Manchester City have been the best team in the Premier League this season, period. Experts around the world have said that and managers of other English clubs have acknowledged the same. Jose Mourinho said it after Manchester United's win in the derby last weekend, so did Jurgen Klopp, before and after Liverpool's win over City in the Champions League.
The fact remains that Pep Guardiola's side have lost a meagre six matches across all competitions this season, an incredible achievement. However, what must be worrying for their coach and fans is that three of those six losses have come in the last 10 days, all to teams that know them well and play in the Premier League.
Their flamboyant style of play has been key to them overwhelming their opponents all season, but opponents have realised now that they can be attacked and exploited. Teams are picking their moment and running at their defence, taking advantage of their indecision and using spaces to score goals.
Their recent losses have brought to the fore questions about City's ability to keep opponents at bay and has given teams a weakness they can target. Guardiola has admitted that his team needs to show mental strength and demonstrate the ability to dig deep and get results in times of adversity. That will be the theme of the contest when they take on Tottenham Hotspur, who could not have faced City at a better time.
Spurs have been the best team in the league since the turn of the year, and have accumulated 29 points in 11 encounters in 2018, winning nine and drawing two. They have been defensively immaculate during this period, conceding only six goals, and while going forward, they have been fluent and clinical. Harry Kane has of course, been key to this run, and has scored 25 goals in the league this season. His return from injury is very important to their chances of finishing high in the table.
The attacking trio of Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-Min have been a joy to watch, with their swift passing, movement, ability to get in behind the defence and eye for goal. Eriksen has been their most important player, controlling the ball and helping them develop their possession game. His tendency to dovetail with the midfield duo of Eric Dier and Moussa Dembele, and constantly move forward in search of attacking opportunities, has made Spurs one of the best attacking units in the league.
Mauricio Pochettino has done a great job of helping his team regain focus at the beginning of 2018, and has emphasised on the importance of doing well in all competitions. The fact that he has encouraged his team to stick to their style even during times of adversity has helped them grow as an outfit and has aided their development greatly. He also has a keen eye for talent and that can be seen with the signing of Davinson Sanchez from Ajax, with the young Colombian having replaced stalwart Toby Alderweireld in the starting eleven seamlessly.
The Argentinean coach has worked very well to empower and develop his players once they are part of his squad and has ensured contract conflicts and personnel issues don't affect the team's performances. With Alderweireld looking for a new contract paying him a much higher wage, it seems that his days at the club are numbered, but his potential departure has already been offset by the great form of Sanchez. The same can be said about Danny Rose, who had mentioned prior to the start of the season that he wanted a new contract with better wages. Fast forward to the present and Rose has only played a total of 13 games this season due to a combination of injuries and Ben Davies' performances, and looks to be on the way out, with Davies having impressed as first-choice left-back.
As a coach, Pochettino has worked to impress upon his team the need to learn from setbacks and use that knowledge to better effect going forward. Their only loss in 2018 has been the second leg defeat to Juventus, a match that ended 2-1, resulting in their elimination from the Champions League. As a team, they have shown tremendous growth and with every passing season, are cementing themselves as a fixture in the top four and as a team to be wary of in Europe.
The reverse fixture at the Etihad stadium saw the Sky Blues thrash Spurs, winning 4-1 in an encounter that cemented their status as the top dog in the league, helping them establish a 14-point advantage over United in second place. That margin has more or less remained the same since, and City have shown that they deserve to win the title.
The Lilywhites, on the other hand, were in a tough spot, falling down to seventh in the table, 21 points behind their conquerors on the night. Since then, however, they have been unbeaten and taken a total of 36 points in 14 matches, propelling themselves back into the top four and a win against City, would help them leapfrog Liverpool and move into third position if they win or draw their game in hand early next week.
This match will see two teams in different situations take the field — one looking to continue their great run of form and upset the Champions-elect while the other would be focused on arresting their slide and get the win that would put them on the precipice of winning the title. It makes for an intriguing encounter that is sure to feature some enthralling attacking football from two of the best managers in the Premier League.
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Updated Date: Apr 14, 2018 16:32:49 IST