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Pep Guardiola’s side are in fantastic form and Tottenham’s leaky defense will struggle to contain their free-flowing attack.
Back Manchester City to score over 2.5 goals.
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By the time Manchester City kick off against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, their lead at the top of the Premier League table may have shrunk to six points. Liverpool have a golden chance to close the gap by beating Norwich City earlier in the day. Provided they do that, City will be under a degree of pressure in their meeting with Spurs. The Reds have a game in hand on the champions as things stand, and there is still one head-to-head contest between them to come.
If there is going to be a title race, the gap has to narrow soon. Liverpool are running out of time to peg City back, so another victory for Pep Guardiola’s side this weekend would leave them in a commanding position. Recent form suggests they will get it. City have won 14 of their last 15 top-flight encounters. After thrashing Norwich City 4-0 last weekend, they demolished Sporting CP 5-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday.
City are a complete team. They have kept three clean sheets in a row in all competitions. Opponents struggle to land shots on target against them, never mind find the net. The Premier League leaders are also lethal in attack. They have won 5-0 three times this season. There have also been two 6-3s, a 5-1, a 6-1, four 4-1s, two 4-0s and a 7-0. The absence of a traditional center-forward has not harmed them one bit.
The Premier League used to pride itself on the perception that anyone could beat anyone on any given day. City are testing that maxim. They are closing in on a fourth title in five years and could get close to 100 points again this term. The combination of the club’s riches and Guardiola’s genius has, unsurprisingly, proved a recipe for sustained success.
It is easy to forget now but Tottenham avoided defeat in each of Antonio Conte’s first nine league games in charge. Having taken over with Spurs languishing in ninth place, the Italian quickly lifted them up to cusp of the top four. Champions League qualification was suddenly a realistic objective again, as Conte reaffirmed his ability to make an instant impression on a new team.
The mood has soured in recent weeks, though. Tottenham have lost three matches in a row in the Premier League. If a 2-0 defeat by Chelsea was understandable (if not excusable), sympathy has been in short supply after back-to-back home losses to Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Tottenham have as many as three games in hand on the teams above them and are still in the top-four race, but pessimism has replaced optimism in the white-and-navy half of north London.
Conte’s recent comments have not helped. The Italian has expressed his frustration at the club’s business in the January transfer window, suggesting the squad is weaker now than it was in December.
Conte is a brilliant coach but he is also a difficult character. This is not the first time he has implicitly criticized his superiors at a club. That is simply part of the package when you choose him to be your manager, but the tension is not exactly helping the situation at Spurs right now.
When a team is struggling for form, the last thing they want is a trip to the Etihad. Manchester City have collected 31 points from a possible 36 on home turf this term. They have only been beaten once, a 2-0 loss to Crystal Palace – and that reverse kick-started a 12-match winning run in which they took control of the title race. City have scored 34 goals at home and conceded just six. No team in the division can better either record.
Thirty-four goals in 12 matches works out as an average of 2.8 per game. That is one reason why backing the hosts to find the net at least three times on Saturday looks like an astute selection.
The other is Tottenham’s defensive difficulties. Eric Dier could be passed fit to start this weekend, but while his return to the backline will be welcome he will not solve all of Spurs’ problems alone. Indeed, the north Londoners have shipped nine goals in their last four Premier League outings. Wolves could easily have scored more than twice against them last weekend.
To pick up a positive result at the Etihad, defensive sloppiness must be eradicated. Unfortunately for Tottenham, that is unlikely to happen in time for the late kick-off on Saturday.
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|Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur Information
|Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur
|Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
|Saturday, 19 February 2022, 12.30 PM EST
|How to watch
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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