The Premier League’s top two, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, go head-to-head in a heavyweight clash at White Hart Lane this weekend (2.15pm Sunday on Sky Sports 1).
Mauricio Pochettino’s (pictured) Spurs side exceeded expectations by challenging for the league title last term, and the early signs suggest they are in a position to battle for the championship crown this time around too.
A 2-1 victory over Middlesbrough last weekend lifted Tottenham, who have still not suffered defeat this year, into second spot. Heung-min Son continued his revival with another two goals. Only Diego Costa, Sergio Aguero and Michail Antonio have scored more often in 2016/17.
Tottenham possess the best defensive record in the division, with their backline hitherto breached on only three occasions, while they are also getting back to their best in an attacking sense after a slow start to the season. Pochettino will be delighted with what he has seen from his players so far, with Spurs outperforming the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea in the opening weeks.
Manchester City have begun the year in even more impressive fashion, emerging victorious from all six of their Premier League outings. Swansea City were their latest victims on Saturday, Francesco Guidolin’s men losing 3-1 thanks to Aguero’s brace and a single effort from Raheem Sterling. Pep Guardiola’s charges were not quite at their best but still easily good enough to pick up all three points.
Man City’s form since the campaign got under way in the middle of August has been ominous for their rivals at the top of the Premier League. While they have still not kept a clean sheet in the top flight, their incredible attacking quality means they have the capacity to simply blow opponents away.
Harry Kane (ankle) looks set to return from injury earlier than initially expected but will not be back in time for Sunday’s game, while the chances of Danny Rose (hamstring) and Moussa Sissoko (concussion) are currently rated as 50-50. Eric Dier will probably partner Mousa Dembele in the centre of the park, with Victor Wanyama the midfielder likely to miss out. Summer signing Vincent Janssen – supported by three of Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela, Dele Alli and Son – will deputise for Kane at the top of the pitch.
Man City will be unable to call upon the services of playmaker Kevin De Bruyne (hamstring), central defender Vincent Kompany (groin) and midfielder Fabian Delph (muscular) for their trip to north London.
Aguero and Sterling will be joined in the front three by either Nolito or Leroy Sane, with Ilkay Gundogan, David Silva and Fernandinho the most likely selections in midfield. In defence, Aleksandar Kolarov could move to left-back, with John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi in the centre and Bacary Sagna on the right.
It is difficult for this preview to predict the pattern of this weekend’s match, with both teams tending to take the initiative against most opponents. Indeed, while Tottenham will seek to play their natural game in front of their own supporters at White Hart Lane, Guardiola is rarely willing to compromise on his own principles of possession and high-pressing football. Spurs and City may both have to adapt to an extent, and it will be intriguing to see which of the two teams better copes with the challenge. I am siding with the idea of a score draw between Tottenham and Man City on Sunday afternoon.