Tottenham to stop Manchester City on Saturday Night Football?
Watch Manchester City vs Tottenham on Saturday, August 17 from 5pm on Sky Sports Premier League; kick-off 5.30pm
Last Updated: 17/08/19 5:48pm
Manchester City have started this season much like they finished the last. But can Tottenham be the first side to take Premier League points off them in 15 games?
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A non-geographical rivalry has developed between the two sides after their historic Champions League battle in April, which saw Spurs come out on top. It hurt Pep Guardiola, and hurt him bad.
Their meeting just a few days later in the Premier League was a different affair - City scored early and fought for a 1-0 win. Guardiola would much rather a repeat of that controlled battle than the chaos of the Champions League night, where it seemed nothing was off limits.
But on Saturday Night Football, will Spurs look to arrive in a frenzy again, or can Mauricio Pochettino perform a more measured tactical masterclass?
Though his future remains uncertain - European clubs are able to sign the Dane until their deadline on September 2 - Christian Eriksen's impact on Spurs was clear in the 3-1 win over Aston Villa last Saturday.
Coming on at 1-0 down, Eriksen was a calming influence on the ball, and his ability to pick out cute passes while hovering on the edge of the final third prevented Spurs from passing wing to wing against a Villa side who were experiencing joy aerially.
Eriksen avoided a single duel in his 30 minutes on the pitch, while others averaged one every eight minutes. That absence of combat is an unusual but significant statistic; Eriksen's running, often top of the distance charts among Premier League midfielders, is intelligently evasive.
Avoiding duels is a big part of his game - and given he won just 38 per cent of them last season - it's clear to see why. He'll look to dictate by doing the same on Saturday.
Rodri the metronome
Guardiola will know all about Eriksen's intentions, and Rodri's first major Premier League test may be to coerce Eriksen into a physical battle.
But while Rodri's defensive focus may be a physical battle with Eriksen, the Spaniard's passing qualities will also be tested at City this season. He misplaced a few first-half passes at West Ham, but otherwise the new signing has been a metronome, hitting over 90 per cent accuracy in each of his first two competitive City games.
Rodri passing accuracy
|vs West Ham||90.3%||72|
If Spurs have points in their grasp and decide to sit in, Rodri's quality of passing just inside the final third will be vital, and Spurs will need to get around him.
On the ball, Spurs will be aware of City's apparent use of the 'tactical foul'.
Guardiola has been criticised for this in the past, and despite finishing second-bottom of the Premier League fouls table last season, City have out-fouled the opposition in five of their last six games, despite averaging 63 per cent possession in those games.
In all competitions last season, City committed more fouls than they won in 36 of their 62 games, or 58 per cent.
West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini said after Saturday's 5-0 defeat: "If you review the game that is why we didn't create too many chances in the first half. All our offensive moments of attacking ended in a foul."
How do Spurs avoid this away from home? Aside from playing City at their own game, it's difficult. Eriksen's positional trickiness should help, but City's fouling often comes deep in the opposition half, thus avoiding bookings.
Spurs are likely to look for the counter-attack and will have to rely on both defensive lapses and the avoidance of the first foul to break through. An extra road block to beating City, then.
The midfield destroyer
Though Harry Winks has excelled over the past six months, and is a midfielder capable of playing on the half-turn, his strengths lie on the ball, not off it, winning just 44 per cent of his duels last season.
Eric Dier was on the bench against Villa, and was back in training this week, but having not appeared in pre-season, it would be a surprise for Pochettino to throw him in at the Etihad.
Winks, therefore, has a key role to play. There's a lot to be said of a technical, recycling midfielder who can still outmuscle the opposition. Can the 23-year-old be a midfield stopper as well as starter?
Jose Mourinho may have insisted that both Manchester City's first and second XIs would challenge for the Premier League title, but Guardiola still has several dilemmas ahead of Saturday's game.
The first is a common one: Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Jesus. Having hit 32 goals last term, Aguero has started on the bench for both of City's games this season, but his record against the top six is excellent - 43 goals in 66 appearances, and 10 in 14 against Spurs alone. Jesus did impress at West Ham with the vital opener, but there is a feeling that Aguero will be saved for these types of games.
Sergio Aguero vs top-six clubs (Premier League only)
|Opponent||Appearances||Goals||Mins per goal|
Riyad Mahrez put forward a fine case for a starting place towards the end of last season and the start of this, but despite his explosive performance at West Ham, Bernardo Silva's provides a more measured option.
And at the right of defence, new signing Joao Cancelo is breathing down Kyle Walker's neck. Walker's pace did cause West Ham problems on Saturday, but often his touch and positioning in his own half causes his own side problems.
For the all the reasons previously mentioned, Eriksen should be back in place of Erik Lamela, and after a full week of training under his belt, new Spurs signing Giovani Lo Celso should be in the squad. However, Pochettino will likely see him as an option from the bench given the magnitude of the game.
After being left out of the 18-man squad altogether against Villa, Jan Vertonghen may be back in contention ahead of Davinson Sanchez.
And after an injury delayed his comeback from the Africa Cup of Nations, Serge Aurier should be available again, but he finds Kyle Walker-Peters in his way following the 22-year-old's impressive display on Saturday.
Kyle Walker-Peters vs Aston Villa
|Spurs team rank|
|Passes in opp half||56||1st|
It's a cracking game again I loved the Manchester United game against Chelsea, the way the game unfolded and how expansive it was. This is one of those games. There is a spark in my brain that questions where Mauricio Pochettino thinks he is? It is a judgement of where his team is at. What team will Pep Guardiola pick?
Christian Eriksen came off the bench last week and helped, but do they change the system or format? I think there are issues at Tottenham, but it is not the manager's making. It's between the players and owners, but I see problems here for Tottenham. Man City, with Sterling having scored a hat-trick away from home, are mind-blowing.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 4-1 (16/1 with Sky Bet)
How to watch on Sky Sports
As well as following our dedicated live blog here, Man City vs Tottenham is live on Saturday Night Football from 5pm on Sky Sports Premier League; Kick-off 5.30pm. Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app.
Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.