When I spoke with the Bri(y)ans on Wheeler Dealer Radio on Thursday, I said that I had little faith in our team to pull off a result in this game. Ashlock, the ray of sunshine that he is, was even less optimistic. We both agreed that Manchester City would defeat Tottenham Hotspur by multiple goals on Sunday, and there was very little debate involved. Yes, City gave up a couple of goals to Bolton and looked a bit vulnerable, but they looked more spectacular. They're a really, really good team.
Meanwhile, Tottenham are a team in a serious transitional period over the next few days...maybe. Luka Modric will probably stick around, though who really knows what Roman Abramovich is up to and whether or not Daniel Levy is a massive BS artist. However, Emmanuel Adebayor has joined and it looks like Scott Parker will follow close behind. They are, to some degree, replacements for (and upgrades over) Wilson Palacios and Peter Crouch, who are close to a move to Stoke City. These won't be the only four moves made between now and Wednesday. You know, because we're Spurs.
This little bit of upheaval has given me reason for a more optimistic attitude in general, but it doesn't really affect this game. Adebayor won't be playing against his parent club and none of the Parker, Crouch or Palacios transfers are actually real things yet. This is going to be a similar side to the one that faced Manchester United. That is a very bad thing.
But, there's some good news! Piece of good news number one: Luka Modric and Tom Huddlestone are fit. Maybe not 90 minutes and somehow contain Yaya Toure and David Silva fit, but fit nonetheless. Both should figure in this game. It wouldn't be shocking to see both of them start. If these guys are healthy (and members of the team), we're always going to have a chance to pull off big upsets. Their passing from deep in the midfield is sublime and covers up a lot of our deficiencies.
Piece of good news number two: Nigel De Jong is still out. Rafael van der Vaart looked crappy enough against Anderson and the marauding Phil Jones last week, so I can only imagine the beating he would take from De Jong. Of course, going up against Toure and Kompany (and Barry, I guess) is no picnic, and he'll need to be on his game.
The ultimate question - for me, at least - is who we start at striker and whether or not that person is good for...anything, really. Jermain Defoe was beyond woeful against United and Roman Pavlyuchenko tried to match his level of woefulness on Thursday against Hearts. Row Z got a workout. It was a bad day.
This begs the que...no, it doesn't beg any question. It demands the answer: What else are we doing about our striker situation? If we're loaning Adebayor, selling Crouch and staying put with the rest of the crew, that's mildly concerning. This has nothing to do with the City game. I'll stop freaking out about this on September 1.
Tactically, City are going to be a pretty fluid team. Expect a variation of 4-4-2 with Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero paired up top, with David Silva and James Milner on the 'wings.' They'll come inside a lot while Aguero drops deep, allowing City to keep the ball very well in the middle despite the fact that they're playing 4-4-2. The fact that we do not have an athletic defensive midfielder healthy only increases the probability that City can keep the ball for days.
This setup doesn't really have any glaring holes, especially against us, since the players are so good. If City lose the ball while Silva and Milner are inside, it's not like we're automatically free to counter-attack down the wings. Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry, average by City standards as Barry may be, are pretty good at breaking up through balls and covering defensively. Vincent Kompany is enough of an absolute beast that we'll have to catch them out four or five times to get anything, most likely. Basically, City are really good. Like, at football.
If Modric and Huddlestone are both fit to start while Gareth Bale returns to Welsh Jesus form, we'll have a fighting chance to get something out of this game. What's scary about City is that these three things, even all together, are no guarantee of even a draw. Aguero could score a goal from 50 yards away with his ass. Tactics and team selection might not mean a lick. Bring it on?