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Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City: Champions League quarter-final preview

21st January 2017, Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Lancashire, England; EPL Premiership football Manchester City versus Tottenham Hotspur; Kevin de Bruyne of Manchester City runs at Eric Dier of Tottenham Hotspur (Photo by Alan Martin/Action Plus via Getty Images)

Tottenham face a daunting task in potentially facing Manchester City three times in just 11 days after the result of this morning’s Champions League draw. It is the first time in a decade that four English teams have reached the last eight of the highly prized tournament, highlighting English football’s resurgence to the elite level of European football. While Manchester United and Liverpool have avoided the unwelcome minefield of English opposition, Tottenham and Man City were not so fortunate. Saying this, City will certainly feel more confident having last lost to Tottenham back in October 2016.

Tottenham’s journey to the last eight

Tottenham have reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2011, where they were abruptly defeated by Real Madrid. Their journey this year has been nothing if not ‘spursy’ – they certainly never do it the easy way. Their Champions League campaign started off disastrously. Tottenham jeered for seemingly incorrect advertisements stating the new stadium was the only place to watch Champions League football in north London. This was aggravated by their poor start to the campaign with two defeats and a draw. With three games remaining and a single point on the board, their departure was almost inevitable. Two wins and a draw saw Tottenham scrape through by the skin of their teeth. They finished on equal points and goal difference with Inter Milan, but an away goal at the San Siro saw Tottenham progress in extraordinary circumstances.

The round of 16 saw Tottenham come up against European giants Borussia Dortmund, a team largely feared due to their supreme form in the first half of the German campaign. However, a destructive home performance, followed by a mature away performance led Tottenham to an aggregate win of 4-0. Lessons had clearly been taken from their early exit last season against veterans Juventus.

Man City’s journey to the last eight

The current leaders of the Premier League produced a rather more straight forward journey to the quarter-finals. They were initially placed in a favourable group, where Lyon managed to progress despite drawing five out of their six games. After losing their opening game at home to Lyon, City reacted well, with two notable wins resulting in a 9-0 aggregate score.

City travelled to FC Schalke 04 in a bid to book their place in the last eight, again in a fixture that had City fans feeling somewhat comfortable. The night was perhaps not as smooth as hoped, but a 3-2 win ultimately gave them a comfortable platform to take back to The Etihad. The return fixture represented a different spectacle entirely. City dismantled a desperate Schalke team, sending a staggering seven goals past Ralf Fährmann in goal, and an even bigger message to the rest of Europe.

Match talking points

The two clubs are currently experiencing a very different level of form. City are steamrolling through opponents, unbeaten since a 2-1 loss to Newcastle United in January. Tottenham, on the other hand, have crashed out of the title race and now face a genuine battle for the top four. Three draws and a loss in the last four games represents worrying figures for Tottenham and Mauricio Pochettino.  

Form goes out of the window in fixtures of this size, however, especially when the two teams know each other so well. Subject to passing the incoming test events, Tottenham will be playing in their brand new, state of the art stadium for their Champions League tie against City. It’s what the fans have waited for – a champions league night under the lights. The atmosphere will undoubtedly be electric which could play a significant role in the tie.

For City, the Champions League is the pinnacle of success. But it’s undeniable that they will have a strong eye on the league as well. There is no question they will be fully focussed on the game, but going for the quadruple is no easy feat. There is always a risk of burnout, and a couple of bad games can seriously derail a season. It will be interesting to see both where City are in each competition come the time of the fixture and how they cope with the pressure.

Key players

Tottenham

Of course, Tottenham will look to Harry Kane to provide the spark that will concern the City back line. However, Tottenham will need two defensive performances that mirror their away leg in Dortmund if they want progress. Jan Vertonghen was immense that night, as he is in most games he plays. He will be key in stopping the likes of Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling.

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Man City

It’s difficult to pick a key player for City as there are simply so many to pick from. Aguero has been in supreme form of late and boasts an impressive record against Tottenham, scoring 10 in 13 games. The Argentine, however, has not scored against the north London team since May 2015. Raheem Sterling’s form will also be of high concern to Tottenham. He has also historically performed well against Tottenham scoring five and assisting three in 11 appearances. City contain threats from all over the pitch, but Aguero and Sterling represent the biggest threats to Tottenham’s semi-final dreams.

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Prediction

For Tottenham fans, this is arguably the fixture they would have feared most. A win against Pep Guardiola’s team of superstars seems a difficult argument to make. In recent fixtures, City have been stronger in every department. Tottenham will hope their new stadium will spur them on to victory, but it is a big ask.

First leg – 1-1

Second leg – 3-1

Man City progress 4-2 on aggregate.

The exact dates of the fixtures are yet to be confirmed. Initially, the first leg has been scheduled for the 9th of April will the return leg on the 16th. Tottenham also travel to City in the Premier League on the 20th. The winner will go on to play the winner between Ajax and Juventus. With an excruciatingly tight race against Liverpool, City’s season will now be massively impacted by these three fixtures against Tottenham.

Matt Davies
Matt, 23, has been obsessively involved in sport from an early age, both as player and a fan. From participation in both school and Sunday league football, to owning a Tottenham Hotspur season ticket from the age of ten, football has been an everlasting presence in his life. He is also an avid viewer of tennis, boxing and more recently squash. Aged 18, Matt left London for Liverpool, embarking on a degree in Psychology. During his time at university he developed a new love for sport in the medium of writing. Matt set up his own website, called ‘All About Spurs’, which dominated much of his time and attention throughout university. The experience was highly beneficial, leading to his contribution to Last Word on Sport, where he writes primarily about the Premier League. Matt is now studying a masters in Sports Journalism at St Mary’s University, where he looks to continue his progression as a sports journalist.
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