Mauricio Pochettino will be tasked with getting the better of Pep Guardiola again if his side are to progress to the semi-finals, ending City’s hopes of a quadruple this season.
Here, we look at the key tactics he may employ.
MOURA IN FOR KANE
The scenario is set up perfectly for Tottenham to adopt a counter-attacking strategy. With Harry Kane unavailable, it makes sense to draft in Lucas Moura who scored a hat-trick against Huddersfield over the weekend. The Brazilian’s searing pace plays perfectly into Spurs’ plans to attack City on the break. In the absence of Kane’s link-up play in the final third, Mauricio Pochettino will urge his side to adopt a more direct style.
City must score at the Etihad Stadium and as they commit numbers forward, the mobile duo of Son Heung-min and Moura – complemented by Dele Alli’s presence in support – will be on hand to pounce in the transition.
In Kane’s absence, Spurs are almost certain to go with two up top but rather than favour a more familiar three-man defence in that set-up, Pochettino might want to consider a 4-4-2 diamond instead. City will be keen on dominating possession and dictating play in the midfield. A diamond would help the visitors contain the likes of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.
Meanwhile, Moussa Sissoko’s presence on the right of midfield should help Kieran Trippier cope with what may be an attacking City left flank should Pep Guardiola bring in both Leroy Sane and Benjamin Mendy as he did away to Crystal Palace over the weekend.
Grand ambitions collide on Wednesday when Tottenham Hotspur seek a definitive end to quadruple, or “quintuple” in manager Pep Guardiola’s estimations, talk for hosts Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-finals.
The London outfit travel 200 miles north emboldened by last week’s 1-0 victory, earned via South Korea forward Son Heung-min’s nimble feet and Ederson’s questionable goalkeeping. This picture, however, could have been entirely different had Argentina striker Sergio Aguero not seen a timid 12th-minute penalty saved by grateful France No1 Hugo Lloris.
For City to still experience historic success come season’s end, they must snap a damaging run of five-successive European losses against English opposition. Spurs, in contrast, have to force home this advantage in the absence of stricken talisman Harry Kane and avoid a third-consecutive reversal at Etihad Stadium:
Here are the talking points as both aim to make the semis for just a second time:
DARE TO DREAM
A tie far from decided awaits this midweek.
Spurs will kick-off safe in the knowledge that if they avoid defeat, progression is theirs. Yet Mauricio Pochettino’s charges have lost six of their last seven away matches, in all competitions, and were hammered 4-1 by their imminent opponents the last time they strode out in east Manchester.
They will also have to manage the psychological trauma of being without skipper Kane because of a rolled ankle caused when challenging England team-mate Fabian Delph last Tuesday.
The 4-0 weekend thumping of relegated Huddersfield Town moved their 2018/19 win percentage up to 70 without him from 10 matches, an intriguing improvement on the 62 per cent recorded with Kane from 39 games.
They’ve also won five of their last six Champions League outings, keeping clean sheets in the previous three.
City’s pursuit of untrammelled success has not been in such peril since an early 2-0 lead was handed to the Championship’s Swansea City during last month’s sodden FA Cup quarter-final.
Raw memories of a 5-1 aggregate humbling by Liverpool at this stage in 2017/18 could provide further trepidation.
Guardiola’s troops, however, have won 24 of 26 home matches this term – drawing none.
They’ve also scored at least two goals on seven of the last eight times they’ve welcomed Spurs to the Etihad.
Centre-back John Stones labelled this challenge on four fronts – of which, likely, defining Premier League meetings with Spurs and Manchester United immediately follow – “the dream” during Tuesday’s pre-match press conference.
Surge past Spurs and it will take another significant step towards becoming reality.
Guardiola’s reputation as a footballing savant ensures scrutiny is rare.
His approach at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, however, merited introspection. Uncharacteristic caution and a questionable decision to start Algeria Riyad Mahrez, among five changes, contrived to produce an unconvincing performance.
The Champions League has generated brutal experiences for Guardiola since 2010/11’s triumph with Barcelona; 2013/14’s 4-0 semi-final home reversal to Real Madrid, Barca’s imposing 5-3 aggregate semi triumph in 2014/15, agonising away goals elimination by Atletico Madrid at the same stage in 2015/16, Monaco’s comeback from a 5-3 round-of-16 first-leg loss in 2016//17 and 2017/18’s aforementioned hammering by Liverpool.
He cannot countenance another indignity being registered in 2018/19.
