Man City must pick themselves up while Tottenham might have to bring themselves back down

Matt Jones - Editor 16:11 19/04/2019
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Manchester City and Tottenham do it all over again on Saturday as end of season Premier League spoils are the prize this time when both sides meet at the Etihad Stadium.

Three days after putting on one of the most electric Champions League games in history, the two teams meet once more. City have to drag themselves out of the depression, needing a win to keep their dream of retaining the Premier League title alive.

And while Spurs will still have their heads in the clouds following their memorable Wednesday night win – they actually lost the second leg 4-3 but went through to the semi-finals on way goals after a 4-4 draw – they are in an equally thrilling battle with three other teams for the two remaining top four spots.

Without further ado, let’s pick out some burning issues heading into the game.

HOW DO CITY PICK THEMSELVES UP?

City Spurs

City are tantamount to titanium under Pep Guardiola, who has harnessed his team’s total potential to make them a giant of European football – even much-improved Liverpool, who have lost only once all season, will still be second if City win their game in hand.

And yet, the Champions League proved yet again that City aren’t quite Teflon as they exited following a scintillating see-saw spectacle with Tottenham.

It’s a competition that’s served as City’s Achilles heel – they’ve never reached the final and have only gone beyond the quarter-finals once (in 2015/16).

The good news, or bad depending on which way you look at it, is that they get an instant shot at revenge this weekend as they Face Spurs again – this time in the league – at the Etihad.

However, how will City handle their European heartbreak? We all know how dominant they’ve been domestically in recent seasons, but the continental competition is where a team’s real mettle is tested. And after participating in one of the most epic Champions League ties in the competition’s 28-year history – and finishing on the losing side – Guardiola now has to steel his side for a Premier League title defence that involves a far harsher run-in than challengers Liverpool.

The Champions League is the one he, and everyone connected with City wants, so just how fragile will their mental state be now their quadruple dreams have been quashed?

SPURS MUST GET BACK TO BUSINESS

BeFunky-collage (3)

Whereas City must now refocus in order to maintain a grip on their Premier League trophy, Spurs can also not afford to bask too much in the glow of their momentous feat – they are in the Champions League semi-finals for the first time.

Not since the days of Danny Blanchflower, Jimmy Greaves and Cliff Jones in the 1961/62 season have Spurs featured in a European Cup last four match, when they exited 4-3 on aggregate at the hands of brilliant Benfica.

But magical memories of Wednesday must now be put to one side as they look to nail down a top-four spot – Mauricio Pochettino’s side are third right now but face a second daunting trip to City in the space of three days.

Wins for Champions League-chasing Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United this weekend would see Spurs slip to sixth and possibly left needing to win the Champions League in order to qualify for it next season.

Back-to-back wins over Crystal Palace and relegated Huddersfield in the league have seen Pochettino’s side correct an alarming slide during which they’d lost four and drawn one of their previous five games.

City is their hardest game left but the remaining four to follow are hardly processions, with a trip to Bournemouth and home fixtures against relegation battlers Brighton as well as Everton and West Ham to come.

All the while they now have the headache – albeit a welcome, painless one – of juggling this load with a two-legged European semi-final tie with Ajax.

A predicament for Pochettino, but a nice one to have.

CITY’S STARS ARE SHINING AND SINKING

Sterling

On top of needing to pick themselves up off the floor following a knockout blow from Spurs, City are beset by the fact several key men seem to be besieged by a loss of form, while others are in pristine condition.

David Silva has been off colour for at least a month now while namesake Bernardo has come of age this season. On Wednesday night Silva of Spain passed with just 73.1 per cent accuracy – the worst of any team-mate by some distance – and was taken off just past the hour.

Aymeric Laporte was way off the pace he’s set in recent months – committing two key errors that led to Spurs goals – while even his traditional goal couldn’t detract from the fact Sergio Aguero looked jaded. Bar his fine finish that put City 3-2 ahead he struggled to have a truly telling impact on the game and was well shackled by Victor Wanyama and Moussa Sissoko, who were both excellent.

On the other hand, Raheem Sterling was nigh on unplayable and continued his lethal goalscoring form. His brace – remember he was denied what would have been a match-winning hat-trick at the death by VAR – made it 24 goals overall for the season, his best tally ever.

It’s also a fillip for Guardiola that Kevin De Bruyne – who he has largely had to leave out of his plans for the majority of the season – is hitting his stride at the perfect time.

Three assists and a man of the match display in midweek will ultimately matter little to either the Belgian or his manager. But it’s nice to have the league’s finest midfielder returning to both fitness and form.

As Guardiola looks to regather his thoughts and his side look to regroup ahead of another skirmish with Spurs, it will be intriguing to see how the wounded beast responds.

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