Manchester City welcome Tottenham Hotspur to the Etihad this weekend in a game that could have serious ramifications for the Premier League title race.
Pep Guardiola’s side have won 16 of their 17 league games so far this season and, following their victory at Old Trafford in the Manchester derby last Sunday, it’s already starting to think of a way that they can be stopped.
Tottenham, however, have something of a point to prove. Six points from their last two games aside, Mauricio Pochettino’s men have looked pretty patchy this year and defeat on Saturday would see them fall a massive (and almost certainly insurmountable) 21 points behind the league leaders.
That said, Spurs have a good recent record against their next opponents. Since losing 1-0 to Sergio Aguero’s winner at the Etihad in May 2015, Tottenham have won three of the last four meetings between the two, the most recent of those ending in a 2-2 draw in January.
This weekend’s match promises to be a good one, but how do the two starting lineups compare when put side by side?
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham). Manchester City’s new keeper Ederson Moraes has made a confident start to life at the Etihad (though predecessors Joe Hart and Claudio Bravo didn’t exactly give him a tough act to follow), but Lloris is now, and has been since his arrival, one of the best goalkeepers in the country.
Kyle Walker (Manchester City). The subject of a somewhat acrimonious £50m transfer between these two clubs in the summer, Walker has gone some way to breathing new life into a position that had become stale with too many declining older players. His adeptness to playing either at right-back or wing-back ahead of a central defensive trop make him a vital commodity.
Vincent Kompany (Manchester City). When fit, Kompany is one of the best defenders in the Premier League, offering a level of influence and assuredness on the ball that few can match. That said, keeping him at 100% has been a problem for some time.
Toby Alerweireld (Tottenham). How Tottenham have missed the Belgian international. Alderweireld has not featured since coming off against Real Madrid six weeks ago, and Spurs’ defence has looked much shakier since. He could be out for a while longer yet, giving Pochettino an even bigger headache.
Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham). Vertonghen (at left-back in this lineup because none of the alternatives are remarkably strong) looks a shadow of himself without Alderweiredl next to him. The two seem to be very much a double-act and to lose one is the same as losing both, in a way. Still, Vertonghen’s ability puts him head and shoulders above most other defenders in the league.
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City). Once a prime contender too be thrown on the scrapheap of the Guardiola revolution (or Arsenal, as it was reported), Sterling has instead embraced the challenge and emerged as one of the most improved players of the season. His propensity for scoring vital late goals is making the headlines recently, but his overall play and work rate is to be commended.
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City). A strong contender for player of the season already, De Bruyne has largely been phenomenal during Man City’s record-breaking run. It’s hard to imagine a more rounded attacking player in England right now such is De Bruyne’s range of passing, ball-retention and shooting. With eight assists, he’s on his way to beating last season’s tally of 18.
David Silva (Manchester City). One of the most skillful players in England, Silva has, at times, been underrated down through the years but he is getting the plaudits that his performances deserve. There’s a certain ‘Xavi and Iniesta’ quality with which Silva and De Bruyne operate, essentially complementing each other in their free roles in the centre.
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham). Seemed to exhaust himself destroying Ireland at the Aviva last month, because he hasn’t been the same since. Nonetheless, Eriksen is one of the classiest, most creative players in the league and his eye for an assist is up there with the best in Europe.
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City). Guardiola may be juggling both Aguero and Gabriel Jesus for the central striker spot (he has already stated that playing them together doesn’t work) and while Jesus has shown strong signs of promise, it’s hard to look beyond Aguero right now as the better of the two. Ten league goals in twelve games is a strong return for the prolific Argentine striker.
Harry Kane (Tottenham). Further solidifies his place as one of the best strikers in the world with each passing season, Kane’s 12 goals in 16 Premier League games are second right now only to Mohamed Salah’s 13. The England international continues to go from strength to strength and is easily Tottenham’s most important player.
n this week’s episode of the Mixer Irish Football Podcast, we chat to Waterford head coach ahead of his side’s return to the Premier Division, as well as discussing the latest League of Ireland transfer news.