Premier League clubs come back on the pitch after competing on European grounds. This weekend we have the champions Manchester City facing off against one of their big 6 rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Man City are now halfway into the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League with their 5-0 win over Sporting has nearly booked them a seat in the next round. Meanwhile, Spurs are suffering due to a significant dip in their form. Antonio Conte’s men have failed to win 3 of their last 5 matches and all these losses were in their last 3 consecutive fixtures. Now that they are facing an in-form Manchester City; Pep Guardiola has odds on his side to extend the losing streak of his opponents.
Manchester City sits comfortably at the top with 63 points from 25 games and a victory can see them extend the gap with 10+ points in the best case scenario. While a win for Spurs can enhance their chances of European qualification and a double against Manchester City will give them much required morale boost.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Date: Saturday, February 19.
Kick Off: 12:30 pm ET, 5:30 pm UK.
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Assistant Referee Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn.
Fourth Officials: Craig Pawson.
VAR: Darren England.
Assistant VAR: Simon Bennet.
Looking at injuries to Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling could lineup in the front three.
Although Pep can comfortably use the same midfield combination he used against Sporting, Ilkay Gundogan can make a case to start ahead of any no. 8s.
Pep, as he has been in the last few games, could hand out some playing time to his youngsters if the big boys are able to grab a comfortable lead in the better part of the game.
Antonio Conte will be without the services of Tanganga and Skipp. But to the relief of the Italian, Eric Dier is back in training and could feature in starting XI.
As this game is crucial in Conte’s point of view, the manager will field his best fullback duo in Reguilon and Emerson.
There is a slight rumour of their new signing Kulusevski making his way into the starting XI but Lucas Moura and Son’s performances in the past encounters against the champions could force Conte to start with the experienced Spurs duo.
We expect Pep Guardiola to lineup his team in a usual 4-3-3 formation. If we consider this fixture and the strengths of Manchester City, the likes of Rodri and Bernardo Silva will play a major role in this match. Due to Conte’s style of counter-attacking football, Pep Guardiola will need a composed defensive midfielder like Rodri to start.
Also, Kyle Walker’s work rate will play an important role here as he will be facing a double threat down his flank from Son and Reguilon. Both the Spurs players are capable of utilising empty spaces to cause difficulties for the opposition.
Manchester City’s creativity is nicely distributed among the teammates but the major responsibility might be taken by Foden as the English youngster has been in fantastic form since last season.
We have also observed in the last few games that Bernardo Silva has often dropped deep to collect the ball and play quick 1-2 passes with Rodri and Cancelo. We may see a similar pattern in this game as by doing this, Bernardo keeps on jumping his position and it disturbs the defensive line of the opposition midfield. This creates a huge amount of space for nimble feet forwards like Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden. Sterling’s goal against Sporting was the result of a similar action as well.
With Sterling getting back to form, Foden already hitting the ground running and even Bernardo Silva finding his scoring boots, Riyad Mahrez would be relieved to take the scoring burden off of his shoulders.
Antonio Conte will, unfortunately, be without the services of Tanganga but, he will have the experience of Eric Dier in the defence. He will likely call up Reguilon and Emerson back to the starting lineup.
Been unsuccessful in the last 3 games, Spurs’ weakness has been their shaky defence. Manchester City’s dominance in numbers inside the opposition box and their tendency to take as many touches and keep the ball is far superior to that of today’s Spurs.
Tottenham’s key strength will lie in Hojbjerg’s ability to cut the passing lanes and switch the tempo of the game. New signing Bentacur is still finding his feet but, he has enough expertise to be useful in clutch situations along with Kane, Moura and main man Harry Kane.
Manchester City predicted XI: Ederson; K. Walker, R. Dias, A. Laporte, O. Zinchenko; K. De Bruyne, Rodri, Bernardo Silva; R. Mahrez, P. Foden, R. Sterling.
Tottenham Hotspur predicted XI: H. Lloris; Romero, E. Dier, B. Davies; R. Emerson, S. Hojbjerg, R. Bentancur, S. Reguilon; M. Lucas, H. Kane, HM. Son.