Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur
When Manchester City returned from North London in mid-November following defeat to then Premier League leaders Spurs, Pep Guardiola’s side found themselves down in 11th place.
Yes, they had a game in hand on most of the teams above them as a result of their late start to the season, but there was an unconvincing look about whether or not they were ready to mount a title challenge – particularly in the increased absence of Sergio Aguero.
Fast forward two and a half months and, since then, they have played 21 games in all competitions and not lost once.
Having established themselves as firm title favourites with a rout at the home of reigning champions Liverpool last Sunday, they now take on Spurs again seemingly perfectly placed to avenge that defeat.
As well as the form book, the congested schedule appears to have fallen in City’s favour this weekend too.
They were able to rest a number of key players in midweek as they won 3-1 at Swansea in the fifth round of the FA Cup, their 15th successive victory in all competitions.
The triumph also meant City set a new record for successive domestic wins by an English top-flight club, surpassing the previous best of 14 achieved by the Preston team of 1891-92 and the 1987-88 Arsenal side.
Just a few hours later, Spurs were not in a position to rest players and even had to bring the England captain Harry Kane off the bench.
It still wasn’t enough as, while Kane scored, Spurs were beaten in a nine-goal thriller at Everton which went to extra-time – another factor in City’s favour less than 72 hours before the two sides renew hostilities in the league.
Of course, as long as Spurs have Kane they have a chance. He has now scored 209 goals in 318 appearances in all competitions for the club, making him the second highest scorer in the club’s history behind only the great Jimmy Greaves (266 goals in 379 apps).
If this game is half as exciting as that FA Cup tie, we can expect Premier League highlights galore.
Realistically, though, don’t expect a repeat. In what was the 981st match of his managerial career, that was the first time a Jose Mourinho side had both scored and conceded at least four goals in a single game.
I expect this to be a much tighter affair as Mourinho allows the home side to have plenty of possession.
Given the backdrop, if he can pull off a league double against old foe Pep Guardiola, it will be one of his finest achievements yet.
Historically, this rivalry could barely be closer.
City have won 63 of their meetings and Spurs 63 (a further 36 matches have been drawn) which shows you how well matched they have been over the years with both clubs enjoying their own periods of glory.
Earlier this season, it was Vintage Mourinho as Spurs ran out 2-0 winners in a game City dominated for long spells, yet it didn’t matter because of a Mourinho managerial masterclass.
Last season Spurs got the better of City too.
In London, İlkay Gundogan’s saw a 40th minute penalty saved by Hugo Lloris before Oleksandr Zinchenko was dismissed for a second yellow card on the hour – becoming the second Ukrainian player to be sent off in the English top flight.
It proved a key turning point as Steven Bergwijn became the youngest debutant to score on their debut for Spurs (since Eric Dier six years earlier) before Son Heung-Min duly added a second and Spurs ran out 2-0 winners.
The earlier fixture was one which City dominated but only managed to get a point as Spurs earned a 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium in which Raheem Sterling and Aguero goals were cancelled out by Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
The game was also notable for an early Premier League look at VAR which ruled out a last minute City winner.
City have won 12 of the last 20 meetings with Spurs in the Premier League mind.
Arguably the best game I have reported on in recent years involved these clubs 22 months ago – an epic encounter with which words struggled to do justice, so barely credible were the events which unfolded.
|Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur||Total Goals 2-3 @ 2.13|
|February 14, 01:30 (GMT+8)|
The SBOTOP Premier League betting odds favour City but even I am amazed by how much, especially given Mourinho has thwarted Guardiola on many occasions in the past.
While City are priced 1X2 @ 1.33 and Asian Handicap -1.75 @ 2.28, Spurs are backed 1X2 at a staggering @ 8.00 and Asian Handicap +1.25 @ 2.23.
For a re-run of last season’s 2-2 draw, correct score will pay out @ 23.00. For City to exactly avenge November’s 2-0 loss, you can receive odds of @ 6.80.
It’s rare you will see a goalless draw between these two. In fact, the last time was a goalless draw at White Hart Lane in the opening day of the 2010-11 season (the only survivor in either squad from that day, incidentally, is Gareth Bale).
|A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR () BETS ARE WORTH:|
|= €20 (Highly confident)||= €10 (CONFIDENT)||= €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)|
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.
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