Champions League Preview: How Can Tottenham beat City?

For English fans, this must be the game of the round. An exciting Tottenham side at their breathtaking new stadium going against the seemingly impassible Manchester City.

London v Manchester. The real thing to look at building up to this highly anticipated fixture is: if Tottenham can possibly beat the quadruple-chasing Manchester City juggernaut, how on earth are they going to do it?

He’s Magic You Know, Mauricio Pochettino

At home against Borussia Dortmund, Spurs went for an expansive 3-4-1-2, with Juan Foyth, Davinson Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld as the three centre-halves. Aurier on the right and the perhaps unorthodox decision to field Jan Vertonghen as a left wing-back ultimately played in their favour, the Belgian scoring a goal as well as creating multiple opportunities for teammates.

With Winks and Sissoko combatting Delaney and Dahoud effectively, Christian Eriksen sat in behind the Spurs strikers, occupying the usually imperious Axel Witsel. Lucas and Son up top combined pace and dynamism. 3-0.

The same could be said away from home, with the exception of Christian Eriksen’s role being limited to a midfield three alongside Winks and Sissoko. Kane for Lucas Moura and Ben Davies for Juan Foyth were the only real changes. I think what has been key for Spurs in the Champions League has been the consistency of their starting lineups. Whenever possible, Pochettino will try and keep a core group of players together, and in the case of Borussia Dortmund this has worked twice. 0-1 at the Westfalenstadion.

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DEEP END: Juan Foyth and Harry Winks have been impressive in some big games this season.

It’s hard to say, even up to kickoff, if we’ll see the same expansive Spurs we saw at Wembley against Dortmund. The surgical precision of City counterattacks could quite easily embarrass Tottenham on their Champions League debut at their new ground. Will Winks and Sissoko provide the same effect on Bernardo Silva/David Silva/Gundogan/De Bruyne as they did Delaney and Dahoud? City have a different style to Dortmund so it wouldn’t surprise me if Poch changes his system tonight.

So… How Can They Do It?

Stopping City just seems impossible. When you think you have them, they’ll hit seven past Schalke or six past Chelsea. If Pochettino wants to look at the most recent side to overcome the power of possession-hungry Guardiola, he’d have to look at Newcastle United at the end of January. I’d start with the 23% possession Mauricio, ridiculous luck and the incredible Martin Dubravka. 

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OUCH: Poor, poor Schalke

Looking at it, there’s two methods of beating Manchester City. Number one is the most likely, especially at home: Press them and press them hard. It’s the only reason Liverpool scare the life out of City. Jürgen Klopp’s relentless gegenpress forces usually calm players into a frenzy, slicing stray passes into the onrushing attack. If this can work for Tottenham, the fans need two things to happen: Mauricio Pochettino needs to get his press right and the players have to execute it perfectly. If this brash approach is broken in the slightest, we could see City three up before the end of the first half. If the players don’t fully understand what they’re doing, we’ll be looking towards a night of embarrassment (something, as an Arsenal fan, I wouldn’t mind).

“We are going to be aggressive and try to play and beat them”

Mauricio Pochettino

The second option comes in the form of what they call ‘a shithousery’. The Newcastle approach. Ten men behind the ball and break. This will be more likely if Spurs can somehow take a lead into the second leg. It’ll require immense concentration and some luck, however, with the flexible three-turn five at the back that Pochettino has favoured, there’s all the chance that if Spurs get a lead, they can keep it.

To be honest, I don’t really like City (if you read this you’ll understand), but then again, I hate Spurs. It’s a toss up of what’s wrong with football and the enemy. I can’t wait…

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