We preview the Premier League battle between Tottenham and Manchester City, including our supercomputer’s pre-match prediction for this clash at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Quick Hits

  • Manchester City to complete first league double over Spurs since 2018-19.
  • City’s high press to cause Spurs all sorts of problems.
  • Harry Kane with a chance to hit 200th Premier League goals faster than Alan Shearer.

Match Preview

By the time Manchester City kick off in north London this Sunday, they could once again find themselves eight points behind in the league table to leaders Arsenal. While they’ll be silently praying for some Sean Dyche wizardry to help cut that deficit, deep down City know they’ll have to be close to perfect from here on out to overhaul Arsenal’s lead.

A shame then that they visit the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to meet Spurs this weekend, a ground to which Pep Guardiola has lost all four of his visits in all competitions. In fact, he’s managed more away matches here without winning than at any other ground in his managerial career.

It’s become a bit of a running joke just how much Spurs are City’s bogey team, but recent league history really doesn’t do the Citizens any favours. They have lost their last three away league games against Tottenham by an aggregate score of 5-0. Only twice in the Premier League have they lost four in a row without scoring away against an opponent – against Chelsea between 2006 and 2009, and Sunderland between 2010 and 2013.

It’s hard to imagine Tottenham being added to that list, but there is something about the way Antonio Conte’s side set up that is tailor-made to frustrate City. Guardiola’s 1.54 points per game average against Tottenham in the Premier League is far lower than his 2.34 average overall.

Tottenham come into this game off the back of two away wins – a 1-0 win over Fulham last time out in the league, before a morale-boosting 3-0 win in the FA Cup against Preston, notable for a Heung-Min Son brace.

But at home, Hugo Lloris and his back line have been sloppy defensively and have conceded at least twice in each of their last five Premier League home matches. And as we’ll come onto, they’ve also tellingly conceded the first goal in each of those five games, last doing so in six straight home league games between April-September 2003. Spurs’ last home clean sheet came before the World Cup in a 2-0 win over Everton in October, over 100 days ago.

Rather neatly, Conte and Guardiola’s overall head-to-head record in the Premier League is identical. They’ve met each other six times, winning three games apiece, and both scoring 10 goals.

That record won’t change this weekend with reports emerging that Conte is set to spend a period of time away from football to recover from gallbladder surgery. Cristian Stellini looks set to take charge in his absence.

Last Meeting

Manchester City 4-2 Tottenham: 19 January 2023 (Premier League)

Manchester City 4-2 Tottenham xG

These sides last met just two weeks ago in the reverse fixture at the Etihad Stadium. Coming into the fixture off the back of a Manchester derby defeat to their bitter red rivals, City’s temporary wobble looked like it was heading into a full tailspin at half-time, with late first-half goals from Dejan Kulusevski and Emerson Royal putting the visitors 2-0 up. Incredulously, Guardiola’s side were booed off at the break.

But just when they needed it most, his side recovered to produce a stunning second-half performance, scoring twice in two minutes early after the break via Julian Alvarez and Erling Haaland.

The excellent Riyad Mahrez added two more to complete a vital comeback by City who had to dig deep to turn this game around.

It was a second-half capitulation from Spurs, who lost a Premier League match in which they led by 2+ goals at half-time for the first time since April 2009 (5-2 vs. Man Utd), ending a run of 71 such games without defeat (W68 D3).

Tactical Themes

Turnover Central

A characteristic that has long been a feature of Guardiola sides is their commitment to a high and aggressive press. While the frequency of that press has dropped slightly from league-leading figures over the past few seasons to merely top-five numbers, City still employ the highest press of any team in the league. 43.8% of their pressures come in the attacking third of the pitch, over 12% more than Arsenal’s 31.2% which is the second-highest rate in the league.

Premier League pressures by thirds

With Erling Haaland leading that charge, often supported by Kevin De Bruyne from midfield, Man City have forced more high turnovers than any other Premier League side this season (207), scoring five goals from these opportunities (a joint-high total alongside Spurs and Brentford).

This is of particular note because Tottenham have conceded the most high turnovers this term (210), with only Nottingham Forest (seven) conceding more goals in this fashion than Spurs (five).

Tottenham High Turnovers Against

How Spurs’ three centre-backs – probably Ben Davies, Cristian Romero and Eric Dier – react under this pressure will be key to monitor.

