Tottenham take on Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-final but how can Spurs stop the Premier League champions? We take a look at the challenge they face in their new stadium on Tuesday evening...
Mauricio Pochettino is calling it "one of the most important games" of his coaching career. Tottenham's new stadium has already hosted its first game but the visit of Manchester City in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final could be its first classic encounter. City are chasing the quadruple and the onus is on Pochettino to find a way to stop them.
There is a 16-point gap between the two teams in the Premier League, but there was an 18-point gap between City and Liverpool when the Reds eliminated Pep Guardiola's side at this stage last season. "Different team, different year, different players," says Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, but Tottenham intend to go with the same front-foot approach.
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"I think they know and he knows that we are brave playing football, going forward, being aggressive and trying to be protagonists," says Pochettino of what Guardiola's team can expect on Tuesday evening. "We are going to be aggressive and try to play and beat them."
The first win of Pochettino's managerial career came against Guardiola's Barcelona in the Camp Nou. The plan that night was for his Espanyol team "to press high and surprise them" and it worked well as, according to the Spanish media at the time, they dragged Barcelona into the quicksand with their guerrilla warfare tactics. For Pochettino, it set the template.
The problem is that he has not been so successful against Guardiola of late. "Last season, we didn't compete with Manchester City there or at Wembley," Pochettino acknowledged, having been beaten by an aggregate score of 7-2. He was happier with what he saw when the teams met again at Wembley in October but
Spurs were still beaten 1-0 .
Is there any reason to expect a different outcome? Tottenham have at least disrupted City's approach, even in defeat. They have worked hard to prevent Ederson from building the play from the back by cutting off his short passing options. The Brazilian has a passing accuracy of 69.3 per cent against Spurs - by far his lowest against any Premier League team.
Ederson's passing accuracy is significantly lower against Tottenham
The result is that Ederson has hit 31 passes into the opposition half against Spurs since coming to England, much more than against anyone else. Unfortunately for Pochettino, such is Ederson's range of passing, forcing him to kick long is not necessarily a victory in itself because he is capable of picking out players further forwards and bypassing the press.
Even so, this has given Spurs more of a foothold in games. Over the past two seasons, City have dominated possession against every single Premier League opponent, but Pochettino's side have had more of the ball against them than anyone - restricting Guardiola's team to 52 per cent of the ball. Manchester City have had at least 57 per cent against everyone else.
The challenge, of course, is to do something with that possession once they do have the ball. That means exploiting what few weaknesses City do have. Defensively, the obvious target for Tottenham will be the full-back areas because these appear to be an area of relative concern for Guardiola right now due to various injury issues.
Fabian Delph and Oleksandr Zinchenko have been unavailable recently due to injury and while Benjamin Mendy did return to the starting line-up against Brighton on Saturday, Kyle Walker had to be withdrawn at half-time as a precaution because of a hamstring problem.
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Heung-Min Son could be the man to exploit any uncertainty in those wide areas by running in behind the back line. The forward has been among the substitutes for both of Tottenham's home defeats to City in the past two seasons but was in the line-up for the 2-0 win in 2016/17 and came off the bench to equalise in the draw at the Etihad Stadium that year too.
Son's pace could be a big factor and finding him will be the key. Harry Kane is now bringing his team-mates into the game better than ever before and is capable of coming up with that incisive pass when dropping deeper. Christian Eriksen could be crucial too if given time on the ball.
The key players
Pochettino will want to get that trio on the pitch alongside Dele Alli but there is no perfect solution, whether it's in a 4-2-3-1 or the back three that he went with for the 3-0 win over Borussia Dortmund at Wembley in the previous round. Jan Vertonghen played at wing-back in that tie and loading the team with aerial threats could make sense here too.
Set pieces will be important because they are a strength for Spurs and a weakness for City. Only Liverpool have scored more goals than Tottenham from set pieces in the Premier League this season, while City are the only team to have conceded more than half of their goals from dead-ball situations. City are not the tallest and Spurs could take advantage.
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Whatever happens, hard work will be a prerequisite. "We need to match every situation with City," says Pochettino. "It will be 11 players against 11 players. If the teams are close, the first thing you need to do is run. Players like David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, they have unbelievable quality but first they run."
Aguero, who has scored 43 goals in 64 Premier League appearances against top-six opposition, is available again after missing the last two games but the fitness factor should work in the home side's favour. They had the weekend off while City were fielding a strong side to see off Brighton in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday. It's an advantage for Spurs.
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"Of course, it's an advantage but to fight for everything, you have to overcome that," says Guardiola. "Spurs have had six days to prepare and we have had two-and-a-half, but when you play this amount of games and win the Carabao Cup, it's normal. If we were out of the cup, we would have had more days. Big clubs don't complain about these situations."
Big clubs enjoy big nights too and this certainly falls into that category. But how much of a factor will the new stadium be? Not everyone is convinced. "I don't care about the stadium," says De Bruyne. "I care about the team we play. Everybody talks about the stadium like it's something special. Everybody has a stadium. Everybody has supporters."
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Could Tottenham make De Bruyne and City regret those words? Pochettino claims this is a bonus for his team after their brush with Champions League elimination in the group stages and that the pressure is on City. But any attempt to downplay expectations should be treated with caution.
The stakes are high, the scene is set, and the rewards are huge.
"Man City are getting the job done," Charlie Nicholas tells Sky Sports . "Tottenham have got the glamour of the new stadium and this should be a spectacular night. They are an attack-minded side. Do they have to win the football match? Probably not.
"Man City have been resting and teasing teams at the moment, and there is an efficiency about them. They are going to squeeze Tottenham a bit. Tottenham could get caught up in the drama of the new stadium, but nothing changes for Man City.
"It is how Tottenham use the aggressive nature of their pressing. They may try to force it so I think Manchester City will pick them off. Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero will play, so do Tottenham go for a back three or back four? I think they will go to a back three. The form of Kevin De Bruyne gives City an edge at the moment."
Charlie predicts: 1-2