- Oli Coulson
Everything you need to know, Predicted XI – Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City Preview
Manchester City return to Premier League action against Tottenham on Sunday, 5th February in the 16:30 (GMT) kick-off, with the game televised live on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom. It's their first match since the winter transfer window closed, as well as their second game against Spurs in their last three league matches, after the heroic 4-2 comeback at the Etihad three weeks ago.
Having last played a Premier League fixture over two weeks ago, that 3-0 win away to Wolves is no doubt a distant memory for City fans by now, but the consistency in team shape and selection is anything but. Pep Guardiola has ruthlessly stuck to his 3-2-4-1 – to the point of sanctioning a loan move for the disruptive and nominally benched Joao Cancelo. This system of choice, where Rico Lewis inverts into midfield, has resulted in the youngster starting in all of City's last three matches, the only defensive change in those games being at left-back; Nathan Ake or Aymeric Laporte.
However, Guardiola now faces a decision on how to cope without John Stones for the next month, as he sits out with a hamstring injury he got in the Arsenal FA Cup fixture. Stones has been a rock for City this season, proving he is one of the truly elite central defenders in world football, his only problem being the intermittent injury issues that have plagued his campaigns year after year at the Etihad.
In better news for the Blues, Phil Foden is back from his foot injury and, according to Guardiola, is available to play in North London this weekend. Looking beyond that, the Catalan has a full squad to pick from, including new signing Maximo Perrone, the young Argentine midfielder.
Despite a strong showing in the FA Cup from Stefan Ortega, surmounting Ederson is a job considered near impossible, and I expect the Brazilian to stay between the posts.
Logic suggests Guardiola will stick to his guns and continue with Rico Lewis as the 'right-back'; after all, he's proven himself to be first choice. It could be argued that Kyle Walker would be better suited to defending against the Tottenham attack with his recovery pace and extra strength in what would be his first start since the Manchester derby.
With Stones out, Aymeric Laporte is more important than ever before, and Guardiola's recent comments on Ake – 'without Nathan we cannot play good' – ring in the ears, suggesting the final slot in the backline is between Ruben Dias and Manuel Akanji. Akanji has been admirable since the restart, but it is surely time for Dias to return; his organisation and leadership of the backline is missed whenever he's absent.
Midfield picks itself with Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri and the decision between Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva. For me, Gundogan is what makes City tick, not unlike how David Silva used to control the play and therefore is a must-start.
Further forward, Erling Haaland picks himself, as does the resurgent Riyad Mahrez, leaving the decision between Jack Grealish and Foden. As Foden is only just returning, sticking with Grealish remains the most sensible choice.
Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Ake; De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Haaland, Grealish
Since the previous meeting with Tottenham three weeks ago, the North London side have progressed in the FA Cup and recorded a slim win over a strong Fulham side. However, the arrival of a former City player (albeit one who never even wore a City training kit) in Pedro Porro is something for the Blues to grapple with. He's a player that suits the right wing-back role in use at Spurs almost perfectly and certainly is an improvement upon Emerson Royal or Matt Doherty.
However, with Antonio Conte having undergone surgery this week, it is unlikely he'll be on the touchline at all for the game on Sunday. Assistant Cristian Stellini handled press duties and is first in line to run the team in Conte's absence if needed. Tottenham aren't out of the top-four race yet, but a three-point gap, having played a game more than both Newcastle and Manchester United, who sit above them will be a tall order. Having chucked away a 2-0 halftime lead at the Etihad just weeks ago and noting City's incredibly poor record at the new Spurs stadium, the Lilywhites will want a piece of the Premier League champions, not just for their own targets and hopes, but also getting their own back.
Surprisingly, neither Harry Kane nor Son Heung-Min scored in that game a few weeks ago, but that hasn't stopped the English striker from having another phenomenal season. Having recently equalled Jimmy Greaves' club record of 266 goals, Kane is stopping at nothing to surpass the Spurs legend and cement his own legacy with or without a trophy. 16 goals in 21 league appearances might be sniffed at by City fans with Haaland about, but denying Kane's extraordinary talent is the action of a fool. The same goes for Son, even if the misfiring Korean has struggled to meet the heights of the past few seasons in his own tally.
In terms of squad availability, Conte/Stellini have basically a full squad to pick from, with Richarlison expected to return to the matchday squad after a small adductor issue. Porro is also fit and available to start right away, and no doubt the £40 million man will be included here.
The last fixture between these was City's 4-2 heroic comeback win at the Etihad just last month. Spurs leading 2-0 at halftime through Emerson and Dejan Kulusevski, they succumbed pretty quickly due to goals from Julian Alvarez, Haaland and Mahrez, who sealed it with the fourth late on.
Despite this, City's record in the new Tottenham stadium is worrying: played four, lost them all, scoring none in the process. Spurs also managed the rare feat of doing the double over City last season, winning both games after lacklustre performances from Guardiola's men. This is the first time a Conte-managed Spurs side take on City at the new North London ground, and with the two previous fixtures between these sides (with current managers) being hard-fought goal fests, Sunday surely promises another.
With City set to wear their red and black away strip with a massive striker up top, nostalgic Blues fans could be forgiven for hoping for a Haaland-inspired repeat of Edin Dzeko's four goals in the match heroics from the 2011/12 season. We'll just have to wait and see...
Referee: Andy Madley
Assistants: Harry Lennard & Nick Hopton
Fourth Official: Graham Scott
VAR: Paul Tierney
Assistant VAR: Simon Bennett
Written by: @olimccoole
Follow our Twitter account for reliable, live updates on all the latest news and everything Manchester City in real time.