Attack vs. Defence

In Manchester City’s last three fixtures against Spurs, they’ve had 58%, 71% and 66% of the ball respectively. They’ve outshot Tottenham by an aggregate of 55-28 in those matches.

And yet in two of those three games, Tottenham ran out winners, with Conte’s side doing the double over City last season.

Expect more of the same at the weekend, with City monopolising possession and Spurs looking to cause them problems in transition. Only Manchester United (51) have made more direct attacks than Spurs’ 38 in the league, showing their penchant for breaking fast.

The outcome of this game will depend on how well City are able to stop those Tottenham counter attacks from forming, and how well Spurs are able to stop City from converting heavy possession and territorial dominance into good shooting opportunities.

Second-Half Spurs

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – meet first-45 Spurs and second-45 Spurs.

One of the biggest defining features of Tottenham’s season so far has been the disparity between their first-half and second-half performances.

If all Premier League games had ended after the first 45 minutes, Spurs would be seventh in the league, with 28 “points” from 21 games.

Conversely, taking just the second halves of all matches into account catapults Spurs to second in the league with 40 points, one point behind theoretical leaders City.

That 12-point differential between halves is the most in the league by any side.

Tottenham points difference by half

This problem runs deeper than just results though. Spurs have conceded 157 first-half shots in the season so far, which is more than any other side in the division.

And going forward, just 32% of their 40 league goals have come in the first half, which is the lowest proportion of any side. Their 0.56 xG average per first half isn’t great either, good enough for just 13th-best in the league.

As the below table shows, both of those metrics wildly improve in the second half of matches.

Spurs first half vs Second half

Now, a part of that will be down to game state. With Spurs performing poorly in first halves, they’ve been forced to take the initiative and chase games.

But the point still stands that they’ve tended to start sluggishly, with Conte’s conservatism meaning Spurs feel their way into games rather than proactively looking to dominate them.

Players to Watch

Tottenham: Harry Kane

Harry Kane will be Tottenham’s main man once again, and he’s on the cusp of a big milestone. Kane has scored 199 Premier League goals in 303 games, and a goal here would see him become the third player to reach 200 strikes after Alan Shearer (260) and Wayne Rooney (208). He has two games to reach the double-century in fewer games than the other two (Shearer 306, Rooney 462). The striker is Spurs’ do-it-all man up front, not only taking more non-penalty shots per game than any other team-mate (3.6) but also creating 1.6 chances per game from open play, a figure only Kulusevski can better. Add those two metrics together and Kane is in the 98th percentile for attacking contribution across the league.

Top-flight English goalscorers 200+ goals

Manchester City: Riyad Mahrez

Riyad Mahrez was the catalyst behind Manchester City’s turnaround last month, with the Algerian having a hand in three of the Citizens’ goals in their 4-2 win. In fact, Mahrez has been involved in more EPL goals against Tottenham than he has any other opponent (11 – seven goals, four assists),

He gave Ivan Perisic and then Ryan Sessegnon a torrid time and once again he’ll be a big threat out wide.

We’ll have to wait for the team news to confirm the fitness of Phil Foden, but Mahrez has started eight of City’s last nine games in all competitions and looks to be a nailed starter, for now any way.

Tottenham vs Manchester City Prediction:

Tottenham vs Manchester City prediction

Opta’s supercomputer favours the away side in this one, giving Guardiola’s men a better than 50% chance at taking all three points. If that sounds bullish, that’s because it is, with only Liverpool (53% away to Wolves) being given a higher away win rate. Yes, that’s even higher than the 46.3% it’s giving Arsenal to beat Everton at Goodison Park. The supercomputer seems to be scared of a burly, grizzled Sean Dyche, and who are we to blame it?

You’ve seen how the Opta supercomputer thinks the match will play out this weekend, but what do you think will happen? Let us know…

Despite Arsenal’s lead and one-game advantage, the supercomputer still predicts a very tight title race. It gives Arsenal the slight edge (52.6%) with City close behind (46.6%).

Spurs are currently fifth and, with room to breathe over Brighton, they will still hold Champions League ambitions. The supercomputer gives them a solid 20.9% chance of qualifying for that, although that is lower than the likes of Newcastle (53.7%) and Liverpool (27.9%).

Premier League Season Predictions 2022-23 as of 1 Feb 2023

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