The major concern for Tottenham is over the goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who is struggling with a groin problem. Although Michael Vorm is a more than adequate replacement, Lloris has a key role at Spurs because of his capacity to sweep up behind his defence. There are few keepers as sharp off their line as the France international, which allows the back four to press high up the pitch, knowing they have cover. In the one league game Brad Friedel played last season, against Newcastle, it was a pass into precisely the area Lloris usually occupies that brought the only goal of the game.
With Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton both out, Eric Dier is likely to be used at right-back, while Nacer Chadli, in such fine form at the beginning of the season, has a hip injury. Manchester City are without Samir Nasri and Fernandinho.
City won both meetings with Tottenham last season by a combined score of 11-1, the 6-0 reverse at the Etihad in November one of main reasons Andre Villas-Boas was dismissed. It started badly, a poor Lloris clearance providing the opportunity for Jesus Navas to open the scoring the first minute, and quickly got worse, as Navas capitalised on his pace advantage over Jan Vertonghen, who was playing at left-back that day.
Danny Rose, who was sent off in the game at White Hart Lane, is likely to take that position for Spurs on Saturday. In neither match last season did Spurs get to grips with City’s movement, eventually capitulating embarrassingly in both.
The middle of City’s midfield seems to be a perennial talking point, but how it plays is probably the most important factor in determining how the team plays as a whole. With Fernandinho injured, Yaya Toure, who scored a superb goal for Ivory Coast in their 4-3 defeat to DR Congo, will presumably partner Fernando in the centre (although Frank Lampard could be brought in), which means James Milner probably being deployed on the left and David Silva central if Manuel Pellegrini opts for a 4-2-3-1.
He could go 4-4-2 with Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero paired up front, but the risk with that is to expose City to the counter-attack, which has already been a problem this season. The advantage of a 4-4-2 is that it unleashes Silva against Dier, who clearly prefers the centre and is not at his best defending against tricky technical players, while it keeps Dzeko, who has scored six goals in six games against Spurs, in the team.
SPURS’ PRESS AND COUNTER
Tottenham haven’t had the best of starts to the season but, despite isolated reports of dressing-room unrest, there are signs that they are beginning to adapt to Mauricio Pochettino’s methods. They will presumably adopt a similar approach to that used in the second half at Arsenal, when they tended to sit deep, springing forward to press with great discipline.
That was the hallmark of Pochettino’s Southampton, a team that got the balance right between getting men behind the ball while not allowing the opponent easy possession in their own half. It brought the goal against Arsenal and, if the back of City’s midfield has another dozy day, it could undo the champions. If Spurs push too high or push high without pressure on the ball, though, they become susceptible to the combination of Silva’s through-balls and Aguero’s pace.
SPURS AGAINST THE TOP SIDES
Much was made last season of Arsenal’s poor record away to the top sides, but Tottenham were almost as bad. They failed to score in any of five games against the top five last season, picking up a solitary point with a 0-0 draw at Everton, while they’ve won only one of their last 14 games away to teams who finished above them in the league.
Pochettino is beginning to turn things around but it’s a slow process and even though Spurs are unbeaten away from home this season, it’s hard to see this anything other than a home win. City to win at 1.44 isn’t overly attractive, though, so it may be worth bearing in mind that, last season, at home to the other sides in the top half, City were ahead at half-time on seven occasions and went on to win all seven.
The one doubt is that their goals have tended to come later this season – six of their 14 goals in the final 15 minutes – which perhaps means the 2.05 on City to be ahead at half-time and full-time doesn’t represent quite such good value as City -1.25 on the Asian handicap at 1.95.
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