Tottenham vs Manchester City: Three key players to look out for

The Hard Tackle looks at three key players to watch out for in the highly-anticipated game between Tottenham and Manchester City.

Last season Tottenham proved they were the bogey team for Manchester City. And they have already come close this season to reclaim that status. On paper, Pep Guardiola’s men always tend to go into this fixture as clear favourites, but Spurs somehow spring up a surprise to bring a new twist to the title race.

Tottenham are far away from the title picture this time, although they have a top-four race at stake. With each passing week, the Champions League places don’t seem to change from the present incumbents, with Spurs the closest to challenge of Newcastle United or Manchester United.

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They will be without manager Antonio Conte on the sidelines following surgery to remove his gallbladder. Despite that, Spurs are a threat against any team, particularly at home. And Manchester City should not come into this clash thinking the obvious.

Guardiola will have seen some confidence rising within the ranks, and recent performances are proof of that. However, the Manchester City boss will be wary of underestimating Spurs, that too in a crucial stage of the season, where wins for them is imperative.

Moreover, Manchester City have a great chance to close the gap on league leaders Arsenal after Mikel Arteta’s side lost to Everton on Saturday. In ten days, the two teams face each other at the Emirates, but Guardiola will want maximum points and momentum going into that game.

The Tottenham-Manchester City fixture has often seen individuals take the mantle to make a difference. Last season at this ground, Dejan Kulusevski had a great game as he scored before setting up Harry Kane’s late winner. The latter features on our list of key stars to watch for, with the company of Nathan Ake and Erling Haaland.

Erling Haaland

It is lazy analysis to say Haaland needs to do more on the pitch and is a misfit in Pep Guardiola’s system. Two summers ago, Manchester City’s relentless pursuit of Kane showcased the need for a top-draw striker in the ranks. And Guardiola thought of the Tottenham striker as the ideal candidate.

Haaland has been phenomenal in this system as he makes the best of the chances provided by Manchester City’s creative stars. Kevin De Bruyne has found the striker he could give the ball to, and the Norwegian has satisfied.

He is going to break the Premier League record in the Golden Boot race. Moreover, in recent weeks, his game has evolved from being a focal point to helping in the build-up. In the FA Cup clash against Arsenal, Haaland was regularly involved in deep areas to help progress the ball. And it may be his learning curve under Guardiola to learn a different style.

Away from all that, Haaland’s most potent weapon is scoring goals, and he will be the most important player for Manchester City in this aspect. Against a somewhat cagey side like Tottenham, the clinical nature in the box will get Manchester City the points they need from this game.

Harry Kane

Kane has a more significant role for Tottenham than Haaland for Manchester City. Both these stars are the league’s top scorers. But the Spurs talisman has much more to his game. Last season, he was the game-changer in this particular clash, and the fans will hope that remains the case this time. Meanwhile, prospective suitors like Chelsea and Manchester United might also have their sights set on him.

While Kane has continued scoring goals regularly, a slight tweak in his style of play under Conte has significantly affected the overall team performance. For instance, Son Heung-min is not performing at all. But that is due to Kane not providing him with the tools.

For instance, in the previous campaign, Kane had 14 and nine assists in the Premier League. This time, he has just one assists. That shows Conte prefers to keep the Chelsea target more in the front line and make him a focal point.

The tactic might work for Kane, but Spurs need his previous version to get the best out of the striker. In any case, the England captain has always been the man for the big occasions, and there’s no bigger game than this clash against Manchester City in north London.

Nathan Ake

People are starting to ask whether Nathan Ake is one of the Premier League’s underrated players. And the answer is a simple ‘yes.’ The former Bournemouth defender was not seen as a star signing when he arrived for over £40 million, while his performances merited some scrutiny back then.

Before the current season began, he was on the verge of returning to Chelsea, but Guardiola reportedly wanted to keep him, and the Dutchman remained. What followed was a more accomplished role in this team, as Ake steadily took up one significant part in the backline.

Moreover, following the departure of Joao Cancelo in January, Ake could see himself playing from left-back quite regularly. He proved his mettle when coming up against one of the best wingers in Bukayo Saka in the FA Cup clash. He kept the Arsenal man quiet, and the Dutchman also came up with the winning goal at the other end.

Against Tottenham, he will encounter another stern test, this time against Dejan Kulusevski. The Swede is getting back into form, and that battle will determine the outcome of this clash in north London.

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