The Big Man City-Spurs Preview
Well this is all very exciting. By some serendipitous quirk in the fixture matrix, this weekend sees the top four all playing against each other. Arsenal take on Leicester at midday on Sunday and little old Tottenham travel to Manchester City a few hours later. Woo-ee.
Spurs haven’t won at the Etihad for a good while now. Nearly six years in real time, but pitched in the ever-changing canon of Big League Soccerball, it might as well be a lifetime.
The fall of the Macedonian empire; Julius Caesar crossing the English Channel in a big wooden boat. Peter Crouch manoeuvring his pointy body under Younes Kaboul’s ricocheted cross to guarantee Spurs’ place in the Champions League qualifiers. It all seems like ancient history now.
Since that glorious night, way back in May 2010, it’s fair to say the Manchester club have rather kicked on. Not just content with the perpetual slug for 4th/5th/6th every season, City decided their route to full enlightenment was one that involved winning two Premier League titles, an F.A Cup and a League Cup. Each to their own, I suppose.
In financial terms City have drifted off the mainland. Sustained by the kind of innumerable wealth which, forget the bonafide superstars, once allowed them to sign Joleon Lescott and James Milner for £45m without a flinch. Meanwhile Spurs had their one shot at spending big in the summer of 2013, after pawning a Golden Egg to Real Madrid, but completely soiled themselves under the pressure of the enormous windfall.
But, hey-ho, it’s all good fun. There’s a generation of City fans who were made to witness Jamie Pollock— a man credited with redefining the genre of calamitous own-goals— so it probably all balances out.
Back in the here and now and something peculiar is stirring in the water. Spurs go into Sunday’s fixture with the unnerving position of not only sitting above City in the table, but as healthy favourites.
They’ll no doubt take great encouragement from the events at the Etihad last weekend. Leicester City showed the world what the marvels of high-octane running and hard work can do against this often indolent, battle-weary City side. Spurs are a side engendered with a similar indomitable spirit and are certainly capable of matching Leicester’s levels of industry.
Three of the North London side’s players are in the top ten for distance covered per game this season: Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli. Pochettino is getting a lot of praise at the moment, most notably for the emphasis he puts on his teams being belligerently proactive. We can run all day, Harry Kane told us the other week, possibly whilst running.
Things are rarely as straightforward, however, and despite the contrasting mentalities of the two sides and the weight of City’s injury list— Kompany, De Bruyne and Silva are all absent— they still possess match winners who, on their day, can snatch points single-handedly.
Plenty of times have City failed to show up for games this season, only for Sergio Agüero to appear in the game’s final throes to do something magical. Their narrow victory at Vicarage Road in January, springs to mind. What’s more, his goals-to-game ratio against Spurs remains, shall we say, abundant.
On the other hand it’s hard to ignore Tottenham’s away form. Having only lost once on the road all season— Kyle Walker’s own goal at Old Trafford on the opening day— it’s clear that Pochettino’s side are set up perfectly for close-quarter duels with attacking sides on their own patch. As hosts, the onus will be on City to take the game to Spurs, which could play right into their hands. A fiendish plot, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Two pivotal games in this season’s title race on Valentine’s Day and Tottenham are involved?
Be still my beating heart.