State of Wembley pitch a problem for Man City while Tottenham's elite status faces latest test

Aditya Devavrat 07:41 29/10/2018
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The Wembley pitch after Sunday's NFL game.

The Premier League weekend will end with a bang as Tottenham host reigning champions Manchester City on Monday night.

Much of the build-up has been dominated by concerns over the Wembley pitch, with this tie being played just one day after the NFL’s latest game at England’s national stadium, while Tottenham’s own preparedness for this fixture after an indifferent run of form is also being questioned.

Here’s a look at the other talking points ahead of the game.

WILL WEMBLEY PITCH RUIN CITY’S GAME?

Ever since it became clear that the new White Hart Lane wouldn’t be open in time for this fixture, questions have been flying about the prospective state of the Wembley pitch. The NFL game being played on Sunday was always going to loom large as a factor in this game, given the damage it could do to the pitch one day before City came to town.

Those fears are being realised, and though the reigning champions are largely a victim of circumstance, here, Spurs do stand to benefit disproportionately. The scuffed-up nature of the Wembley turf will counteract City’s passing game, and while Guardiola’s team have adjusted to just about everything thrown at them over the last season and a bit, this will definitely be a challenge for the Spaniard’s slick-passing side.

A bigger concern will be injuries, always a potential issue with a broken-up pitch. Should someone like Kevin De Bruyne, only recently returned from a long lay-off, be protected? This is a big game, but some long-term planning wouldn’t be amiss.

TOTTENHAM FACE LATEST TEST OF CREDENTIALS

It seems like every big game for Tottenham is a referendum on their status among the rest of the Premier League’s elite.

The basic fact is this: if they win, they’ll be up to 24 points, level with Chelsea, and in fact above City, who are currently on 23. Their resume for the season would include a win away to Manchester United – possibly not the achievement it would have been a few years ago, but still a statement result – and a win over the reigning champions. Their insipid performance in a loss to Liverpool would be forgiven.

Of course, that’s a big if. The last time they played City at home, in April, they abandoned their usual pressing game and slipped to a 3-1 loss. In their previous fixture against City, they stayed true to their usual tactics and still lost 4-1.

Recent history of this fixture doesn’t support a breakthrough result that the team so desperately need, especially after their hopes of making it through to the Champions League knockout stages seem to be over.

LLORIS FORM A CAUSE FOR CONCERN

Crucial to Tottenham’s chances on Monday night will be goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who has been hit-and-miss this season. Spurs’ pressing game and high defensive line relies on sound judgment from their goalkeeper, and Lloris hasn’t been showing that recently.

He was at fault for one goal in the team’s 4-2 loss to Barcelona, and in midweek his poor decision-making led to a sending-off when the team were 2-1 up against PSV Eindhoven, a game they ended up drawing.

Lloris’ poor form has a knock-on effect, as Spurs’ defensive line will drop a little deeper if they don’t have confidence in their goalkeeper, which in turn will leave too much space in midfield – a potentially fatal flaw against a team like City.

The sudden drop-off could be related to his recent injury, as well as his drink-driving charge in a tumultuous few months. But Lloris captained France to a famous World Cup win, so his confidence should have been high going into this season. Instead, there are now suggestions that his club needs to start shopping for alternatives at his position. It’s time for the Tottenham skipper to step up.

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