In a game that could have decided the Premier League title if played late in the season, league leaders Manchester City welcome fellow contenders Tottenham Hotspur to Etihad this weekend. The Citizens started their campaign with a comfortable victory over West Ham United and at home, will be favourites to beat Mauricio Pochettino’s men in this game.
Spurs left it late against Aston Villa, but registered all three points from their opening fixture and will believe that they can take something from this game. But City have beaten Spurs in their last four meetings in this competition and could prove hard to beat. Both teams have star-studded squads with match-winners who can make things happen out of nothing.
This will lead to several matchups all across the pitch and here are three such key battles that can decide the outcome of this game.
Kyle Walker-Peters vs Raheem Sterling
With Kieran Trippier now playing in Spain and Serge Aurier not winning the manager’s confidence, Spurs are set to stick with young Walker-Peters for this crunch clash. But the 22-year-old will be under the spotlight this weekend as he will be handed the responsibility of keeping the in-form Raheem Sterling quiet in this game.
The English winger bagged a hat-trick on Saturday and looks sharper and more clinical than ever. His pace and ability to create chances will be dangerous for the visitors and Walker-Peters needs to keep him in check to reduce the pressure on his backline and keep Spurs in the game. If Sterling is allowed space and time, this could end up being a long 90 minutes for the London club.
Harry Winks vs Kevin de Bruyne
Arguably the most awaited battle of this game will be fought in the middle of the park. Harry Winks had a good outing against Villa but City’s midfield is a different kettle of fish. While Rodri and David Silva will look to keep the ball rolling, Belgian playmaker Kevin de Bruyne could be the danger man for Spurs this weekend. The former Chelsea man was all over the West Ham midfield in the last game and will certainly look to run the game from the deeper areas this weekend as well.
But in this game, he will be up against Winks, who has previously put in match-winning performances in crunch games for the Whites. Both players have defined roles and will be up against each other constantly with De Bruyne looking to drag Winks and Ndombele out of their positions. The Spurs midfield should make sure that De Bruyne has very little time and space to work his magic. This is a battle that may not have a direct impact on the scoreline but winning this battle will be crucial for both teams.
Harry Kane vs John Stones
Another all-English battle that will be great to watch. Harry Kane scored two goals in four minutes towards the end of the game against Villa and will surely test Ederson on goal, every chance he gets. Kane cannot be given any space in and around the penalty box and Stones will have the responsibility to keep him at bay.
Aymeric Laporte has proven hard to beat recently so Kane might want to target Stones, who has his frailties. Both players know each other well and will try their best to frustrate the other and winning this battle could go a long way in deciding the result of this game.