After losing their respective massive derby matches over the weekend, both Manchester City and Tottenham find themselves in unfavorable table situations, relative to their own expectations that is. Perennial title favorites City are 8 points behind leaders Arsenal, while Tottenham are 5 points out of a UCL spot, despite having played an extra game compared to most of their competition. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks as both teams will try and get back on track towards achieving their goals this Thursday at the Etihad.
Manchester City vs. Tottenham Odds
City are significant favorites at home, -265 on the three-sided moneyline. Spurs are major underdogs at +650, while the draw is set at +450. In a true rarity, we’re going to look at a goalscoring line of 3.5, as that is where the odds are closest to even; at that number, the under is favored by odds of -165, while the over is +130.
Manchester City vs. Tottenham Prediction & Pick
The question, while hard to answer, is fairly simple- what on Earth is going on at the Etihad right now? After putting in one of their best domestic campaigns yet and then adding the best striker in the World, Manchester City have been a shell of their best selves in most competitions this year. In the Premier league, they’ve recently drawn Everton and then notably lost to United within the span of their past 3 league matches, and they’ve even lost 2-0 to Southampton in their favorite competition, the Carabao Cup. If it weren’t for two wins against a truly awful Chelsea side, one in the league and one in the FA cup, City’s tenure since returning from the World Cup break would be describable as nothing other than an absolute free fall.
While City have been worse than their usual electric selves, Tottenham have been outright bad as of late. Outside of a demolition of Crystal Palace, their return to the Prem since the World Cup has been brutal; a draw away to Brentford, and a pair of 0-2 home losses against Aston Villa and of course Arsenal over the weekend. Even their recent FA Cup win was far from a triumph; it was a shockingly tense 1-0 win over third-division Portsmouth. Similarly to what I’ve asked of Manchester City above, it’s hard to figure out just what exactly is happening with Antonio Conte’s squad as of late; their excellent early-season form has been absolutely nowhere to be found since just about mid-October.
The prediction for this one is pretty straightforward. While both teams are slumping, we have a sometimes-elite team in shaky form against a sometimes-good team in a total downward spiral, and the latter is the home side. City are almost surely going to win, but at a line of -265 is that really your best value? Similarly, given the recent performances of both defenses, I’m going to have to lean with over 3.5 goals for +130, but it’s hard to feel great about betting such a big number. While those two are my picks on the two straight-up lines, I’m also going to throw in a best-bet suggestion of parlaying o2.5 and City ML for a total value of -130; I’m not sure if it’s harder to see the goalscoring staying below 3, or to imagine Spurs taking points from this one, so I like the value a lot.
Tottenham Attack vs. City Defense
If Spurs have done one thing well this year, it’s score goals; even after the home-match stinker this weekend, they have the third-most goals in the league, trailing only City and Arsenal in that figure. And stop me if you’ve heard this one before; it’s due in large part to Harry Kane going nuclear once again. He’s fired in 15 goals, an outstanding pace that would be talked about more if not for the historic exploit’s of City’s Haaland. That being said, the rest of the attack has not played up to its ability, with the exception, to a degree, of Dejan Kulusevski who has been strong but has missed a lot of time with injury. It was great to see him play a solid 88 minutes against Arsenal; it wasn’t his very best performance, but the full-length outing is a fantastic sign going forward. Son Heung-min has been good, but not anywhere near his golden boot-winning self from a year ago. Still, he’s half of a highly talented and experienced attacking duo, and could truly strike at any time.
They’ll be trying to score against a City defense that has also been third-best in the league when it comes to straight-up goals allowed, but it can be argued that they have not been at their best lately, or just generally in the biggest moments. While Pep Guardiola has and will continue to tinker with the City formation throughout the year, I think we can expect a standard 4-3-3 for this one, and with the current health of the squad, the centre-back pairing is pretty simple to identify. Barring any huge surprises, which again, Pep does love, I’m thinking we’ll see the Switzerland’s Manuel Akanji and Dutchman Nathan Aké; despite a tough outing against United, particularly in Aké’s case, this pair has had a solid season both individually and playing together. The fullbacks are another interesting question; João Cancelo had seen his playing time dip in recent weeks, but played a full 90 against United; he wasn’t outstanding, but I do expect the spot to be his against Spurs, and when he’s at his best, he is perhaps the best at his position in the whole World. The one true near-lock in the lineup is Kyle Walker at right back; I have no idea why he wouldn’t be there. This defensive line in front of the incredibly uneven Ederson has plenty of talent; the only question is if they show up, and play together against one of the best attacks they’ll see all year in League play.
