Tottenham v Manchester City: Pep's men to grind it out again
Spurs have kept Manchester City in check in recent times and the Premier League champions look likely to have to work hard for a win on Sunday, says Andy Schooler...
Tottenham v Manchester City Sunday 2 February, 16:30 Live on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event
Tottenham head into Sunday's clash with champions Manchester City six points off the top four and with the clock beginning to tick.
After this, just 13 games remain and Spurs' hopes of playing in next season's Champions League appear to be fading.
The appointment of Jose Mourinho was supposed to correct the mess of the opening part of the season but instead Spurs have stumbled along, with the deficiencies in their squad exposed, most notably the lack of striking options.
Goals a problem for Spurs
Harry Kane is once again injured, this time long term, and unlike during his spell out last season, Son Heung-min hasn't filled the void with goals.
In their four Premier League games in 2020 they've failed to score in three with lowly Norwich the only side to be breached.
At least work is under way to revitalise a squad which turned sour so quickly after last season's run to the Champions League final.
Winger Steven Bergwijn could make his debut in this game having signed from PSV Eindhoven and he joins recent loan addition Gedson Fernandes, but having played little for Benfica in the first half of the season it's going to take time for him to bed in.
The signing of Giovani Lo Celso on a permanent deal is also a major boost - he's impressed in recent weeks and looks a ready-made replacement for Christian Eriksen, now at Inter Milan.
Still, Spurs' business appears to be looking long-term.
Profligate City must bounce back
In the here and now, they face a Manchester City side, who currently sit second in the table.
While the champions have already effectively surrendered their title, they are still in the hunt for a cup treble and minds may well have been focused by Wednesday's home defeat to Manchester United in the Carabao Cup.
Being a second leg it mattered little - City will face Aston Villa in the final on March 1 - but was further evidence of how the Premier League's better sides have been able to earn results against them.
United also won at the Etihad in the league and City's record against their fellow members of the top seven this season is a poor 2-1-4. Away from home, they've lost both such games.
The good thing for them is Spurs' record against the elite is even worse.
Against sides currently above them, Spurs have taken one point from a possible 18. At home, they've lost 1-0 to Liverpool and 2-0 to Chelsea.
City will give late fitness checks to Aymeric Laporte, Fernandinho and Benjamin Mendy ahead of the game, although their problems against United were not at the back.
They lost 1-0 but how they didn't score remains a mystery as they dominated much of the game and had the vast majority of the chances.
The fact so many were created is a positive for City, who will be beginning to train one eye on their forthcoming Champions League clash with Real Madrid.
Visitors strong favourites
They can be expected to return to winning ways here - they are 1.59to win the match. Spurs are at 6.00 and the draw 4.80.
Don't expect them to run away with things though.
No team has brushed Spurs aside and they showed against Liverpool how they could keep in a game and thwart opponents intent on attack.
Spurs to keep it close
Mourinho will surely devise a plan which looks to stymie the visitors and with this in mind backing City to win with under 2.5 goals in the match may well be worth a try at 5.20.
City's games are always very short to feature over 2.5 goals - that option is1.56 here with the unders 2.68 - but it is worth noting that Spurs managed to contain Guardiola's team for long periods of last season's four meetings.
While most will just remember the thrilling 4-3 second leg of their Champions League quarter-final, three of those games saw under 2.5 goals, indeed under 1.5. Two of those three were won by City.
Longer term, three of the four meetings at Tottenham during Guardiola's reign have delivered on this bet.
The visitors would be happy to grind out a result again in this one and with Raheem Sterling's form having dropped right off and their other forwards proving wasteful, this looks the way to go.
City only won 1-0 at well-organised Sheffield United recently and Mourinho should be able to get his defence into a shape capable of at least denying City a glut of chances.
Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte has ended on the winning side in 42 of his 49 Premier League appearances - the record for wins in the first 50 games for any player is 42, shared by Didier Drogba, Arjen Robben and Ederson.