In a battle of two of the most innovative minds in recent footballing times, Tottenham Hotspur, led by the charismatic Ange Postecoglou, travel to the Etihad Stadium to take on the global juggernaut that is treble winners, Manchester City.
This looks set to be one of the best matches of the season. It will see the champions take on the early challengers who have been brought back down to earth – in recent weeks and find themselves out of the top four in the Premier League.
Will City Hand Ange Postecoglou’s Men a Historic Defeat?
Ange Postecoglou’s Counterattacking Key to Any Result
Tottenham Hotspur are a team on a downward spiral. Having lost three games in a row, falling to 5th place, from 1st in less than a month. The Lilywhites have had a raft of injuries and suspensions and will see themselves without four first-team players for the trip to Manchester.
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During their last game against Aston Villa, the Australian manager selected a starting eleven with no recognised central defenders or defensive midfielders. Rodrigo Bentancur was playing well in the deep-lying playmaker before a ridiculous challenge from Matty Cash ended his game in the 25th minute.
Despite a strong first half, Spurs succumbed to a 2-1 loss. One of the reasons that Tottenham created so many chances was because Bentancur and Lo Celso delivered a number of high through-balls, bypassing the Villa defence.
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Balls Over the Top a Weak Spot for City
Tottenham will sorely miss the likes of James Maddison and Rodrigo Bentancur for this match. Maddison’s absence since his ankle injury in early November has seen Spurs struggle to consistently trouble opposition defences. This seemed to have been somewhat remedied in the opening half-hour against Aston Villa, as Bentancur impressed.
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This same pass is identical to how Manchester City have been exposed this season, particularly in the Champions League. For both goals in the game against RB Leipzig, through balls were the problem for City. In fact, during games against Young Boys and Red Star Belgrade as well, the Citizens have conceded in a similar fashion.
Counterattacking against a Pep Guardiola team is not a revolutionary breakthrough by any stretch of the imagination, as Jose Mourinho famously set his Real Madrid team to do just this in 2011/2012 when they beat his all-conquering Barcelona team to the La Liga title.
History Favours Tottenham – But Will That Be Enough?
No team has beaten a Pep Guardiola Man City team as many times as Tottenham have (6), and no team has taken as many points off them either (20). This history, of course, comes with the caveat of being under managers with a starkly different philosophy than Ange Postecoglou. In the past, Tottenham managers such as Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte and even Nuno Espirito Santo (remember him?) have set their Lilywhites to defend deep, play the ball wide and clear crosses, then when the time was right, hit decisively on the break.
This Spurs team, however, is unlikely to execute a game plan like this. Instead, we can expect a team that comes out raring to go head-on with the current Premier League champions. The last time a Premier League team did this, we witnessed an enthralling 4-4 draw between Chelsea and Guardiola‘s men.
While history will favour the team from North London, it should not have a big say in the game on Sunday.
City Likely to Come Out on Top
While history may be in their favour, Spurs are unlikely to win on Sunday. Injury concerns aside, Manchester City are a team that is ahead in terms of quality and performance. Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez and Jeremy Doku can expect to impact the game as they will come up against a makeshift defence featuring Emerson Royal.
We look set for an exciting game, as we can seemingly expect both teams to come out swinging. A high-scoring City win is likely, with Last Word on Football going for a 4-2 win for the blue half of Manchester.