Will Tottenham Hotspur add more salt to Manchester City's wounds?
Tottenham Hotspur couldn't have dreamed up a better time to face champions-elect Manchester City. The two sides clash at Wembley tonight following the worst seven days in Pep Guardiola's Manchester City tenure. Losses to Manchester United and Liverpool have left the Citizens disheartened.
City were comprehensively outplayed at Anfield, failing to register a single shot on target. They surrendered a two-goal lead against arch-rivals Manchester United, then lost again to Liverpool. Guardiola's tactics have failed miserably. In addition, his players must be mentally fatigued.
There is still light at the end of the tunnel. City can clinch the title if they beat Spurs and United lose to West Brom. Or against Swansea City, next week if results don't favour them now. Or against West Ham following that. The Sky Blues will eventually lift the Premier League for the third time, but the sooner the better.
Guardiola: Now we have in front of us the most important title of the season by far and we need five points in six games. The first test is tomorrow and we will try hard.
It is easy to call the Premier League the season's most important trophy after you're bounced from the Champions League and every other competition, but let's not go there. It is the Catalan's job to [cough] spur on his side.
Surely he has reminded his group they were the last Premier League team to beat Spurs, in December. Tottenham have won 11 and drawn three since. It is the club's longest unbeaten run in the first-division since 1967. A recent comeback at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea has kept spirits high.
Spurs got the job done again last weekend at Stoke. They have put on enough big games performances this season to boost their confidence against City. Mauricio Pochettino's approach in the games against Real Madrid, Manchester United, and away against Juventus has been commendable. That said, consistency had been an issue before this run.
Spurs have all but confirmed their top 4 place. A win here would help them chase Liverpool and Manchester United for second.
Pochettino: We need to be consistent during the whole season and be the best team like Manchester City is doing today. We need to show ourselves that we can compete.
That December defeat was the first in five against the Sky Blues. Tottenham have beaten the Etihad outfit in their last two meetings as host. Spurs have overcome the initial Wembley hoodoo and have won ten games in the past 12 at the legendary venue. Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola has never lost four games in a row as a manager.
Both sides will miss players. Kyle Walker-Peters, Harry Winks, and Danny Rose are all out for Spurs. Sergio Aguero, Benjamin Mendy, John Stones, and Fernandinho will be absent for City.
With Harry Kane still working himself back into match fitness, expect Christian Eriksen to be the star man for Spurs. With no Fernandinho, the Dane will have space between the lines to wreak havoc on an unprotected City defence. In turn, Moussa Dembele will have a tough day at the office against David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.
Spurs' attack will exploit City's weaknesses at the back. Nicolas Otamendi is error prone. Aymeric Laporte is still finding his feet in England. Pep doesn't favour Vincent Kompany. Harry Kane and Dele Alli will look to continue their tremendous scoring form.
City's incisive, ruthless play has disappeared. It seems very unlikely that we will see the usual City. Pep must rotate his side again when he has tinkered with the system far too much in the past week. It will be a long 90 minutes at Wembley.
I don't see a way out for City. Pep can challenge their pride but will they listen? The best they can hope for is to escape London with a draw. I'm betting the rent money on a 2-1 Spurs victory.