Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 8/11
Tottenham Hotspur will welcome Manchester City to their modern stadium in North London on Sunday afternoon, when the two teams come out to fight for important Premier League points. Neither team is where they want to be at this point, but they’re not too far away either, which adds and extra spark to what would surely be an exciting contest in less pressuring circumstances too.
Spurs appointed Antonio Conte as their head coach in November 2021 in the hope that the experienced and proven Italian expert would help them make that difficult step from being a top-four competitor to a genuine title contender. It hasn’t been an easy task, of course, with the competition ever stronger in the English top flight, and 15 months later, there’s still a long way to go.
At the moment, Spurs are desperately trying to work their way into the top four, sitting fifth at the moment with 36 points, two less than Manchester United and Newcastle in fourth and third, respectively. At the same time, they have to pay attention to the teams behind, with Fulham (sixth, 32 points) and Brighton (seventh, 31) not too far away, Brentford (eighth, 30) as well, and the likes of Chelsea (ninth, 30) and Liverpool (10th, 29) seeking ways to resurrect their own quality and re-enter the fight.
To help their cause, Spurs signed winger Arnaut Danjuma from Villarreal and right-back Pedro Porro from Sporting Lisbon in January.
Antonio Conte’s men haven’t been too bad in their recent matches, winning four and losing two of their last six matches in all competitions. They beat Crystal Palace away by 0-4, Portsmouth at home by 1-0 in the FA Cup, lost 0-2 at home to arch-rivals Arsenal, lost 4-2 away to Manchester City, beat Fulham away by 0-1, and beat Preston North End away by 0-3 in the FA Cup.
Conte has three injury concerns ahead of this match, though none of the players concerned have been ruled out at this point. Forward Richarlison has a slight adductor problem, winger Lucas Moura is on his way from a calf injury, and midfielder Pape Sarr faces a late fitness test after overcoming a hip issue.
Hugo Lloris will be in goal, with the trio of Cristian Romero, Eric Dier and Ben Davies the likeliest to form the back line. Rodrigo Bentacur and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will probably pair up in the middle of the park, with Emerson Royal and Ivan Perisic covering the flanks for the entire length of the pitch. Upfront, Harry Kane should be supported by Son Heung-min and Dejan Kulusevski.
Things haven’t exactly gone as planned for the defending champions, for whom nothing but winning the title has been good enough practically since 2017/18,Pep Guardiola’s second season in charge. At the moment, they’re forced to play the chasing game, sitting second to Arsenal with a five-point deficit, providing the Gunners go on to lose away to relegation strugglers Everton; they’re 1-0 down at the time of writing.
The races at both ends of the table promise to be very exciting between now and the end of the season, and this match appears slightly confusing for both sets of North-London club supporters, with Arsenal hoping for a Spurs win and Spurs, apart from themselves obviously, playing for Arsenal too.
Be that as it may, City’s last-six run in all competitions consists of a 4-0 win over Chelsea in the FA Cup, a 2-0 defeat away to Southampton in the Carabao Cup, a 2-1 defeat away to neighbours Manchester United, a 4-2 win over Spurs at the Etihad, a 3-0 home win over Wolverhampton Wanderers, and a 1-0 win over Arsenal in the FA Cup.
Forward Phil Foden should be available for this match after returning from an ankle injury, but defender John Stones will likely stay out for the rest of the month with a hamstring problem.
With Ederson Moraes in goal, Aymeric Laporte is likely to play alongside Manuel Akanji in the heart of defence, with Rico Lewis on the right and Nathan Ake on the left. Rodri should be sitting directly ahead to provide protection to the back line, with Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne close by. Further up, striker Erling Haaland should have Jack Grealish on his left and Riyad Mahrez on his right.
The clash between these teams at the Etihad proved that Spurs can hurt City if the defending Premier League champions aren’t at their best, and helped by the voices from the stands, they’ll surely give it all they’ve got. However, it also proved that when they are playing at their usual level, City are simply too much for Spurs.
Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 8/11
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