Tottenham Hotspur host Manchester City in the Premier League on Saturday, knowing that they could expand the visitors’ losing run to a whopping four games after suffering humbling defeats to Liverpool and Manchester United.
Pep Guardiola though, will be determined to see his side produce a performance worthy of their incredible dominance over the English top flight this season, and the City gaffer has a special affinity with Wembley as both a player and a manager.
It looks set to be a thrilling encounter, made all the more intriguing by the late 7.45pm kickoff on Saturday night. But can history tell us anything about this fixture? Which manager faces the bigger injury problems? Who enters the clash in better form? And how could the referee influence the match?
Our match preview covers everything you need to know…
Historically, Tottenham have been the dominant side in this fixture – in terms of wins, goals scored and clean sheets – although much of that owes to the early Premier League era back when City were at best a mid-table side. In fact, City won just three of their first 27 Premier League meetings with Spurs.
The last of those encounters in 2010, however, quickly inspired a drastic shift in the balance of this fixture, with City going on to win eight of the next nine while scoring at least four times on four occasions.
Recently though, results have swung back in Tottenham’s favour. The 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season was actually City’s first win over Spurs in five games. The Lilywhites boast an impressive win-rate when hosting the Citizens as well – a whopping 65%.
Tottenham enter this fixture in practically perfect form. They’ve won all of their last six games in the Premier League – in fact, their last top flight defeat was the reverse fixture at the Etihad Stadium back in December – and averaged two goals a game, while keeping clean sheets in half of them.
It hasn’t been the toughest run of Tottenham’s season, with an out-of-sorts Chelsea and an even more out-of-sorts Arsenal representing their most considerable opposition, but that shouldn’t take away from how impeccably consistent Mauricio Pochettino’s side have been of late.
City, meanwhile, of course have that notable blotch in their recent run of results – the defeat to Manchester United last weekend. That blotch seems even bigger when considering City were two goals up at half-time, and when adding the two losses to Liverpool in the Champions League either side of it. But let’s not forget how formidable this City side are – they won all five of their Premier League games previously, matching Spurs for clean sheets, and have outscored Saturday’s opponents by three goals.
If there’s one thing both managers need to know about Jonathan Moss before Saturday’s game, it’s that the 47-year-old has a worrying knack of making huge calls in big games. He tellingly ranks fifth throughout the Premier League’s 20 referees for penalties per match this season, and he’d actually rise to third if the two referees to officiate just one game each were removed from the equation.
High returns for fouls per tackle and yellow cards per game only add to the image of Moss being perhaps a little too proactive at times. But after Martin Aktinson seemed almost too fearful of awarding a late penalty for Ashley Young’s challenge on Sergio Aguero last weekend, City will probably be pleased to have someone in charge who isn’t afraid to make game-changing decisions. It’s just a question of whether Moss actually makes the right ones.
There are some bad omens for Tottenham though; Moss is yet to oversee a Spurs win this season, and just 29% of the games he’s officiated have ended in home wins. Excluding the two referees to have been in charge for one game each, that’s the lowest percentage throughout the Premier League.
Mauricio Pochettino will be fairly content with the availability of his squad for this weekend, with the three players ruled out all largely on the fringes of his plans this term. Indeed, Danny Rose has been ruled out but would likely have been benched for this game anyway after starting against Stoke last weekend, with Ben Davies proving the Argentine’s preferred option at left-back.
We’re expecting another change on the opposite defensive flank as well in the form of Kieran Trippier replacing Serge Aurier. Against Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling, those two will play a key role on Saturday.
The only other predicted change is Eric Dier returning to the midfield at the expense of Victor Wanyama. These two holding options have become practically interchangeable this season but the rest the England international was afforded last weekend suggests Pochettino could be sparing him for City’s visit on Saturday.
Dier also allows Spurs to switch to a back three, and that versatility could be crucial should the Tottenham boss attempt to keep up with Guardiola’s notorious tactical tinkering.
In contrast, Guardiola has a few key absences to navigate, most particularly Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho who have been ruled out with injury and suspension respectively.
City just haven’t quite been the same force without the Argentine leading the line during their last three games, while the Brazilian’s influence in midfield has been key to the dominance, both with and without the ball, the Etihad Stadium outfit have consistently exerted in the middle of the park this season.
Nonetheless, after coming up short using two incredibly experimental formations against Liverpool in the Champions League, we’re expecting Guardiola to revert back to 4-3-3 this weekend.
That will likely see Ilkay Gundogan try to replicate Fernandinho’s presence behind David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, and Fabian Delph – who Transfermarkt value at £9million – come into the side at left-back.