PEP 💬 I know how focused the players are. The desire to get to the semi-finals. Will it be enough? I don't know.— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 16, 2019
I got to the final once with one shot on target, and once I had 33 shots on target and didn't. Football is that game.
Seeing a Spurs player on the ball will be a rarer sight than a dry day in Manchester.
City have averaged 64.2-per-cent possession in the Premier League this season, while lost 1-0 in north London last week recording 59 per cent.
Tottenham supremo Pochettino, however, has the perfect weapons to make this characteristic work against the hosts.
Lengthy injury to Kane has left a spot vacant in Spurs’ attack. Lucas Moura filled it with aplomb against Huddersfield, netting a hat-trick.
The Brazilian forward’s searing pace, allied with Son’s, makes the counter-attack a dangerous proposition.
Even one away goal could have an enormous influence on a tie of great significance.
With just six goals being scored across four matches in the first leg of the quarter-final Champions League, it’s fair to say that the games are in fair balance and no team has a massive advantage over its opponent going into the second leg.
We take a look at some of the players whose performance could decide the outcome of the ties.
Barcelona – Sergio Busquets
Sergio Busquets has been one of the most important players for Barcelona in the past decade. It’s no surprise that the Spanish giants have suffered heavily in midfield whenever the Spaniard has had an off-day.
In the first leg, a Scott McTominay led United midfield suffocated Barcelona and pushed them very deep. The first few minutes of the second half were the hosts’ best period of time and it came as a result of some intense pressing and crucial interceptions in midfield.
Usually press resistant and a good passer of the ball, Busquets had one of his worst games of the season. He was not reacting well to the United press and was under-hitting his passes.
In fact, Barcelona were lucky to not conceded in the first half, especially with Busquets committing some careless mistakes.
United are most likely to press from the word go in the second leg and the Spaniard’s performance can shape the nature of the game.
Whether Busquets repeats his performance from the first leg or gets his mojo back can definitely affect the outcome of the match.
Manchester United – Marcus Rashford
It’s not likely that the visitors will be creating a plethora of chances at the Camp Nou. There major source of shots will be achieved through counter-attacks.
Hence, Marcus Rashford will have to strike with caution, knowing that shots from promising areas on the pitch are a luxury.
He needs to be alert and poach on any mistakes from the Barcelona back-line. He failed to do the same in the first leg and ultimately, that proved to be a massive talking point.
The Englishman’s pace will come handy in counters and his ability to combine with Paul Pogba has the potential to make the night a memorable one for United.
The forward was lacklustre in the first leg. Will he be able to assert himself and make the difference at the Camp Nou? He does have the talent, but he needs it to combine well with confidence and a winning mentality.
Juventus – Joao Cancelo
Of Course the focus will be on Cristiano Ronaldo who has been a scoring machine in the knockout rounds of the Champions League. The Portuguese had scored Juventus’ only goal at Amsterdam through a brilliant power header.
However, Joao Cancelo could be the player you would want to keep your eyes on in this crucial fixture. The right-back will encounter mixed challenges in defence and in attack.
In defence, he will be tasked to keep David Neres – who scored an impressive solo goal in the first leg – at bay. This could turn out to be a key-battle in this close tie.
In attack, Cancelo will be up against Daley Sinkgraven. With Nicolas Tagliafico serving suspension, the Portuguese will be relishing the prospect of the increased freedom on the wing.
With all due respect to second-choice Sinkgraven, he is no Tagliafico and is susceptible to Cancelo and Federico Bernardeschi devouring him, hunting in pairs.
Cancelo needs to find the balance between attack and defence. If he does, Juventus could be well on their way to the semis.
Ajax – Kasper Dolberg
Having conceded an away goal to Juventus, Ajax need to score at least one goal to stay alive in the tournament. Kasper Dolberg will be looking to provide the visitors the edge at Turin.
Frenkie de Jong suffered an injury during Ajax’s league engagement against Excelsior and is doubtful to start in the second leg.
This means that Donny van de Beek could drop deep into the double pivot to partner Lasse Schone. Dusan Tadic is likely to drop into the number 10 role and have Dolberg take his position as the number nine.
The 21-year-old has scored 11 goals and assisted twice in the Eredivisie this season despite featuring in the starting line-up just 14 times.
In the Champions League, the Denmark international has failed to score or assist a single goal despite playing 230 minutes.
Goals are the need of the hour for Ajax and Dolberg must render these stats meaningless by dropping a master-class. His performance can have a huge bearing on the result of the game.