The first fixture to satisfy our insatiable desire for Premier League football after the international break is at the Etihad, as two of the current top six prepare to fight it out in this crucial early period (kickoff time is 7:45am ET, and the game will be shown live on US TV on NBCSN).
Despite decent hauls of 14 and 11 points so far, both sides have been somewhat inconsistent so far this term. The champions have already gained a respectable points tally in order to lie in second place. However they have largely flattered to deceive, as the confident expansive side that reigned supreme last season has stagnated. The defense has looked vulnerable, as £32 million Eliaquim Mangala is still acclimatizing to English football, while Yaya Toure has looked completely out of sorts at the heart of the City midfield. The team which won with a four goal cushion six times last season (two of which were against Saturday’s opponents) haven’t surfaced so far this season as their biggest margin of victory was 3-1.
Under Mauricio Pochettino, the visitors have conjured impressive displays such as the 4-0 drubbing of QPR, but then experienced shock losses to Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion. The former Argentina center-back is still searching for his best line up, while attempting to instill his swift, pressing philosophy into his occasionally lackadaisical charges.
Manchester City have 56 wins in total, Tottenham have 57 wins and there have been 34 draws. Unfortunately for the Lilywhites in recent years there has been a monopoly over the spoils of this fixture by their Mancunian counterparts. Tottenham have lost their last four at the Etihad and won only once in their last eight meetings. Furthermore, last season they lost 11-1 on aggregate in their two fixtures (6-0, 1-5).
Manchester City – Yaya Toure and Edin Dzeko
The enigmatic Yaya Toure is an oxymoron in the finest sense of the word, juxtaposing a powerful sense of indifference and selfishness with moments of supreme quality and overawing physical prowess. His recent performance against Aston Villa enhanced his reputation as a luxury player, as Paul Scholes said he simply “ambles around the pitch”, while Fernandinho does the defensive work for the two of them. However, it only takes a single chance for it to be worth it. The 82nd minute of last week illustrating how even the smallest lapse of concentration from Tottenham’s defense could be enough to pique the 31-year-old Ivorian’s interest and lead to a crucial goal. The former Wolfsburg striker alongside him in the sky blue jerseys isn’t as widely renowned as the vast majority of his compatriots, but he has an instinctive knack of finding the net with 18 goals in all competitions, despite the fierce contest for places. He has also netted six times out of six against Tottenham with a goal on average every 78 minutes against them.
Tottenham – Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen.
When Tottenham have looked good this year it has often been down to the mercurial talents of these two playmakers. While their compatriot in the offensive trio Nacer Chadli is the current highest scoring midfielder in the league with four goals this term, it is the figures of Lamela and Eriksen working around him that have allowed him to score. The rejuvenated Argentine looks like a completely different player this year, filled with confidence and running at defenses, passionate and skilful with an eye for the extraordinary. His partner cleaned up at the Tottenham awards ceremonies as he brightened up a tough season for Spurs fans last year in the closing stages with his fine form. The fleet-footed Ajax graduate is a dead ball specialist and will look to add to his tally during this game. Both at 22, they are deadly enough with their passing, pace and technique to rival any duo in the league.
Effects of the result:
Many people predicted a straight out fight between big spenders Chelsea and Manchester City before the season started and that’s exactly what seems to be falling into place. However, a loss for City could see them fall behind Chelsea by eight points, if the Blues win their match against Crystal Palace at the weekend. It is a tangible danger that despite it being the early stages, Jose Mourinho’s form side could run away with it. If City want to keep in touch and provide another title challenge, it could be argued this is a must win.
A win for Tottenham or even a draw would boost morale in the dressing room. It would give the manager confidence heading into a run of fixtures against lowly teams. They could go level with their opponents in second place and three points behind the leaders, although that is allowing for the game in hand. In the last few seasons form against the top four has been terrible, so a result of any kind could propel the club into an excellent position come Christmas time.
Final Prediction: Manchester City 1 Tottenham 1
Many people are expecting a walkover in this game with the perception being that Pellegrini’s side will return to form and larrup the visitors. However, I think it will be a much more even contest with both sides possessing staunch opposition at the back and also a lot of danger up top. I can’t see either side keeping a clean sheet nor running away with it. (If the teams don’t return to some of their poorer early season form.)
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