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?
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?
Christian Eriksen changed the game when he came on for Spurs against Aston Villa. 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.
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
Passing accuracy Passes
vs Liverpool 91.9% 62
vs West Ham 90.3% 72
Sergio Aguero has an excellent record against top-six sides in the Premier League. 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.
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