They’ve dueled 156 times in domestic play over the decades. But over the next week, the first-ever European meeting between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur will unfold under the hot spotlights of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals – with a brand-new stadium heralding a new era on one side and one of the dominant teams in the modern game chasing history on the other.
Since the draw this all-Premier League matchup has been a subject of anticipation and no small amount of pride among devotees of English soccer. City’s early status as clear favorites has been amplified even further in recent weeks, however.
The reigning EPL champions have kept up a fearsome pace in their hunt for an unprecedented quadruple, running neck-and-neck with Liverpool atop the league standings and on the hunt for FA Cup and Champions League glory to add to the Carabao Cup trophy they hoisted in February.
With Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Brighton & Hove Albion, the Cityzens are 21-1-1 across all competitions in 2019 and look eminently capable of winning their second continental title ever, and their first since the 1970 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Spurs, meanwhile, have little choice but to take an aspirational approach to this clash. Though they finally moved into their gorgeous, and long-delayed, $1.3-billion new home this week, they’ll carry the debt incurred on the building for years. On the pitch, their undersized squad have slumped badly of late, losing four of their last six in the EPL. They also face a dogfight just to qualify for next season’s UCL with a top-four finish.
Injuries and Odds
Man City always smelled like the odds-on bookies’ choice here and the events of the past month have only tilted the numbers further in their direction. Do these lines underrate the potential influence of Spurs’ loud new home-field advantage? That’s an intangible for discerning punters to weigh.
Odds are from 04/08/19 on FanDuel NJ Sportsbook. As always, home team is listed first. If you need a refresher, visit how to bet soccer or how to bet Champions League.
|Tottenham +320||Draw +270||Manchester City -120|
|Manchester City -240||Draw +350||Tottenham +700|
|Odds to Advance to Semis|
|Manchester City -600|| |
Leveraged by their stadium financing to the reported tune of $838 million in total debt, Tottenham have been unable to buy reinforcements for manager Mauricio Pochettino in recent transfer windows, leaving them with little depth compared to City’s luxuriously-assembled roster.
Last month, Erik Lamela picked up a hamstring injury, the same fate that had already sidelined Serge Aurier, while Eric Dier and Fernando Llorente have been dealing with hip flexor and concussion issues, respectively. In better news, Harry Kane’s ankle ligament healed ahead of schedule earlier this spring and their other Harry, the Winks variety, just returned from a month out with hip and groin problems.
As for the blue side of Manchester? While Pep Guardiola still has three competitions to juggle, he also has both the quantity and quality of players to platoon with along the way. All things considered, their injury list is short as they enter the most decisive stage of the campaign.
That said, the most prominent concern is a highly influential one: Sergio Aguero limped out of the league win over Fulham with what appears to be a groin or similar soft-tissue knock. A scorer of 27 goals across all competitions this season, the Argentinean marksman is not easily replaced but will surely be focused on being fit enough for some sort of role in the Champions League series.
Fullback is suddenly a concern for Pep Guardiola, with Oleksandr Zinchenko and Kyle Walker over the past week sustaining what are likely hamstring injuries and Fabian Delph also sidelined at present.
Combined Manchester City-Tottenham Starting XI
With cerebral managers in both technical areas and high-level talent all around, these two sides can trot out any number of tactical looks, making even basic lineup predictions something of a fool’s game. Our best guess uses a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 shape not far from their usual norms.
Here’s the combined starting XI for Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur using a 4-3-3:
Manager: Pep Guardiola
Considering the overall investments of their Abu Dhabi ownership, Man City might just be the most expensively-assembled squad in world soccer history, and it shows here. That’s a lot of sky blue. Meanwhile, Spurs are blessed with ample quality along the top lines of their depth chart, but can’t hold a candle to the Cityzens’ deeply-stacked roster of reserves and rotation options.
First off, it’s safe to say that Sergio Aguero saunters right into this XI is he’s fully fit and ready to go. With his status in doubt, I’m placing Harry Kane at the No. 9 spot, given how prolific and influential he’s been for both club and country. His Danish teammate Christian Eriksen also sneaks in, thanks to the elegant playmaking skill set and ice-cold veins that have caught the attention of Real Madrid and other global aristocrats.
After that, the front six takes on a distinctly sky-blue tint. Raheem Sterling is enjoying a breakthrough season and will surely play a significant role in this tie, while Bernardo Silva has become a steady City regular even while handling multiple tactical and positional assignments. At his best, Leroy Sane is pure, unplayable lightning along the flanks, and the fact that he’s been platooned at times this season says more about his team’s strength in depth than his own contributions.
In central midfield, Guardiola is spoiled for choice and any number of potential combinations would be quite daunting to Tottenham. I’m guessing that he fields three of his most trusted soldiers – Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho and David Silva – in hopes of dominating the engine room, though don’t be surprised by a trademark tactical twist like an inverted fullback or a five-man midfield.
Injury questions complicate decisions along the back line. I’m guesstimating that Kyle Walker’s hamstring will recover in time for him to take part, though Spurs’ Kieran Trippier is a close second. Conversely, even as second- or third-choice at City, Ben Mendy’s plenty good enough to win the race on the left corner.
In the middle, Toby Alderweireld is one of the most wanted center backs in world soccer, so he features alongside Aymeric Laporte, though Nicolas Otamendi would have reason to feel hard done by in this scenario. As for goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris is a World Cup winner with a penchant for the spectacular – the problem is that it sometimes includes spectacular (and costly) gaffes, so the multilayered skillset of Ederson wins out for now.
Along the touchlines? Mauricio Pochettino is one of the fastest-rising managerial figures on the planet and a huge key to Tottenham’s ambitious climb towards the European elite. Alas, his track record simply isn’t as long or as trophy-strewn as Pep’s yet, so City’s Spanish schemer is the unavoidable pick here.