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Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur: Kulusevski vs Rodri & Other Key Battles

Seeking to bounce back from three consecutive Premier League defeats, Tottenham travel to the Etihad Stadium to face champions Manchester City on Sunday.

Spurs let a one-goal lead slip at home to Aston Villa last weekend, eventually losing 2-1. This made it three defeats in a row for Ange Postecoglou’s boys, who have now dropped to fifth in the Premier League standings.

Man City, on the other hand, were held to a 1-1 draw by Liverpool at home in the Premier League. They staged a memorable comeback from 2-0 down to win 3-2 against RB Leipzig in the Champions League, thus, qualifying into the knockout rounds as group winners.

With both teams eyeing to bounce back to winning ways in the Premier League, here are the key battles that could define the outcome of this game.

#Erling Haaland vs Tottenham centre-backs

With the chips down and Man City losing 2-0 to RB Leipzig in the Champions League in midweek, Erling Haaland started the comeback with an early goal at half time. With this goal, he became the fastest and youngest player to reach 40 Champions League goals. Also, the strike against Leipzig was the Norwegian’s 19th goal for City in all competitions this season.

Unsurprisingly, Haaland will be City’s biggest threat going forward. The centre-forward’s burst of speed, physicality and strength make him difficult to contain. Monitoring the Norway international’s movements in attacks is difficult since he knows how to turn chances into goals in the blink of an eye.

As a result, Tottenham centre-backs will have their work cut out. After makeshift centre-back pairing Emerson and Ben Davies struggled to contain Ollie Watkins and co. last weekend, Ange Postecoglou could restore Eric Dier to the first XI on Sunday. Being the senior most central defender, Dier must marshal the troops from the back and alongside Davies try to keep Haaland at bay.

#Dejan Kulusevski vs Rodri

Dejan Kulusevski was arguably Tottenham’s best player in the 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa. The Swedish winger’s performances this season have gone under the radar due to the impressive displays of James Maddison, Son Heung-min and Micky van den Ven.

Having scored on each of his last two visits to the Etihad Stadium, Kulusevski will be buoyed going into Sunday’s game. He is a creator as well as a goal scorer, and under Postecoglou, the 23-year-old demonstrated against Aston Villa that he can be just as productive on the right as he is in the centre. Monitoring his movements in attack could be a problematic task to take on, as his dribbling with the ball is eye-catching. Hence, Rodri will have a big test in front of him.

Rodri is indispensable to Pep Guardiola’s side. One of the best holding midfielders in the world, the Spaniard’s reading of the game and positional awareness will be key in keeping Kulusevski under wraps. If he can stick to his task of dictating the tempo of play, as well as limiting Kulusevski’s influence in the game, Spurs’ creativity will definitely reduce.

#Son Heung-min vs Ruben Dias

Son Heung-min had a hat-trick of goals disallowed in Spurs’ 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa. On another day, he could have had at least one of those under his banner and the result could have been different. Nonetheless, with eight goals and an assist so far this season, the South Korean forward is a dangerous customer in the final third that the Citizens would have to keep an eye on.

Similarly, monitoring Son’s movements in attack is tough as he is quick, intelligent and tricky with the ball. Standing in front of the Spurs skipper will be City’s defensive lynchpin, Ruben Dias. The Portuguese had one of his worst games in a City shirt against Leipzig in midweek as he struggled to cope with Luis Openda’s pace and got easily bullied inside the halfway line for his second goal.

Thus, Dias will need to be at the top of his game to stop Son in this encounter.

Rohan Sengupta

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