Match of the Weekend: Manchester City vs. Tottenham
Often, Premier League fans are ‘sold’ the idea of a Super Sunday. A heavyweight collection of back-to-back fixtures on the Sabbath in which the goals and the controversy will flow, and the results will have far-riding and monumental consequences.
This Sunday, it feels almost impossible to over-hype the EPL fixtures, with first versus third and second versus fourth.
Whereas the title race often feels like an inexorable procession towards the final whistle, this season, the competition has been blasted wide open, with a quartet of sides all vying for the ultimate prize in the English game.
After 25 matches, and with 13 to go, unlikely champions-elect Leicester City sit top on 53 points, with Tottenham Hotspur in second on 48 points, level with Arsenal but enjoying a far superior goal difference.
Manchester City, who many would have tipped to have been the most likely side to capitalise on Chelsea’s unexpected decline and their slump down to the bottom half of the table, find themselves in fourth on 47.
However, while the Citizens currently sit six points off the leaders, in Sergio Aguero, they possess one of the players in the division who could single-handedly impact where the title ends up.
City’s title hopes were dented last weekend, when the Sky Blues were devastated 3-1 at home by the mighty Foxes.
Perhaps distracted by Manuel Pellegrini’s imminent departure and the arrival of Pep Guardiola, surely guilty of underestimating Leicester, the Manchester giants were brutally exposed in front of their home fans, as Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and…erm…Robert Huth ran wild.
Against Tottenham, it’s imperative that City reassert themselves, in order to demonstrate that they remain credible title contenders, and that they haven’t taken their eye off the ball following the news about the managerial upheaval.
If City lose again, and if Leicester defeat Arsenal, Pellegrini’s side would fall nine points off the pace. Surely then, with Leicester facing an encouraging run of fixtures, it would become increasingly difficult to see how the Citizens could overhaul Claudio Ranieri’s miracle men.
Will Pellegrini opt to turn to Kelechi Iheanacho on Sunday, in light of his side’s failings on Saturday?
The Nigerian was only introduced as a second-half substitute against Leicester, but, with City already 2-0 down, it was too little too late.
Having impressed alongside Aguero in a 4-4-2 earlier in the campaign, will Pellegrini opt to play the two frontmen together again as he seeks to trouble Spurs, who have the best defence in the division?
The example of Dele Alli, who will surely return to Tottenham’s starting lineup on Sunday, could well prompt the Chilean coach to turn to Kele.
Alli—recently capped by England, despite being eligible for Nigeria—has been the breakout star of the season, and as well as his sumptuous—and decisive—assist against Watford at the weekend, he has already bagged an astonishing seven goals this term.
The midfielder is a symbol of Spurs’ bright new era under Mauricio Pochettino, and if Pellegrini is in need of any convincing of the value of unleashing youth, then the example of Alli ought to be evidence enough!
Will it been Spurs’ wonderkid or City’s teenage starlet who shines on Sunday in this decisive title bout?