For a time, Tottenham were Manchester City’s whipping boys, the Blues registering 6-0, 5-1 and 4-1 wins over the Londoners under Manuel Pellegrini. However, City’s decline in big matches combined with Spurs’ improvement under Mauricio Pochettino mean we have lost our last three games against tomorrow’s opposition. Pochettino’s men comprehensively outplayed City in the reverse fixture earlier this season and there is good reason to be nervous going into the latest clash between the sides. Pep Guardiola must get his team selection right against formidable opposition, so there is much to think about.
The big news is that Gabriel Jesus is finally available for selection after what feels like an eternity. The reality though, is that the 19-year-old has only been training with the team since 3rd January: less than three weeks. It just feels a whole lot longer – probably because of those two abject performances on Merseyside.
In other news, Vincent Kompany didn’t make the matchday squad against Everton last time out but is in contention to start vs. Spurs. Kompany has been back in full training for around two weeks now and whilst Pep will undoubtedly be nervous about throwing him in for what will be a very intense fixture, it’s certainly a possibility given some of the defending that was on show at Goodison Park.
Jesus to start?
The pictures of Aguero and (what appeared to be) his agent having dinner with Guardiola the other night have done little to quell the rumours of a problem between manager and player. Pep has called Aguero out on a number of occasions this season, primarily because of his poor work-rate off the ball. Initially Aguero responded, with a couple of fantastically industrious performances against West Brom and Barcelona. But in recent weeks, he’s cut a bit of a forlorn figure again, lacking a bit of that spark that makes him such a wonderful player.
Having seen Jesus’ attitude and work-rate first hand, I imagine Pep will be tempted to get him involved as soon as possible. Forwards who are prepared to press relentlessly are an extremely rare commodity and whilst Jesus is undeniably raw, there’s certainly an argument for him to be thrown in from the start. Whether that’s at the expense of Aguero, I’m not sure, but I certainly wouldn’t be too surprised to see him start. Having said all that though, I think we’ll probably see him on the bench. It’d be a huge call to drop Aguero, especially in the light of this dinner with the agent the other night, so I’ll go with that.
Three at the back?
As for the rest of the team, I think we could see a return to three at the back. Spurs have flourished since their switch to a back three/five. A great deal of their success has been based on the defensive foundation provided by the five defenders, and whilst Vertonghen is out with a nasty ankle injury I still fully expect to see them line-up in the same manner tomorrow. Both Wimmer and Davies are left-footed and more than capable of playing on the left of a back three.
Given that I think we’ll go for a back three, I think we’ll see Sané at left-wing-back – making his first appearance since the Arsenal game, and Raheem on the other side. In midfield, I think Pep will go for the Fernando-Yaya partnership that worked so well against Arsenal at home. It’s not without its flaws of course, but what other options do we have?
Bearing all that in mind, here’s the team I think Pep will go with: