In the pick of the Premier League’s weekend action – with the exception of Chelsea’s potential title-clincher against Crystal Palace – Tottenham play host to reigning champions Manchester City at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
The Citizens have certainly enjoyed the better rub of results in recent meetings between the two sides, winning five of their last six encounters with an aggregate scoreline of 21-8 – including a 4-1 thumping at the Etihad back in October.
But potentially entering the fixture upon the news that Chelsea have stripped their Premier League title from them in the early kick-off against Palace, City might find themselves a little deflated on Sunday – something which Tottenham are more than capable of taking advantage of.
That, however, will largely depend on whether the Lilywhites can dominate the key individual battles – and just in case they’re in need of some guidance, Football Fancast have listed the FIVE most important.
Will these five key battles determine the outcome on Sunday?
The last time Tottenham faced Sergio Aguero he absolutely ripped their defence apart, grinding them down with his relentless energy before netting four goals in an incredible striking masterclass.
Although the Premier League’s top scorer is simply unstoppable when at his best, the Lilywhites must do a better job of containing him on Sunday – even if it’s not for the full ninety minutes – to stand any chance of coming away from White Hart Lane with points in hand.
Jan Vertonghen has never quite rediscovered the form of his debut Premier League campaign, but in terms of his pace and mobility, he’s a far better candidate to mark Aguero than expected centre-back partner Federico Fazio, who turns slower than a battle cruiser.
That being said, the Belgium international was outrun and outmuscled by the Argentina international back in October, so it’s imperative he puts in an improved performance.
Sergio Aguero may be leading the Premier League’s scoring charts but Tottenham’s Harry Kane isn’t far behind – just one goal to be precise – and the in-form England international will certainly fancy his chances of closing the gap on Saturday.
In the absence of Vincent Kompany, he’ll be up against Man City’s £32million signing Eliaquim Mangala, who has struggled to say the least since arriving at the Etihad last summer.
Indeed, he’s resembled a fish out of water for much of the season and appears yet to truly acclimatise himself with the pace and intensity of Premier League football.
So if Tottenham’s 21 year-old front-man, who boasts six goals in his last seven Premier League appearances, can keep the pressure on the France international by being his usually busy and industrious self, he’s almost certain to force defensive errors.
The marauding overlaps of Danny Rose have been a predominant feature of Tottenham’s attacking play this season, leading the left-back to two goals and four assists in 25 Premier League starts whilst creating one chance per match.
It’s clearly a defining trait of Mauricio Pochettino’s philosophy – we saw a similar kind of thing from like-minded ‘false full-back’ Luke Shaw at Southampton – so expect more of the same on Sunday, with the Lilywhites keen to stamp their authority in their own back yard.
Imperative for the 24 year-old, however, is balancing between defence and attack. He’ll likely be up against Jesus Navas, one of the fastest wingers in the business and Man City’s leading creator this term with eight assists in 32 Premier League outings.
The Spain international needs no invitation to drive into space down the touchline – especially on the break – so although Pochettino will want Rose to continue contributing going forward, it’s vital he doesn’t leave Navas with a free run down Spurs’ left flank.
For a 20 year-old of limited Premier League experience, Nabil Bentaleb has done a fantastic job as Tottenham’s deepest-lying midfielder this season, going about his business in a calm, assured and methodical manner.
But there’s few tests in the Premier League quite like Manchester City’s David Silva. Despite not receiving even a nomination for the PFA Player of the Year award, the Spain international is currently enjoying arguably his strongest campaign to date for the Citizens, boasting eleven goals, four assists and 78 created chances from 28 Premier League appearances.
In the absence of Yaya Toure, the visitors will be more dependent on Silva than ever this Sunday to help them dictate the flow and direction of the match.
Consequentially, Bentaleb needs to keep the 29 year-old on as tight a leash as possible – but that’s no easy task for just one man, so it’s vital the likes of Ryan Mason and Christian Eriksen offer their support.
In some ways, Yaya Toure’s injury serves as a blessing in disguise – allowing Man City to deploy two midfield enforcers, Fernando and Fernandinho, in a bid to nullify Tottenham playmaker Christian Eriksen.
The Danish international has struggled for form in the second half of the season, bagging just one goal and one assist in the Premier League since the end of January.
But he’s still very much Spurs’ orchestrator going forward, the link between Kane and the midfield and the director of traffic, so stopping him on Sunday will make things much more difficult for the home side.
Fernando and Fernandinho, both very physical midfielders, seem like the perfect candidates to do so. But they’re not the most familiarised partnership by any means – something Spurs’ stealthy playmaker is more than capable of taking advantage of.