Since Tottenham Hotspur took a two-goal lead at the Etihad...the club conceded four straight goals to lose to Manchester City, grinded out a 1-0 win against Fulham, took down Championship side Preston North End in the FA Cup, brought in Arnaut Danjuma and Pedro Porro as the transfer window closed, and temporarily lost Antonio Conte to gallbladder surgery.
17 days later, it is once again Spurs-City, this time in North London. Despite the outcome two weeks ago and the clubs’ relative performances this season, there is still a chance this goes favorably for the home side given the way many of these fixtures have transpired as of late. For a stretch in Manchester it looked to be happening yet again, but then the onslaught came.
Tottenham still sits outside the top four but will be through with the top two teams in the table after Sunday and plenty of time to make up ground. Once again, there is an argument that three points to City would be for the greater good in the quest to pass Arsenal; I can concede that a loss is preferrable to a draw, at least.
Tottenham Hotspur (5th, 36pts) vs. Manchester City (2nd, 45pts)
Date: Sunday, February 5
Time: 11:30 am ET, 4:30 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
TV: NBC (USA), Sky Sports Main Event (UK)
Much from the initial bout at the Etihad is worth forgetting, especially since the goals came from a gift that Dejan Kulusevski buried and a right place, right time header by Emerson Royal. The second half collapse was reverse of the normal script, but in the end it felt all too familiar.
City has tons of firepower, so the biggest thing is getting rid of the defensive mistakes that seem to keep hammering Spurs. Hugo Lloris looks good as done, Eric Dier is far from steady, and Ivan Perisic was a disaster defensively in Manchester. At the very least, Tottenham needs the back line to play competently to stand a chance.
Up front, perhaps there is some reason for optimism. While Preston is far from the greatest opponent, Heung-Min Son nabbed a brace over the weekend and looked very much like his old self. With Kulusevski playing well and Harry Kane still on the cusp of history, the front three could be heating up at just the right time.
The other storyline has to be Porro. Despite Royal’s surprising goal, there has not been a more dreadful spot this season (or the ones preceding it) than right wingback, and the upgrade should be sizeable. Whether Porro can live up to these large expectations — or large transfer fee — will not be determined for some time, but he should jump into the lineup quickly.
Another loss to City would not be devastating, but the way Tottenham looks on the pitch absolutely matters. The transfer business is done, and though Conte may be out for a bit, the task at hand has never been more settled. Spurs have a good shot at fourth and the Champions League resumes soon, so there cannot be continued low-effort, low-quality outings any longer.