Tottenham host Manchester City on Saturday Night Football looking to strike a blow to the Premier League favourites’ title ambitions while strengthening theirs.
Spurs return from the international break as the Premier League’s in-form side having bounced back from their opening-day defeat to Everton with a seven-game unbeaten run that has got the north London club daring to dream.
Victory in front of the Sky Sports cameras will lift Jose Mourinho’s side eight points clear of Pep Guardiola’s men and into top spot in the Premier League, piling the pressure on current leaders Leicester ahead of their trip to champions Liverpool on Sunday.
Whether it be the sensational form of Harry Kane and Heung-min Son, the return of Gareth Bale in an unprecedented summer of spending, or having three-time Premier League winner Mourinho at the helm, optimism is building that, come May, this could be the season Spurs end their 60-year wait to be crowned champions of England.
If Spurs are to win their first title since 1961, home victories over direct rivals such as Manchester City, who remain the bookmakers’ favourites to finish top of the pile, will be both materially and mentally essential for a club desperate to shake off their nearly-men tag in the most emphatic fashion.
Sky Sports’ Gary Neville:
“I said a couple weeks ago on Monday Night Football that Spurs couldn’t win the league, and I still don’t think they can. But I do agree that it would be the most outstanding story to see Jose Mourinho win the Premier League with Tottenham.
“It would be something that would alarm Chelsea fans, Manchester United fans and Arsenal fans. It would be one of the great stories, because Tottenham don’t win leagues!
“Jose has got the forward players to do it. You think of the strike force and the goal – it’s incredible.”
Sky Sports’ Paul Merson:
“Can Spurs go on and win the title? It’s not impossible and that’s because they’ve got a serial winner as a manager. They’ve got a chance because Mourinho is in charge and has won it before. He knows what it takes to get over the line.
“Can the players keep producing week in, week out? Only time will tell but having Mourinho at the club gives them an advantage. Mauricio Pochettino was a good manager, don’t get me wrong. However, they’ve now got more chance of winning the title because of Mourinho.
“He knows what you have to do week in, week out and then all over again. You have to be there or thereabouts all the time. You cannot be giving teams six, seven or eight-point head starts, and they are right in the mix at the moment.
“When Mourinho won the title at Chelsea, they always got off to a flyer. He’s the only manager I know who treats every game like it is the last of the season. Every point mounts up and Mourinho always flies out of the stalls in a title-winning year.”
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola renews his long-standing rivalry with Tottenham manager Mourinho, formerly of Real Madrid and Manchester United, and he has given a glowing appraisal of his counterpart’s recent performances at Spurs.
“Of course they are contenders,” Guardiola said. “The manager gets what he wants from his teams and the quality is always there. They’ve been exceptional for the last four or five years.”
Manchester City’s bid to wrestle back the Premier League title they relinquished so tamely to Liverpool last season has not begun in the fashion Guardiola would have wanted.
While City have a game in hand on all of the top five and, like Spurs, have lost just one game this season, the underwhelming nature of their performances has seen their title credentials questioned even at this early stage.
Sky Sports’ Roy Keane:
“I think it’s going to be very difficult for City to win the league this year. There was no way they were going to keep up what they’ve done over the last two or three years, the same for Liverpool.
“City, when you look at their squad, and the players they’ve lost, but also to go into the season where they’re expected to challenge for every competition they’re in, to have two strikers – and Sergio Aguero being 32, having one or two problems – and then just hanging your hat on one striker, they’d have to be critical of themselves, why they didn’t strengthen in the summer with a striker.
“I know there were other positions they wanted to fill, a centre-half I suppose was a priority. They’ve got nobody but themselves to blame for being short on strikers. You have to have strength in depth – particularly if you’re expected to challenge for all the major trophies. I don’t see City winning the league this year.”
Guardiola, who penned a new two-year contract at City on Thursday, has won six major trophies, including two Premier League titles, in his four years in charge, but was unwilling to make grand predictions about what he can achieve in the coming years.
“I’m not thinking much right now about titles,” the Spaniard said. “It will be good to do what we have done the last three years, but it’s difficult. We are thinking week by week, and game by game, to do a good job and we’ll see at the end what we deserve.”
Alan Smith joins Peter Smith on this week’s Pitch to Post Preview Podcast to discuss Pep Guardiola’s new Man City contract, Tottenham’s title hopes and what’s going wrong at Arsenal.
Tottenham will be able to call on Steven Bergwijn for their Premier League clash with Manchester City on Saturday.
The Netherlands forward scored on his Spurs debut in the corresponding fixture last year but missed the international break due to an unspecified injury – although he is in contention this weekend.
Erik Lamela (Achilles) is close to a return while Matt Doherty is self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 while on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.
Manchester City will check on the fitness of record goalscorer Sergio Aguero and forward Raheem Sterling.
Aguero has been out for the past month with a hamstring injury and Sterling pulled out of the England squad earlier this week with a calf problem.
Captain Fernandinho, recently sidelined with a muscular injury, is now out after suffering gastroenteritis. There are also doubts over defenders Nathan Ake and Benjamin Mendy.
How to follow
Watch Tottenham vs Manchester City live on Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports Main Event from 5pm on Saturday Night Football; kick-off 5.30pm. Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app. Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.
The time may have come where the Pep Guardiola revolution is starting to fall away from its peak – the news of his new contract did surprise me.
The signs have been there in the declining performance metrics and can be seen purely with the eyes. The intensity is down and City aren’t strangling teams like they used to. Many onlookers are putting it down to the lack of pre-season factor, but it may run deeper than just that.
So, what is to blame? The answer may be found in their attacking metrics, which have nosedived this season. A return of just 10 goals from their seven matches, they had scored 27 this time last season, tells most of the story but are they just missing chances? The answer is a big fat no. The underlying numbers paint a dim picture of City’s chance creation rate compared to the vintage years.
With City taking up too much of the market, Tottenham are just too juicy to ignore at 3/1.
A return of 17 points from their eight games is perfectly aligned with their performance metrics. If keeping to this level, Spurs will be top-four challengers this season, maybe even title contenders in a below-average year. Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son are a world-class prolific partnership. I have no problems with their skills carrying my support this weekend.
It’s also worth noting, Spurs have won their last three Premier League games by a one-goal margin – it’s something Jose Mourinho teams are famed for. He once went seven Premier League games on the spin winning by one goal when Chelsea roared to the title in 2015. Tottenham to win by one-goal at 6/1 makes plenty of appeal.
JONES KNOWS PREDICTS: 1-0 (14/1 with Sky Bet)
- Tottenham won this exact fixture 2-0 last season, ending a run of six Premier League games without a win against Manchester City (D2 L4).
- Only against Chelsea (26) have Manchester City lost more Premier League games than they have vs Tottenham (24).
- Tottenham have won both of their meetings with Man City at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in all competitions, last winning three home games in a row against them between 2005-2009 (a run of 6).
- Tottenham have only lost two of their 20 Premier League games against Man City when above them in the table (W15 D3), though this is the first such meeting since January 2017 (2-2).
- Following their opening weekend defeat against Everton, Tottenham are now on the longest current unbeaten run in the Premier League (7 – W5 D2). Spurs are looking to win four consecutive league games for the first time since February 2019 under Mauricio Pochettino.
- Tottenham’s Harry Kane has been involved in 23 goals in just 14 games in all competitions this season (13 goals, 10 assists), at least eight more than any other Premier League player. Indeed, the next highest player on the list is teammate Son Heung-min (10 goals, 5 assists).