Manchester City v Spurs has always been one for the purists.
These days, with Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino at the helm of either club, both teams play football in the right way – both games between the two last season were great watches – but even before that, this is a fixture that has always thrown up great games.
This weekend will likely be no different. City are on a record-setting run of 15 consecutive Premier League victories, whilst Spurs are seeing an upturn in form: and this could well be the end of the sequence for Guardiola’s side.
Whatever happens, though, this is sure to be a game of football between two teams who play in attractive, modern styles, and whose biggest strengths are in areas where their opponents might be weakest just at the moment, given both sides have injuries to defensive-minded players.
What History Tells Us
It might not be surprising that Tottenham have, over the course of 25 Premier League years, got the better of the ties between the two. In the last 10 years City have been a transformed side, but in many respects, to too have Spurs.
In recent seasons, too, Spurs have managed to get the better of their rivals this weekend, despite the fact that City have won two Premier League titles in the past five years.
City’s rise might start to even it out somewhat in the future. Indeed, one of the stats to stand out is the fact that, despite Spurs’ dominance, City have scored only five goals fewer than their fellow top six rivals. Even though they’ve won more than double the games City have over the last 25 years, they’ve often been close. But it also shows that when City win, they can win big. And when they’ve won the league in the past, they’ve done just that.
Referee Influence – Craig Pawson
The referee for this one is Craig Pawson, and it’s hard to tell straight off the bat who this favours.
At a glance, it might seem as though Pawson’s stats favour the away team. Most Premier League games that are won end with the home team as the victors, of course, and Pawson’s home victory bias stands at 46%, below half. But that doesn’t take into account draws. And in that respect, 46% of games ending in home victories is probably about right.
But where Pawson might favour one team over the other might be the fact that he ranks 16th out of 18 Premier League referees for fouls per game, showing he prefers to let the game flow. It’s likely that City will have the lion’s share of the possession in this game, even against a very good Spurs side.
But, as Jose Mourinho pointed out before the Manchester derby last week, one of the ways City look to stop counter-attacks as a last-resort is with tactical fouls. They hassle and harry their opponents when they get the ball, but if Spurs look like setting up a counter-attack, City players will be fine-tuned to take one for the team if they have to.
Pawson ranks very close to the bottom of the referees’ table for fouls per game, but perhaps it’s better to take into account fouls per tackle in this case, where he’s 11th out of 18 – which is obviously slightly higher, but still comfortably in the bottom half.
Spurs might need to watch out, as Pawson’s stats play into City’s hands, especially as they’ll likely be desperate to concede as few counter-attacks as possible given the injuries they’ve suffered at the back.
Although City have no doubts for this game, they have three fairly hefty defensive injuries to players who would be certain starters if they were all 100% fit.
Without Benjamin Mendy, Vincent Kompany and John Stones, City will likely have to turn to Eliaquim Mangala to play alongside Nicolas Otamendi at the heart of the defence. Fabian Delph is another of those deputising in the absence of the team’s first-choice option in his current position, left-back, and he’s another player who Spurs might choose to target.
Spurs, on the other hand, are in a similar position, with no doubts for the game, but three players definitely out: all three defensive players.
Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez are both ruled out and may well have started in the Spurs back-line, whilst Victor Wanyama will also miss the game and could well have been important in shielding Tottenham’s defence from City’s world class attack.
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