City Attack vs. Tottenham Defense
I do love discussing the midfield battle, anyone who’s read a good amount of my work knows that- but in a game with such inflated scoring projections, we really do need to talk about both attacks, and thus both defenses as well. Unshockingly, City are tops in the league when it comes to scoring goals, as they’ve scored 46 over the first 16 league matches- yes folks, that’s over 2.5 per game. It would be silly of course to not mention that the absolute juggernaut known as Erling Haaland has scored a ridiculous 21 of those, over 45% of the team total, and when you factor in his three assists, he’s contributed to over half of the team’s goals in the league. But he’s in a bit of a cold stretch, by his own unreasonable standards, of course. After an early goal against Everton, he went scoreless the rest of the way as City were held to a 1-1 draw. Then he played a full 90 against Chelsea and was not the goalscorer in the 1-0 win, got blanked again in over a half hour of work against Southampton in the shocking EFL Cup loss, and then was unable to contribute in another full-match appearance against United. Is he getting figured out? Getting tired? Maybe it’s just a tiny dip and he’ll be back to daily goals soon? It’s hard to know, but the status of his decreasingly-automatic scoring habit is something to keep an eye on in this match.
City, of course, can surround Haaland with any combination of their talented talented wingers- just to discuss a few, Riyad Mahrez scored three goals between the two Chelsea matches, Jack Grealish put in what seemed like huge opener against United, and Phil Foden is always a potential factor as well. Kevin De Bruyne is of course a midfielder, but as the link between build up and end product, he is perhaps just as key as Haaland to City’s success, if not more so. The last player I’d like to briefly discuss is Julián Álvarez, who was lively in the cup match against Chelsea, and of course turned in a great World Cup performance. If Haaland continues to be kept off of the score sheet, and City need a goal, it would be very characteristic of Guardiola to try and shake things up with a new, talented addition by using Álvarez as a late-game sub.
While everything looked great in the win over Crystal Palace, we’re talking about a side that has lost four out of its last five league matches; outside of that clash, Spurs have not kept a league clean sheet since October 15, in a match against Everton, who are absolutely horrendous this year. Excluding the Palace win, that spans 8 Prem matches, most of which have not been favorable results (2W-1D-5L). Over this season overall, Spurs are right around the middle of the pack, tied for the 8th-most goals allowed amongst Prem sides. Of course, given how drastically things have changed since about October, they’re much closer to the bottom of the barrel over the past couple of months, and certainly since the post-World Cup restart. This is not the match you want when your back line has been struggling, but a defensive success would go a long way towards resetting the tone on this season.
That back line is a bit of an enigma, considering the 3-4-3 formation we can expect out of Spurs; the outside midfielders are often something of a hybrid between just that, a midfielder, and a fullback. Those roles can be filled by the likes of Matt Doherty on the right, or any one of a whole mess of players on the left; Ivan Perisic, Ben Davis, and Ryan Sessegnon have all seem time in that spot, although Sessegnon got the nod against Arsenal. The centre-backs are a bit more straightforward; from left to right, we should expect Clément Lenglet, Eric Dier, and Cristian Romero. Behind it all will be Hugo Lloris, coming off of a mixed World Cup with France, and more recently, an ugly-looking own goal in the derby match. This group is not nearly the team’s greatest strength, but they’re facing City’s attack in a down-moment, by their lofty standards. Maybe, just maybe, Conte will pull the right strings, and the Spurs defense can avoid being “Spursy” for just long enough to secure the draw, or even win. I tend to doubt that it’ll play out that way, but we’ll just have to wait and see.