Champions League: Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City - 5 factors which will influence the tie
Both teams will play each other 3 times over the course of the next 10 days, and each side will be looking to derail the other side's season. Manchester City are on course for an unprecedented quadruple, and defeat to Spurs in the Champions League and the Premier League would put an end to their quadruple chase.
With this tie and the competition at the forefront of both the team's priorities, this should be a match which neither side will take easy. Here are five factors that may decide today's match.
#1 Hugo Lloris in goal
Hugo Lloris has not had a very good year so far. Over the past two months, he has been culpable for Spurs’ losses to Liverpool, Southampton, and Chelsea. Manchester City will be well aware of Lloris’ shady decision making and inconsistent shot stopping and will be sure to exploit any mistakes.
With Paulo Gazzaniga waiting in the sidelines for his chance, Lloris cannot afford any more errors. Gazzaniga has already performed admirably when called upon, and Mauricio Pochettino isn’t afraid of giving a chance to his young keeper.
Lloris has been a stalwart player for Tottenham over the past 7 years, but this may be the year that Spurs are finally forced to let him go.
#2 The new stadium
Spurs played in their new, 62,000 seater stadium for the first time last week, and this marks the first time they will host a European tie.
All the characteristics of this stadium - the single-tier stand behind the goal, the closeness of the fans to the pitch, and the design of the stadium itself, have been made with the atmosphere in mind.
If Spurs can score the first goal and get the fans on their side, City will find it very difficult indeed to mount a comeback. The stadium and the fans could help give Spurs the boost they would need to win against a side currently 18 points ahead of them in the league.
#3 The importance of the Champions League
The Champions League is arguably the competition both managers will be prioritizing at this time. City are also in the Premier League title race and have reached the FA Cup final, but there is no doubt that this is the trophy that the City players and fans want. Moreover, the club hired Guardiola with the main aim of making them a European powerhouse, and for that, they would need to win this trophy sooner rather than later.
For Tottenham, this trophy is now all that they have left to play for. Out of the title race and the FA Cup, their season is moving towards a familiar trophy-less end. A deep run in this competition will give the fans something to cheer about. Furthermore, Spurs will believe that this match is winnable, and will likely take the fight to the opposition.
#4 Managers' head to head record
Pochettino's record against Guardiola isn't great. In the 14 meetings they've had, Guardiola has won eight and lost just two (Spurs last win against City came in October 2016). Since that match, the two sides have met three times in the Premier League, with City drawing one and winning the other two.
Spurs have yet to find a way to counter City's pace and movement and have also found it tough to cope against their high press. It is a problem that Pochettino will need to solve soon or risk defeat in both the legs.
#5 The rest factor
Manchester City are currently in the race for three titles and have already won the League Cup. They played in the FA Cup semifinal on Saturday, while Spurs last played Crystal Palace almost a week earlier. The three extra days that Spurs have had to rest and prepare could be crucial to the outcome this match and ultimately the tie.
So far, Guardiola has done a great job of resting and rotating his players (Sane, Mahrez, Fernandinho, and John Stones were all on the bench, while Aguero did not play in the weekend's match), but the toll of playing so many matches could come back to haunt City. Spurs, on the other hand, have only Eric Dier on the injury table, with all their other players fit and ready to start.
Both these teams will be going all out to win this match. City are the slight favorites going into this match, but Tottenham, boosted by a full squad and a new stadium, will be waiting to cause an upset. This should be an amazing match.