Tottenham v Manchester City: Nuno can slow City down

All the talk ahead of this intriguing clash has been about attacking players Harry Kane and Jack Grealish, but Kevin Hatchard believes defences could dominate in North London.

Spurs in limbo as Kane saga continues

Whether Harry Kane does or doesn't make a big-money move to Sunday's opponents Manchester City, some level of damage has already been dealt to Tottenham's campaign. The England captain's clear desire to leave, halfway through a six-year contract, has overshadowed pre-season and caused uncertainty in terms of what Spurs' forward line will look like.

If Kane does leave later this month, will there be adequate time to sign a replacement? If he doesn't, it seems harsh to doubt Kane's professionalism, but there is bound to be some sort of resentment or disappointment. That said, whoever holds Kane's registration at the end of this month has a world-class player. Kane scored a league-high 23 PL goals last season (he also delivered 14 assists), and is 5.2 favourite to be Top Goalscorer again.

The Kane saga has added a layer of uncertainty to a club that had already attracted criticism for a managerial search that bordered on the farcical. Jose Mourinho was jettisoned just before the Carabao Cup final, with no clear plan to replace him, which meant the rookie Ryan Mason saw out the season. Spurs clearly didn't use those closing months of the campaign wisely, as they flirted with a host of names before finally settling on former-Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo.

The Portuguese coach inspires loyalty among his players, despite his sometimes taciturn and introverted nature. He has been unfairly labelled as a defensive coach - while he is reactive to some extent, he wants to play attacking football, and a better class of player at Tottenham should allow him to do that.

Kane is finally back in training, but a starting spot would be a surprise. Exciting Spanish winger Bryan Gil has only just returned from the Tokyo Olympics, while his fellow new signing Christian Romero has a slight knee problem.

Portugal pain lingers for Guardiola

As Cesar Azpilicueta hoisted the Champions League trophy towards the Porto sky, Pep Guardiola was left to rue perhaps the cruellest cut of his Manchester City tenure. Having finally got the Citizens to the final of Europe's premier competition, the Catalan effectively sabotaged himself with a left-field team selection that hampered his side. Midfield fulcrum Rodri, who had started 31 of 38 Premier League games, was inexplicably sidelined from the final entirely, while the impressive and influential Joao Cancelo was also left kicking his heels instead of the ball.

While many have suggested that the idea Guardiola overthinks the big games is a cliché, that UCL final against Chelsea in Portugal was the most damning piece of evidence yet.

City cantered to the Premier League title last season despite a shaky start, and they are 1.9 to defend the crown. Chelsea's excellent form under Thomas Tuchel (who got the better of Guardiola three times across three competitions last season) and their lavish spending in recent transfer windows has seen the champions' price inflate a little.

Of course, City have flashed the cash themselves, spending £100m to bring Aston Villa's old-school wizard Jack Grealish into their squad. Grealish has delivered 14 PL goals and 16 assists across the last two seasons, and his intoxicating mix of guile and technique should help City unlock dogged defences.

Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden are injured, and it remains to be seen whether Guardiola will deem Grealish fit enough to start, given that he only played a cameo role in the Community Shield defeat to Leicester City. With England reaching the Euro 2020 final and Brazil doing likewise in the Copa America, Guardiola must analyse the fitness of a clutch of players before settling on a starting XI.

City have lost their last two Premier League games at Tottenham by a 2-0 scoreline, and our friends at Opta tell us that the champions have only suffered more PL away defeats against Liverpool. Indeed, Guardiola's City have lost on their last three competitive visits to Spurs, and the Catalan coach has never suffered four straight losses away to the same opponent.

Given that City have won their first PL match in each of the last 10 seasons, and that they were comfortably the best side in the league last term, I can see why they are 1.67 here in the Match Odds market.

However, they weren't great against Leicester, they have a clutch of players returning from high-intensity international duty and they have a patchy record against Tottenham. I can't get excited about backing the champions at that price.

If you do want to have City onside, but you want a bigger price, you could use the Sportsbook's Bet Builder to double up a City win with an Under 3.5 Goals bet at 2.25.

This could be a slow burner

There was only one goal in the Community Shield last week, and City's vastly improved defence last term meant 14 of their first 20 PL games feature fewer than three goals. Nuno proved at Wolves that he knows how to set a team up, and he won't want to give any cheap goals away here. Kane seems unlikely to start, and if he does, he won't be fully fit.

With De Bruyne and Foden also missing for City, I like the look of Under 2.5 Goals here at 2.04. That bet has landed in six of the clubs' last nine meetings in all competitions.

In Nuno's 114 PL games in charge, Wolves scored 87 second-half goals, compared to just 47 before the restart. On that basis, backing the Second Half in the Half With Most Goals market looks attractive at evens. You could also back the 0-0 in the Correct Score market at 14.5, and look to trade out later.

Can Grealish make the difference?

Keep an eye on the team news, and if Jack Grealish starts for City, he's available to get an assist on the Sportsbook's OddsBoost at 11/4. The England international has delivered 14 assists across the last two Premier League seasons.


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