For many Manchester City supporters, their worst nightmares have come to fruition. After seemingly coasting through the season with ease, Manchester City have hit a dip in form. They crashed out of the Champions League to Liverpool with a 5-1 aggregate over two legs. In between both Champions League games, they hosted Manchester United with a chance to win the title. Despite going up 2-0, they absolutely capitulated in the second half and lost 3-2. Their form has the chance to get even worse as they visit Wembley to play Tottenham, a team in fantastic form.
Manchester City can only clinch the title this weekend with a win and a West Brom victory over Manchester United. Make no mistake, Manchester City will still win the title. However, a slip up in this tie would extend the wait for the title for at least another week and would further mar Manchester City’s fantastic campaign
Three key players will miss the tie for Manchester City. Center-back, John Stones, is close to recovering from his groin injury but is still not fully fit to play. Left back, Benjamin Mendy will also miss the tie as he is still dealing with a knee injury. Mendy’s absence was severely felt over both legs against Liverpool as Manchester City lacked a left back who could effectively get up and support the attack. However, most importantly for Manchester City, Fernandinho will miss the tie after receiving his tenth yellow card of the season. The Brazilian is absolutely instrumental in Manchester City’s midfield and is by far their best No. 6. It is near impossible for any Manchester City player to adequately replace him.
Kyle Walker should start as the Manchester City right back, with Vincent Kompany and Nicolás Otamendi as the center-back pairing alongside him. The only question mark in the defense will be whether Fabian Delph or Aymeric Laporte start at left back in place of the injured Benjamin Mendy. Rounding out the defense, Ederson will play in net.
In the midfield, İlkay Gündoğan will likely fill in for Fernandinho as their No. 6. Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva should round out the midfield trio. Silva was noticeably poor in both legs against Liverpool and will look to improve his form in this fixture.
Sergio Agüero has not been fit enough to play ninety minutes during their last few fixtures. He has come off the bench with Gabriel Jesus starting in front of him. If Agüero is fit enough, he should start up top for Manchester City. However, he may have to settle for coming off the bench in the second half for Jesus. Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sané should round out the Manchester City starting eleven playing on the right and left wings respectively.
Tottenham enter this match in fantastic form. Having gone 14 games unbeaten, they have equaled their longest unbeaten run ever in the Premier League. One more result will see them better their 2015 run of fourteen games unbeaten. However, the last team to beat Spurs in the Premier League were Manchester City in December by a score of 4-1. Ten points clear of Chelsea, they have all but guaranteed finishing top four and achieving Champions League football for next season. However, Spurs will certainly be hungry to continue to move up in the table as they could still easily finish as high as second.
Although neither were likely to start, Harry Winks and Kyle Walker-Peters will miss the fixture due to injuries. Right back, Kieran Trippier, has also been dealing with fatigue recently and missed Tottenham’s last match against Stoke City because of it. Serge Aurier started in his place. However, Trippier should be fit enough to feature against his former club. In addition, left back, Danny Rose, was recently ruled out with a calf strain. However, Ben Davies was always the more likely of the two to start at left back anyway.
There is very little uncertainty about Tottenham’s starting eleven this week. Ben Davies will start at left back.
Alongside him, Jan Vertonghen will almost certainly be paired with Davinson Sánchez at center-back. Although Toby Alderweireld has seemingly been fit, Mauricio Pochettino has been hesitant to feature him. This could be due to the ongoing contract saga between Alderweireld and Tottenham. Alderweireld wants higher wages but that just won’t fit in Spurs’ current wage structure. Nevertheless, it would be a brutal welcoming to bring Alderweireld back against Manchester City. Thus, he will likely be left out of the starting eleven again in favor of Sánchez . Finally, either Kierran Trippier or Serge Aurier will feature at right back. It will likely be Aurier as Pochettino will not want to risk bringing Trippier back too soon. Lloris will start in net.
Eric Dier and Moussa Dembélé should be the midfield pairing. Victor Wanyama should be fit enough to come off the bench for either midfielder in the second half if Pochettino deems it necessary.
In the attack, fresh off his goal fiasco, Harry Kane should start up top. Dele will play just behind Kane and will often make runs beyond Kane, testing Manchester City’s defense. Alongside Dele, Christian Erisken and Son Heung-Min will play on either wing. Dele, Erisken and Son, should form a fluid line of three behind Kane and will drift into space all over the pitch. The fluidity of this trio is part of what makes Tottenham’s attack so potent.
Manchester City Starting XI: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Kompany, Delph; De Bruyne, Gündoğan, D. Silva; B. Silva, Jesus, Sané.
Tottenham Starting XI: Lloris; Trippier, Sánchez, Vertonghen, Davies; Dier, Dembélé; Eriksen, Dele, Son; Kane
Manchester City played very well in the first half of their previous two games but were unable to put either tie to bed. However, in both ties, Fernandinho played and he will not be available against Tottenham. He is arguably Manchester City’s most important midfielder as no one can truly replicate his defensive abilities. Without him, Tottenham should be able to dominate the midfield and exert pressure on Manchester City’s back line.
In the first meeting between these clubs in December, the high press for both teams played a huge factor. Manchester City pressed Tottenham’s defense and Tottenham often looked very uncomfortable on the ball. They misplayed a multitude of passes and Lloris especially looked uncomfortable with the ball at his feet. On the other hand, Manchester City dealt with Tottenham’s press fairly easily. Ederson, in particular, had himself an incredible game. As a goalkeeper, he finished with more completed passes than two of Tottenham’s stars, Erisken and Dele. However, Pochettino has had a week to prepare for this fixture and should drastically change the tactics from the first meeting.
Overall, this fixture will come down to how well Tottenham can deal with Manchester City’s high press. In the first half against Liverpool, Manchester City’s press was world-class, and Liverpool could hardly ever retain possession. They were under constant pressure and were lucky to only concede once in the first half. If Tottenham plays like Liverpool did in the first half, they will be overwhelmed. With Manchester City usually being a very clinical side, they could easily be down 3-0 at half. On the other end of the spectrum, if Manchester City concede early, it could lead to a very long day for the visitors. Conceding early while already in a horrible stretch of form would be a disaster. If Tottenham get the early goal, expect them not to sit back but rather go for the throat and try to put this game to bed early.
Prediction: Tottenham 3-1 Manchester City
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