Engaging key players and overcoming the challenges of the other team’s signature tactics will determine the outcome and provide significant momentum for the victor as Chelsea maintains their nearly perfect run at the top.
Here are three things to watch as the team that stopped Chelsea’s immaculate winning streak gets set to visit the Citizens:
1 - Leadership Responsibilities
The make-up of City’s squad has been called into question as Pep Guardiola’s side has struggled to congeal. Performances have been inconsistent all around the field as major connections between players appear to be somewhat lacking.
Isolation of players in possession at any position on the pitch has to be remedied by strong decision making. Defenders have struggled when put in a high press so, this weekend, there will need to be great support in City’s half as Tottenham can be expected to play with quite a bit of vigor.
A number of individuals have shown a box-to-box hunger in performances that seem to be a brief realization of the Sky Blue Guardiola dream, against Barcelona and Arsenal, for instance. In too many games, though, there has been a lack of comprehensive pressing when opponents are in possession and a lack of productivity in the build-up when City grabs the ball.
When opponents have applied pressure in the early stages of City’s build-up, it has caused the Blues to take on a static work-rate. This weekend, it will be up to Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling and others to lead by example and press back in order to impose their ideal manner of playing.
Communication and shared understanding appear to be a major issue with the City back line and goalkeeper. They’ve had positive performances but there have been far too many times this season when players have been unaware of each other, failing to form a stable unit in front of Claudio Bravo. Without Vincent Kompany, someone has to be more assertive in creating direction for the often vulnerable City rear guard.
2 - Defensive Stability
Unfortunately, it has to be highlighted. Tottenham has incredible capabilities. Even though City’s defense has taken a lot of heat and garnered more than enough negative attention for most of the season, this game presents a set of challenges that will surely test the Blues’ back five’s ability to play with more than ninety minutes of intense focus.
Vincent Kompany’s return is less than likely in such a heated competition, so the assortment of defenders that have been utilized this season will be called upon once again to overcome their shortcomings in order to hold off the advances of Tottenham’s up-tempo advances.
Even if they can anticipate the Spurs’ mode of attack, City’s defenders will have to muster the energy to keep Pochettino’s strikers at bay. Tottenham can be expected to press City quite aggressively, which means that possession in front of their own goal will need to be managed carefully.
Although there are many factors that affect a defender's role in a game, City needs their back five to contain the “killers” of Tottenham.
3 - Individual Performances
Lest it be forgotten, City has a new striker. Gabriel Jesus could make a major difference to this team. It’s not hard to imagine the Brazilian as a spark-plug and a sure-fire goal-scorer. His ability to help the Sky Blues develop Guardiola’s ideals with fearless, upbeat speed is undeniable.
Kevin De Bruyne has seemed relatively unfazed by a string of bad luck in front of the goal this season. His persistence in turning possession, taking defenders one-on-one, and developing the chances makes him a pivotal player in the upcoming Tottenham challenge and City’s future.
Raheem Sterling has looked stronger and stronger this season. As he and De Bruyne continue to work on their style together and with the other resources around them, they will each inevitably become more dangerous as individuals.
As one of these magicians begins to get touches that open up the goal, they will draw defenders and make space for their compadres.
Once these guys start moving quickly together and scoring consistently, opponents will be more easily spooked than they have been when City’s possession is easily redirected into lateral passes and frustrated shots.
In the midfield, individuals will have to stay sharp in order to press Tottenham and resist Spurs' pressure. Because of the inevitable rotation that occurs as City moves forward, the same players that are capable of creating offensive momentum will be responsible with chasing down Tottenham’s energetic offense.
Whether City is able to activate their scoring potential or not, the team's defenders will have to muster excellent individual performances. This necessarily means more mature communication between the individuals and a strong, cohesive performance.
Finally, whoever plays goalkeeper will need to be ready to receive some “naughty” shots on goal. Tottenham has a vicious line of advanced midfielders and strikers that will require an exemplary performance from the man between the sticks.