Premier League: Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City Square Off in a Battle of the Unbeatens
Tottenham Hotspur (four wins, two draws) and Manchester City (six wins) enter their Matchweek 7 showdown as the only two teams still yet to suffer a defeat this season in the Premier League.
Both teams go into the match without key players. Harry Kane remains out of commission for Spurs with an ankle injury while Kevin De Bruyne has been ruled out of the Citizens’ side for multiple weeks with a hamstring issue.
They each still have scorers in top form, however. Sergio Agüero was back to his clinical best with two goals on his return from suspension last weekend against Swansea, and Heung-Min Son is on fire for Spurs, scoring five goals and dishing out one assist in five appearances this season.
Spurs swept City last season with a 4-1 victory at White Hart Lane in September followed up by a 2-1 win at the Etihad in February. That helped Tottenham finish four points ahead of the Manchester side in the final table.
Pep Guardiola has the Sky Blues playing on another level so far this year, though, and Mauricio Pochettino’s men will find themselves presented with a more hardy side than the one they faced a year ago.
Let's break things down.
Manchester City are currently undefeated across all competitions, having won every matchup until their 3-3 draw with Celtic in their Wednesday Champions League tie.
City rattled off back-to-back wins over Swansea -- 2-1 in the EFL Cup and 3-1 in the Premier League -- in the week prior to that slight stumble, and it must be noted that they showed great resilience to fight back from a goal down three separate times over the course of their match with Celtic.
As previously mentioned, Agüero has been in blistering form. Dating back to last season, he has scored 28 goals in his last 27 Premier League appearances. His current rate of one goal every 106 minutes is the best in Premier League history.
Spurs, meanwhile, followed up a 5-0 win over League One side Gillingham in the EFL Cup with a 2-1 victory over Middlesbrough last weekend in the Premier League. Son scored both goals in the latter contest and added one more at midweek with the lone strike in a Champions League win over CSKA Moscow.
The South Korean’s purple patch has come at the ideal moment with the talismanic Kane out indefinitely and new boy Vincent Janssen still adjusting to leading the line at Spurs. Should Mousa Dembélé be back to match fitness in time for Sunday’s encounter, Pochettino may choose to shift the versatile attacker into Janssen’s place up top, leaving room to maintain the attacking midfield trio of Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Erik Lamela.
With eight goals between their two matches last season and 26 over their last six Premier League encounters, this certainly looks like it could be a high-scoring affair even sans Kane and De Bruyne.
|February 14, 2016||Manchester City 1 - 2 Tottenham Hotspur|
|September 26, 2015||Tottenham Hotspur 4 - 1 Manchester City|
|May 3, 2015||Tottenham Hotspur 0 - 1 Manchester City|
|October 18, 2014||Manchester City 4 - 1 Tottenham Hotspur|
|January 29, 2014||Tottenham Hotspur 1 - 5 Manchester City|
|November 24, 2013||Manchester City 6 - 0 Tottenham Hotspur|
City and Spurs finished first and second, respectively, in goals scored last season. One key difference between the two teams’ attacks so far this year has been the frequency with which their shots have found the back of the net. Spurs have taken the second-most shots in the league but have only been able to convert 8.9% of them into goals – the 14th-best conversion rate.
The Citizens, by comparison, have taken slightly fewer shots -- still the third-most in the league -- but have converted a respectable 15.8% of them into goals, which is the third-best conversion rate behind only Arsenal (17.2%) and Watford (17%).
|Tottenham Hotspur||Manchester City|
|Shots Per Game||19||17.7|
|Goals Per Game||1.7||2.8|
Spurs will certainly need to be more clinical when facing top sides. They have skated by so far against mostly inferior opposition, but if they don’t make the most of their chances against City, it could be the deciding factor in the match.
City have also been more dominant so far in terms of possession and pass success, neither of which is surprising with Guardiola on the touchline. The Citizens have controlled the ball better than any team in the league (60.3%) and trail only Chelsea (86.1%) in terms of pass success with an 85% clip.
Spurs are not far behind in either category, though, ranking third in possession (55.8%) and eighth in pass success rate (81.8%). They have, however, been dispossessed the third-most frequently in the league, having the ball taken away from them 14.7 times per game.
|Tottenham Hotspur||Manchester City|
|Pass Success Rate||81.8%||85.0%|
|Aerial Duel Success Rate||56.7%||45.6%|
Spurs do make up some ground in terms of winning the ball out of the air. Their aerial duel success rate of 56.7% is the second-best in the league, whereas City’s more diminutive side only win 45.6% of aerial balls. City would do well to keep the ball on the ground as they work their possession up into the attacking third, lest they allow Spurs’ larger players to win back possession and spring counter-attacks.
Big Boots to Fill
Looking at the key injuries on both sides, they will certainly have an impact on how the managers approach the game.
In terms of recent history, one could point out that City did just fine when they were forced to play without Agüero in their derby with Manchester United, and Spurs have won every game they’ve played since Kane went down. However, De Bruyne has arguably been City’s most influential player so far this season, and all of Spurs’ goals in their last two matches have come from one man: Son.
The Citizens weren't the same against Celtic -- although they still netted three goals -- without their Belgian maestro, and if Guardiola tasks his defense with marking Son out of the match, Tottenham will have to find goals from elsewhere.
It is worth noting that Spurs will have had one more day of rest and preparation following their Champions League match than City will have, which may aid the North Londoners in the stamina battle.
Summer signing Nolito will also miss out, as he will be serving the final match of his three-game suspension. City will look to David Silva for all of the string pulling, hoping his influence can help create chances for Agüero and Raheem Sterling. Sterling has been enjoying a renaissance so far under Guardiola’s tutelage, having already netted four times on the season.
Spurs, meanwhile, are hoping for the returns of Dembélé, Eric Dier, Danny Rose, and Moussa Sissoko -- all four have been working back from minor injuries. Dembélé provides an incredible combination of skill and power in the center of the pitch, and he could make all the difference when it comes to the possession statistics. Spurs are an entirely different animal with him in the starting XI.
City may hold a slight edge over Spurs when looking at the numbers, but the scales are tipped back into balance when considering they will be playing on shorter rest and at White Hart Lane. Both sides will be missing star men in De Bruyne and Kane, and it will be interesting to see how they cope with those absences against top-notch competition.
A win for Guardiola would give the Spaniard a record-breaking start to his managerial career in the Premier League and solidify his club as the clear favorites to win the league. Meanwhile, a win for Pochettino’s side would allow them cut the gap between the two clubs to a single point at the top of the table and serve as a signal of intent and ability to compete for the title once again. A Spurs win would also be a welcome sight for Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and all of the other clubs lurking in City's shadow.
Right now, oddsmakers see this being a cracker of a match, listing the game as a pick 'em with an over/under of 3, the highest over/under of the weekend.