looks at the tactics, Alan Thompson focuses on the betting...

"This should be a genuinely good game between two high-tempo, technical and cohesive sides who like dominating matches."

Tottenham v Manchester City
Saturday 19:30,
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Match Odds: Tottenham [2.74], Manchester City [2.7], The Draw [3.8].

City still need points

Following last weekend's incredible collapse against Manchester United, Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are still waiting to clinch the title. As they're 13 points ahead with six games remaining, they cannot seal the title this weekend, and face a tricky trip to Wembley against Tottenham, the league's in-form side having won their last six matches.

City remain an outstanding side, but having lost their last three matches - against United and both legs of the Champions League tie against Liverpool - their confidence will surely have taken something of a blow. Tottenham are perhaps the only side in the Premier League capable of pressing and counter-attacking against City in a similar manner to Liverpool, and this could be a genuinely tricky game for Guardiola's side.

Fernandinho absence a blow

Guardiola is also hampered by the absence of Fernandinho, who was outstanding in the first half against Liverpool in midweek. Ilkay Gundogan will play the holding midfield role instead, but doesn't quite offer the defensive protection of the Brazilian.

Defensively, Guardiola has a decision to make at left-back, with Fabian Delph or Aymeric Laporte both options. Delph seems the better bet in a game where City will be pressed aggressively.

There's also a question mark in the front three. Gabriel Jesus was disappointing in midweek, but is likely to play after Sergio Aguero was ruled out, while Raheem Sterling's place might be under threat after Bernado Silva looked lively. Guardiola may even rest Leroy Sane, who has played 90 minutes in City's last four games, and is probably in need of a rest.

Pochettino unlikely to make major changes

Mauricio Pochettino's main problem is the absence of Danny Rose, who hasn't played that much this season anyway. Ben Davies will start instead. Both Rose and centre-back Toby Alderweireld have found themselves underused upon their return from injury, with speculation that both are being punished for failing to commit their long-term future to the club. Davinson Sanchez is being fielded alongside Jan Vertonghen, while Serge Aurier and the returning Kieran Trippier are battling it out for the right-back slot.

Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama or Eric Dier will patrol the centre of the pitch, with Dier offering the possibility for Tottenham to switch to a three-man defence when required.

Going forward, Pochettino's first-choice quartet is now very obvious, despite Erik Lamela's return from injury. Christian Eriksen drifts inside from the right, Son Heung-min counter-attacks from the left, Dele Alli makes dangerous runs from between the lines into goalscoring positions, while Harry Kane has recovered from injury and will start upfront, hoping to find the net without needing to appeal to the Premier League's Goal Accreditation Panel this weekend.

Speed on the break could be crucial

This should be a genuinely good game between two high-tempo, technical and cohesive sides who like dominating matches. But counter-attacking speed might be more important here. Watch for Son making runs in behind Kyle Walker, and Sane (if selected) playing high up against Aurier or Trippier. Those two players could make the difference, allowing their sides to bypass a congested midfield battle with longer passes.

I expect goals, but I think this will be open and entertaining, and can't entirely decide who will get the better of this one. Instead, I'm going to back Son to open the scoring. He hasn't found the net in three games, having previously hit seven in four games, but I'm not overly concerned by the notion he might have suddenly lost form. Back the Korean to score first at [9.0].

The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

Spurs have now consolidated fourth place, 10 points ahead of fifth placed Chelsea, and can now look to finish as high as possible. Liverpool now have other things to think about so a third place finish is a real possibility for a Tottenham side who are unbeaten in 14.

City meanwhile have had a major setback over the last 10 days, failing to get past Liverpool in the Champions League and also failing to secure the title at their own back yard last week against arch rivals Manchester United.

They wouldn't have chosen a visit to an in-form Tottenham side - who have won their last four at home without conceding - to bounce back, but City remain the best team in the Premier League, so you can never rule them out.

I don’t see much to get excited about in the match odds market, it is pretty much as expected, I had Spurs at [2.9], City at [2.6] so pretty much the same as Betfair at the time of writing. And it's not hard to see why the markets expect goals (over 3.5 is as short as [2.1]) with Tottenham having scored at least two goals in their last four Premier League starts and City having scored two or more in 21 of their last 25 in the league.

With Spurs on a six-game winning streak in the league and City having lost four in six in all comps, I think the Londoners can inflict some more pain on Pep Guardiola’s men and win this in what should be an entertaining encounter.

I will be backing the Tottenham/Over 2.5 goals double, but won’t take anything less than [3.9]. I also can’t resist having a flyer at Tottenham to win 3-2 in the correct score market at anything over [30.0].

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