In a quick turnaround time between fixtures, Manchester City play hosts to Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League on Thursday evening.
The Cityzens suffered a 2-1 loss to cross-town rivals Manchester United last time out, while Spurs were comprehensively beaten 2-0 in the North London derby by Arsenal at their own turf. With both clubs bidding to bounce back immediately to winning ways in the Premier League, let us take a look at the key battles that could decide the fate of this mouthwatering encounter at the Etihad Stadium.
#Erling Haaland vs Spurs’ centre-backs
Erling Haaland was largely anonymous throughout the Manchester derby at Old Trafford, failing to trouble the Manchester United defenders in any manner. Nonetheless, he is a scary prospect for any Premier League defence and the striker will be itching to get back to scoring ways after putting in a subdued performance last weekend.
For a City side not really firing all cylinders of late, Haaland will once again be the main threat for Pep Guardiola’s side against Tottenham, whose defence have been leaky since the resumption of the Premier League.
Eric Dier, Cristian Romero and Ben Davies are expected to form Spurs’ three-man backline and they will have to be switched on from minute one until the last to keep a desperate Haaland at bay.
#Kevin de Bruyne vs Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg
Kevin de Bruyne had a quiet game against Man United, with Erik ten Hag successfully using Fred to man-mark out the City midfielder. Even though he delivered the assist for Jack Grealish’s goal, De Bruyne’s passing wasn’t as crisp and incisive as it usually is.
The Belgian has three goals and 10 assists in the Premier League this season, and will be one of many attacking weapons for Conte’s Spurs to worry about here. Having seen Fred do a job on De Bruyne in the Manchester derby, Conte could take a leaf out of Ten Hag’s tactics book and use Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to stop the City star from influencing the game.
Hojbjerg has performed well for Spurs this season, with his energy, tenacity and tackling skills making him one of the first names on Conte’s team sheet. If the Dane can stop De Bruyne from finding Haaland in the box, then Spurs could go a long way in getting a positive result at the Etihad Stadium.
#Harry Kane vs Man City centre-backs
Harry Kane has undoubtedly been Tottenham’s best player this season, and despite Son Heung-min’s form and productivity mightily dipping, he has continued scoring goals at a consistent rate. While scoring goals is his forte, Kane often likes to drop deep in midfield and find runners like Son and Kulusevski with his excellent passing range and vision.
Wary of the Spurs talisman’s nature to drop into midfield and stitch play, Pep Guardiola may instruct one of his centre-backs to keep a close eye on Kane. If Aymeric Laporte and Manuel Akanji start in central defence, they need to be well-prepared to nullify Kane’s threat—restricting the supply that the likes of Son and Kulusevski thrive from during quick transition.
City are strong in midfield and Spurs do like to use the width of the pitch as much as possible—meaning that Kane could be a key component for the visitors here.