After a brief vacation-induced absence, I am returning to the Premier League preview world. I know, I know, I missed writing about last weekend’s Man U/Liverpool derby, but luckily another blockbuster match is on the docket for this weekend, as well. On Saturday, a struggling Manchester City side will host Mauricio Pochettino’s seemingly unstoppable Tottenham. Spurs are going into this clash with a three-point advantage on City, but anything but a win could see them drop from second in the table down as far as fifth. Will we see a similar relapse to last season, or can Tottenham finally solidify themselves as one of the big boys of the league and keep this pace throughout the season?
After they brought an abrupt end to Chelsea’s ridiculous winning streak earlier this month, Tottenham can now lay claim to the title of hottest team in the land. Pochettino’s men have won their last seven matches by a combined score of 21-3. In this seven-match run, Spurs have kept four clean sheets. Unfortunately, for the North London club, they now face a lengthy spell without one of the cornerstones of their imperious defensive unit: Jan Vertonghen. The Belgian center back suffered an ankle injury against West Brom last weekend, and now the club will likely turn to Ben Davies or Kevin Wimmer to fill the gap. Davies is a natural left-back so Wimmer may be the safer bet against City, but Pochettino has shown a lot of faith in the 23-year-old, and even brought him on to replace Vertonghen after his injury. No matter who fills in for Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld will undoubtedly take on a bigger responsibility in the heart of defense.
On the other end of the pitch, Spurs have two of the most in-form goal scorers in the league at their disposal. Over the last seven matches, Harry Kane and Dele Alli have combined for 13 goals. Against West Brom, Kane bagged himself a hat-trick, and he even grabbed a brace against Watford two weeks before that. Despite his deeper lying position, Alli has been nearly unstoppable in recent weeks. There was a three-match span where he bagged a brace in each match. The 20-year-old scored both of the club’s goals in their 2-0 “upset” over Chelsea. With the defensive frailty that is plaguing Guardiola’s side currently, Kane and Alli may very well continue their prolific scoring form at the Etihad.
The Cityzens are struggling mightily where Tottenham have been thriving. Last weekend, Guardiola suffered his heaviest ever league defeat as a manager as Everton thrashed his club 4-0. In that match, the defensive pairing of Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones was almost non-existent. On several occasions, Stones struggled to even slow down his former club’s attack, and Otamendi looked increasingly frustrated as the match went on, and it nearly came to a head during a clash with Romelu Lukaku in stoppage time. Despite this nightmarish outing, I’d be surprised if Stones and Otamendi don’t hold on to their roles in the starting 11 on Saturday. The real question has to be how Guardiola will tactically alter his squad to better fit the rough-and-tumble style of the Premier League.
As laughable as City’s center backs were on Saturday, Claudio Bravo was down right abysmal. The former Barcelona keeper has struggled to live up to his £15 million price tag, and his shot stopping ability has left a lot to be desired. At Goodison Park, the Toffees registered just four shots on target. Every single one found the back of the net. The worst of the bunch had to be Ademola Lookman’s strike that was pretty much fired from the endline, but still found a way past Bravo at his near post. Granted, Bravo was reportedly signed for his distribution ability, but that hasn’t really been that great either. His lackluster performances have even sparked rumors that Guardiola could be looking to offload him in the January transfer window. Going up against the high flying attack of Tottenham is hardly the matchup Bravo needs to build his confidence, but he’s going to need to pull something special out of the bag if City have any chance of grabbing any points.
Usually, I’d pick City to win on their home ground, but the combination of their atrocious defensive form and Tottenham’s unstoppable attack make this the perfect time to pick the visiting side. I think that Kane will fire in the opener and shatter any remaining confidence that City fans have in Bravo en route to a Spurs win. Final score: City 0-2 Tottenham