Both sides are in relatively rude health form-wise.
I use the word relatively because City’s run of 10 straight wins in the league would typically represent perfect form.
Based on this side’s ambitions, and all that they’ve achieved already, losing against Tottenham in their Champions League quarter-final first leg, was a major setback.
Herein lies their problem. Clearly untested recently in the Premier League, a competition they have won three times in six years, Man City have constantly disappointed on the European stage.
Vindication lies in this competition for their long term legacy. It was the same when Chelsea gate-crashed the top table with cash, and it’s the same with PSG in France.
Manchester City conceded, on average, a goal per game in the group stages. It’s not terminal in isolation. Add to the mix a goal deficit from the first leg, concession of another at the Etihad on Wednesday could be fatal.
Pep Guardiola’s City score freely. The nine they’ve scored in their last six games in all competitions actually represents a slow down. They scored 16 in the previous six.
For Spurs, their most recent form is encouraging.
Their move to their new stadium has produced three wins from three. Unfortunately for Mauricio Pochettino and his side, they play away from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the first time in this mini-run of wins.
Prior to the move from Wembley, they picked up one league point from a possible 16. That run could cost them a place in the top four and a place in next year’s Champions League.
Tottenham’s domestic form has not infected their European performances lately.
A 4-0 aggregate win over a fancied Borussia Dortmund side was backed up with last week’s win over City.
Things were good deal more fraught in the group stages.
An 85th minute equaliser against Barcelona saved them – only qualifying ahead of Inter Milan owing to their scoring an away goal in their head to head record.
On closer inspection, they should have qualified with much greater ease.
The concession of goals within 5 minutes of the final whistle in their first two games cost them five points.
It’s ifs and buts, however they’re a better side than their group stage form showed.
In our first leg preview, City’s struggles in the group stage against Lyon were highlighted. There remains a feeling, that when challenged in a way that they don’t expect, Manchester City are vulnerable.
Tottenham exposed those vulnerabilities last week.
When in full flow, City can reach levels beyond Wednesday’s opponents. Kevin De Bruyne put it this way in an interesting piece in the often maligned Players Tribune:
“When we play our best at City, when we’re fluid it’s like. . .what’s the word for it? You know, when you meditate. Nirvana. It’s really like nirvana for me.”
— Kevin De Bruyne (@DeBruyneKev) April 15, 2019
Whatever about nirvana, there is a hypnotic quality to Man City when they hit their straps.
The problem for De Bruyne and his side is they can and have been put off their stride when it matters most.
In one-offs they can be upset. From what I can see, and it may be an unpopular opinion, Pep Guardiola is prone to panic when things don’t go to plan.
He also makes odd decisions in his selections for big games.
The omission of De Bruyne, the inclusion of Fabian Delph and the persistance in playing Nicolas Otamendi in Europe have all left City in a spot of bother.
They have to score. Spurs can lie in wait as their opponents probe and push forward. If they nick a goal it means City need three and so on.
A Kane-less Tottenham is a less dangerous Tottenham, I have no doubt about that. It has to be acknowledged however that they have flourished without him this year. They have won 100 per cent of their matches without the English talisman.
Son Heung-Min has become arguably just as important and effective. Interestingly, deputies Fernando Llorente and Lucas Moura seem to compliment each other better than either combining with Kane.
Unless the home side are at nirvana-levels I can see Tottenham reaching the Champions League semi-final.
Tottenham 442 pressing shape to deny MCI space in central areas:
– Kane screening passes to CBs + Gundogan
– Dele Alli cutting the Fernandinho lane.
– Son & Eriksen narrow to set pressing traps on City’s FBs.
— Half-space (@SpaceHalf) April 10, 2019
Claudio Bravo will miss out for Manchester City. Questions persist over the fitness of Fernandinho and Oleksander Zinchenko.
Harry Kane of course is out, and may miss the remainder of the season. Dele Alli has a fractured wrist but is expected to play in a cast. Erics Dier and Lamela are also out.
The home side are priced at 3/10 for the match bet and for me that’s to be swerved based on price. I don’t see Tottenham winning, 9/1 is a touch big though.
My bet here is the draw at 9/2
At twice the price a correct score prediction of 1-1 looks useful at 9/1
Either way, I see Tottenham progressing to the semis at 9/4