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Kevin De Bruyne vs Dele Alli: Rising Stars, Game Changers

Two young players whose respective contributions could determine the outcome of this weekend’s match and the success of their squads this season — and beyond

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Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City - Premier League
Kevin de Bruyne pushes past Dele Alli in a 2015- when both were still seeking to prove their merit in the British top flight.
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Defense will be a major focus for Manchester City when Tottenham Hotspur arrive at the Etihad on Saturday but Kevin De Bruyne will, once again, play an undoubtedly important role. The Belgian has served City well this season (despite a few high-profile missed chances that could have changed the course of more than one fixture). With De Bruyne at the center of City’s plans, they pose an undeniable threat in possession.

However, the deftness of Tottenham’s equally potent Dele Alli brings City’s defense back into focus. The young England international’s talent was highlighted by a recent rumor that he could leave White Hart Lane for Barcelona or Real Madrid but, for the time being, the young man will remain in North London as Spurs keep up their hopes of catching Chelsea for the Premier League title.

Both Dele and De Bruyne are listed simply as midfielders but Mauricio Pochettino’s reflections on the Tottenham star could easily apply to De Bruyne as well:

“He's desperate to get into the box, to get the ball, and score. That's an unbelievable mentality and that's because he's a very special player. He can play as an offensive midfielder but he has the characteristics to play box-to-box. All those characteristics make for a special player.”

De Bruyne’s time under Pep Guardiola has shown why the young man was brought to Manchester. While the new boss supposedly looks for new defenders, strikers, possibly a goalie and a defending midfielder in the upcoming transfer windows, De Bruyne is bound to remain at the center of City’s plans.

If the Sky Blues can claim “bad luck” in their losses this season, Kevin has the most righteous plea. David Silva and Raheem Sterling have provided the Blues with a number of vital chances as the season has progressed, but Kevin’s numerous approaches seem to be the most telling of a sour fate. Regardless, his efforts to push the ball and his teammates into good positions have kept hope alive until the final whistle on multiple occasions.

The dire need for goals has been apparent in De Bruyne’s urgency. His ability to take games against Barcelona and Manchester United “by the scruff of the neck,” and his obvious intelligence in possession, could turn the table against Tottenham this Saturday.

Kevin De Bruyne’s power and creativity can only be derailed by bad luck for so long. A sense of responsibility to his club’s success has been apparent since he was named Bundesliga Player of the Year and the Footballer of the Year in Germany for his perfromances for Wolfsburg in the 2014/15 season.

Tottenham will be looking to continue De Bruyne’s and City’s frustration by once again relying on the red-hot combination of Dele Alli and Harry Kane.

Pochettino’s faith in the “bit of naughtiness” that Alli brings to Tottenham’s attack has emboldened Kane and jettisoned the team to second place in the table behind Chelsea.

Former Tottenham and English national midfielder Danny Murphy has said, “[Dele] needs to maintain his discipline and desire. There is no end to how far he can go with his ability.”

Murphy emphasizes Alli’s co-dependent relationship with other members of the Spurs squad, which Manchester City will have to face down in order to redeem themselves from the loss at Everton.

While Tottenham’s recent run has only been possible through the coordination of multiple players, Alli has continued to make a name for himself as a threat to opponents. He was instrumental, if not indispensable, in halting Chelsea’s winning streak as he scored twice against the Blues of London and became the second fastest Englishman to score 20 Premier League goals.

City have been able to contain dangerous goal scorers on a number of occasions this season — against Barcelona and Arsenal at home, for example. Sky Blue defenders will surely pay due respect to Dele Alli and his fellow Spurs teammates in preparation but they will need to be more stubborn for the whole of the Tottenham match.

Gaël Clichy spoke after the loss to Everton saying that City anticipated the Toffees' approach to the game, but they were undone regardless. The author of that article points out that the Blues have struggled this season when opponents frustrate their ideal approach.

Enter Kevin De Bruyne, whose desire to turn games in City’s favor will be piqued when Tottenham arrive at the Etihad. The 25-year-old has become “Guardiola’s flexible friend” through his highly touted ability to play in multiple areas of the pitch as a “fighter” and “decision maker.”

Although City have been inconsistent this season, their personality — when at its best — puts them in contention for a top spot in the league. Tottenham haven't shown a lack of consistency yet, but the immense challenge of competing for a Premier League trophy halted their charge last season.

Both teams will look to build success around young, talented players like Dele Alli and Kevin De Bruyne. In the end, this season’s results and long term objectives for each club will be dependent on the balance of individual talent with excellent team play.

The stage will be set this Saturday for a crucial show down in which De Bruyne and Alli will seek to tip the scales in their team’s favor.