Following the clash between Chelsea and Manchester United on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, the schedule has thrown up another fascinating fixture between top six sides on Saturday as the reigning champions Manchester City take on the Champions League runners-up and perennial challengers Tottenham Hotspur.
City kicked off their title defence in fine style in week one, thrashing West Ham 5-0, and there was a familiar look to the score sheet, which included a hat-trick for Raheem Sterling and goals from fellow strikers Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero. But Tottenham also started well, beating big spending promoted side Aston Villa 3-1, though they left it late, having trailed for most of the game, before a goal from Tanguy Ndombele and a brace from Harry Kane secured the points.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino had the better of his first Premier League battle with City boss Pep Guardiola, when Spurs ran out as 2-0 winners in October 2016, but since then, City have dominated their London rivals in domestic competition. Following a 2-2 draw in January 2017, City have won their last four Premier League encounters, by an aggregate score of 9-2.
But perhaps their most famous meeting in recent seasons came in last year’s Champions League quarter-final, when Tottenham pulled off a memorable two-leg victory, thanks to a dramatic 4-3 defeat at the Etihad Stadium, that took them through on the away-goals rule.
That exit from the Champions League; a competition that City are desperate to win, was the one negative in their 2018-19 campaign, and Guardiola will be plotting revenge ahead of what is sure to be another keenly fought encounter in Manchester.
But although Tottenham have not been able to turn their consistent top-four challenges under Pochettino into silverware, they have a solid claim to be the ‘best of the rest’ when it comes to the eighteen Premier League sides chasing City and Liverpool, and as they have shown on numerous occasions, they have the determination and quality to match the top two in one-off games.
And Tottenham fans making the trip to Manchester will be heading north with good reason to be optimistic. This season’s Spurs squad looks like the strongest that Pochettino has yet assembled, and Christian Eriksen, fresh from a summer without international commitments, looked particularly sharp and dangerous in their opener against Villa, as did Harry Kane.
City may also miss German star Leroy Sane. The winger faces a lengthy absence as he undergoes knee surgery, and while the City squad is one of the strongest in the world, Guardiola has often looked to Sane to provide the necessary spark and width when the team are struggling to break down their opponents. As ever, Tottenham will be disciplined, strong defensively and well-prepared and they will go to the Etihad with realistic expectations of getting something out of the game.