Rodri and Tanguy Ndombele made their Premier League debuts on the opening weekend of the new season and two of the division’s biggest new arrivals will go head-to-head when Manchester City take on Tottenham.
Ndombele came to Tottenham’s rescue against Aston Villa, his equaliser paving the way for a late Harry Kane double as Mauricio Pochettino’s side came from behind to win 3-1.
Two-time defending champions City, meanwhile, had a far easier outing against West Ham – Raheem Sterling scoring a hat-trick in a 5-0 triumph, with club-record signing Rodri fitting straight into Pep Guardiola’s engine room.
Now, the two midfielders will do battle on the pitch on Saturday, as two of the Premier League’s elite clubs lock horns in Manchester.
CITY TO CONTINUE STERLING RECORD AGAINST SPURS?
Sterling was outstanding in the Premier League in the 2018-19 season, scoring 17 goals and providing 10 assists.
The 24-year-old thought he had sealed a magnificent Champions League victory over Pochettino’s side back in April, only for his stoppage-time goal to be disallowed by VAR, though Phil Foden’s header ensured City got their revenge in the league three days later.
England forward Sterling picked up where he left off with a sublime hat-trick against West Ham, with Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero also finding the net.
Sterling has been involved in six goals in his last six games for City against Spurs in all competitions (five goals and one assist), including netting four in his last three meetings with them at the Etihad.
City have won their last four Premier League games against Tottenham, who looked set to be frustrated by Villa in their opening fixture.
Spurs amassed 31 shots in total – more than any other Premier League side on matchday one – though it was through the unlikely source of Ndombele that Tottenham finally restored parity.
Kane did the rest, securing the points by striking twice. Though the England captain failed to score in any of his first 14 Premier League games in August, he has since netted in his last three top-flight outings in the month.
City, of course, have a deadly striker of their own. Aguero has scored 96 league goals at the Etihad – one more will see him go joint-third with Alan Shearer (St James’ Park) for the most Premier League goals scored at a specific stadium.
HEAD TO HEAD: RODRI V TANGUY NDOMBELE
Tottenham are not known for spending big money on new players, but Pochettino received the backing his managerial efforts have deserved when chairman Daniel Levy paid up for France midfielder Ndombele.
Spurs paid Lyon a reported £55million (€62m) to secure the 22-year-old, who made an instant impact for his new employers.
City, meanwhile, brought in a club-record signing of their own, Rodri arriving from Atletico Madrid as Fernandinho’s heir apparent for a cool sum of £62.8m (€70m).
While Rodri will likely be tasked with shielding City’s defence, Ndombele will almost certainly be given more freedom at Spurs, as was the case at the weekend.
Ndombele had two shots against Villa and created one chance. However, Rodri made more passes (72 to 55), with a passing accuracy of 90.3 per cent, with Ndombele managing an 83.5 per cent accuracy.
Tottenham’s man made more tackles, though surprisingly it was Rodri who made more successful dribbles – three compared to Ndombele’s zero.
Looking back on last season, Ndombele was more creative for Lyon, making 47 chances across 34 league games, compared to Rodri’s 17 for Atleti. The former also had seven assists, while his Spanish counterpart managed just one, despite making 1,031 passes in the opposition’s half.
City lost just once in pre-season – to Wolves on penalties – and after a shoot-out win over Liverpool in the Community Shield, hardly broke sweat against West Ham.
Guardiola’s side remarkably won their last 14 league games of the campaign last season and the victory over West Ham means they are just three wins short of matching their record winning streak of 18 from 2017.
Spurs’ season ended on a low note with their Champions League defeat to Liverpool, but they enjoyed notable wins over Juventus and Real Madrid in pre-season, as well as a shoot-out triumph against Bayern Munich.
Their opening fixture against Villa proved a tricky one but they eventually found a breakthrough. It was just their second win in their last six matches in the Premier League.
Tottenham have taken just four points from their last nine Premier League visits to the Etihad Stadium, losing on seven occasions.
City, meanwhile, have not lost their opening home league match in a top-flight season since 1989-90 – they are unbeaten in 24 matches since that reverse against Southampton.
Spurs lost their last six away Premier League matches of the 2018-19 season. Not since 2000 have they lost seven in a row on the road.
Pochettino was, however, the first opposing manager to win away from home against Guardiola in a league match, doing so in February 2009 with Espanyol when Pep was in charge of Barcelona.
The only manager to win two away league games against Guardiola? Jose Mourinho, of course!
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