With their Champions League hopes now all but over, Manchester City return to domestic action at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday (1.30pm GMT, live on Sky Sports) looking to extend their unbeaten start to the Premier League season.
City are currently third in table, just two points shy of their city rivals Manchester United at the league’s summit. They have won six and drawn four to date and are currently five points and three places better off than Spurs.
Roberto Mancini’s men were again shown up by less monied opponents in the Champions League on Wednesday, Ajax claiming a point in an entertaining 2-2 draw. That came just two weeks after the same opponents had overcome City 3-1 in Amsterdam. The result leaves City needing a miracle in the remaining two matches of group play to avoid missing out on the knockout stages for a second year in a row.
The failed Champions League campaign is symptomatic of City’s muted start to the season, that despite seeing them unbeaten in league action has nevertheless failed to live up to the standards of last season’s title-winning campaign.
The Citizens were flat and ineffective in drawing 0-0 away at West Ham in their last Premier League fixture and have often had to rely on late comebacks to secure points from less than brilliant performances. They scored winning goals in the last ten minutes against Southampton, Fulham and West Bromwich Albion, and an 80th minute equaliser to draw away to Liverpool.
City are scoring less and conceding more than they did last season and are yet to see the best of David Silva or Sergio Aguero, both of whom were so influential during last season’s triumph. They are, however, still right up there at the top of the table and as long as they can stay there or thereabouts will not be overly concerned with worsened performances just yet.
Mancini would also point to City’s injury problems to explain their somewhat lacklustre displays to date. Silva is likely to return on Sunday following a month on the sidelines, but Joleon Lescott, Jack Rodwell and James Milner are all highly probable absentees, while Micah Ricards is ruled out of action until the end of the year.
Spurs coach Andre Villas-Boas is also without a number of players due to injury, with defenders Younes Kaboul and Benoit Assou-Ekotto and midfielders Scott Parker and Moussa Dembele all certain to miss Sunday’s match.
Dembele’s unavailability will be particularly keenly felt. The Belgian midfielder impressed immediately following his £15 million move from Fulham at the end of the transfer window, scoring on his debut off the bench against Norwich and starring in the 3-2 win away to Manchester United.
In the Premier League Spurs have won all four matches Dembele has started and won just one of the six he has not. There has been a distinct lack of dynamism in their midfield over the last three matches – missed by Dembele due to a hip injury – most apparent in their 1-0 loss at home to Wigan last weekend. With Sandro also a doubt for Sunday, they could be very light in the centre of the park.
Spurs have been far from fluid so far this season, but are decently placed in sixth, level on points with fourth placed Everton and within touching distance of the top three. Their players are clearly still adapting to Villas-Boas’ methods, while the absence of Luka Modric and Rafael Van der Vaart is starting to be felt, especially with Glyfi Sigurdsson and Clint Dempsey yet to excel.
Spurs did get a morale boosting 3-1 win at home to Maribor in the Europa League on Thursday, Jermain Defoe ending his four match goal drought with a hat-trick. He was partnered up front by Emmanuel Adebayor, making his first start since signing permanently from Manchester City this summer.
Villas-Boas is likely to revert to a 4-5-1/4-4-1-1 system for the trip to Manchester, meaning that one of the two will be dropped. Adebayor will surely be hoping for a chance to prove his worth against his former employers having missed the equivalent fixture last season due to the terms of his loan agreement.
Man City v Tottenham Betting Tips Verdict
City are yet to reach top gear so far this season but have won four of their five home matches to date. Spurs have won their last three matches away from home, but with Dembele, and possibly Sandro, missing from midfield are likely to lack the dynamism required to prevail in the middle of the park.
City have the requisite attacking talent to tip the balance in their favour and we therefore believe that a home win is the most likely outcome.