Long ago, Tottenham Hotspur opened the 2021/22 season with a 1-0 win over Manchester City, which was anything but a sign of things to come. For a moment it looked like the club struck gold under Nuno Espirito Santo as it briefly climbed to the top of the table, but it was not long before normalcy returned.
City are now firmly in first position, with Spurs sputtering and losing ground in the top four race. Saturday’s trip to the Etihad is the first of four straight road fixtures over the next week and a half, and the team really needs to get back to its winning ways after three consecutive league defeats have dropped Tottenham down to eighth.
While Spurs have plenty of downright hysterical wins over City in recent memory, including August’s 1-0 victory in North London behind Heung-Min Son’s goal, this one could get ugly. Never count out another smash and grab, but in all reality, any sort of positive result is likely going to come from a healthy amount of luck.
Manchester City (1st, 63pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (8th, 36pts)
Date: Saturday, February 19
Time: 12:30 pm ET, 5:30 pm UK
Location: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
TV: NBC (USA), Sky Sports Main Event (UK)
Eric Dier should be back healthy, and it will be interesting to see the presumed back three of Ben Davies, Cristian Romero, and Dier now that all three are heathy and available again. Facing one of the league’s strongest attacks is not an ideal circumstance under which to reunite this trio, but it will be the first time since his first match in charge that Antonio Conte will have his three best centerbacks all available.
It looks like a bit more time is needed for the squad’s best XI to take the pitch together though, as the still rehabbing Oliver Skipp definitely looks like the most reliable option out of himself, Harry Winks, and Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg. One of those two will likely slide in next to Rodrigo Bentancur on Saturday to try to stabilize a midfield that has looked all out of sorts recently.
Of course, goals will not be easily had by the Spurs offense either. Both Harry Kane and Son have found themselves in good positions lately, but the finishing has not quite been there. Going all the way back to the days under Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham has enjoyed above-average finishing — mostly thanks to these two players — but this has turned into a struggle over the past month or so.
- In all likelihood, this will be a tough watch. City will dominate possession and will see a bunch of good scoring chances. Spurs’ hope is to keep a good defensive shape and hope Hugo Lloris gets last weekend’s mistakes out of his system. The home side is in insane form, winning 14 of its past 15 league matches and suffering only two losses the entire season, with one being the upset to open the year.
- Tottenham has had opportunities against Saints and Wolves despite frustrating performances. Some of this should level out when the finishing returns, but chemistry has to be part of it as well. Son missed an important stretch out injured and has taken some time to get his legs under him, Dejan Kulusevski is still just meeting his teammates, and Conte really has not been here that long. There is good reason to think that improved results are coming.
- Thanks to recent stumbles, Spurs have ceded all margin of error. Still, the team has three matches in hand over Manchester United and West Ham, and while Arsenal is three points ahead in the table, there is still a North London Derby to make up. The opportunity for fourth place is still well within sight, but results are needed soon. Matches against Burnley and Leeds are very important next week.