Previous
Switzerland
Poland
1:00 PM UTC
Game Details
Wales
Northern Ireland
4:00 PM UTC
Game Details
Croatia
Portugal
7:00 PM UTC
Game Details
United States
Colombia
12:00 AM UTC Jun 26, 2016
Game Details
Next
ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Manchester City and Tottenham in title showdown at the Etihad

Sunday's meeting between Manchester City and Tottenham is a potentially pivotal clash in the title race.

City go into the game on the back of a disastrous 3-1 defeat to leaders Leicester City while Spurs have won their past six in all competitions. The form guide would seem to favour the visitors but will it go that way?

Manchester City correspondent Jonathan Smith and Tottenham correspondent Dan Kilpatrick preview this weekend's match at the Etihad.

Will the winner of this season's title come from this match?

Jonathan Smith: I'm setting myself up for an embarrassing fall, I know, but I still see City as the favourites. If they have Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne available for the last two months of the campaign, they can reel the others in. Both times they won the Premier League, in 2012 and 2014, City won their last five games of the season to pile the pressure on their rivals, who ultimately buckled.

Spurs are certainly starting to look really menacing, though. Mauricio Pochettino is such an impressive manager and is getting the best out of his squad. My only doubts would be whether they have the belief that they can win it and the possible extra and unnecessary strain of the Europa League.

Dan Kilpatrick: I reckon the champions are more likely to come from Arsenal vs. Leicester, simply because I see Claudio Ranieri's men as the favourites.

This season has made mugs of everyone who's attempted to predict anything but I can see two away wins on Sunday, making it difficult for City to recover the confidence and points to haul it back.

What will this match reveal about where the title is heading?

JS: There's a lot of doom and gloom around City after the Leicester defeat but a win would put a completely different complexion on the situation. If results go their way they could be third, three points off the top.

It's become the biggest game of the season. City are under immense pressure to get a result -- particularly as they haven't beaten anyone from the top six all season. Spurs have only been talked about in recent weeks as potential title winners. If they can replicate what Leicester did, it will put them firmly among the favourites and that can bring its own pressure.

DK: A win would be massive for Tottenham. Since mid-November, Spurs have enjoyed a relatively kind run of fixtures, so Sunday has long been regarded as a milestone. Mauricio Pochettino's mantra is "one game at a time" -- Eric Dier even said recently he's only aware of who their next opponent is, which I didn't fully buy -- but the manager and players will also have been looking at this game as a benchmark. Win, and it'll be impossible to ignore Spurs' credentials.

Tottenham triumphed 4-1 in the reverse fixture at White Hart Lane back in September.

Where will the match be won and lost?

JS: Harry Kane is the danger man that I would be most concerned about and I'm sure the striker will try to isolate himself with Martin Demichelis as much as possible. The veteran Argentine is a wily old defender and often doesn't get the credit he deserves. But there's no hiding his lack of pace and, Kane's speed and sharpness could cause him real problems. It's a big ask but if Demichelis can keep him quiet, it will go a long way to securing a victory.

DK: While I agree that Kane vs. Demichelis is important, I'm interested in the other end.

Kevin Wimmer is yet to put a foot wrong but hasn't been seriously tested yet and Sergio Aguero, who loves playing Spurs, will give us a better idea of the Austrian's quality. If Wimmer and co. can restrict him, Spurs have a great chance of winning.

Who's the better manager?

JS: I'm mightily impressed with Pochettino. His Spurs side is greater than the sum of its parts with every player knowing their role. And his ability to improve players is remarkable. I'm stunned by the improvement in Eric Dier in the past 12 months while Dele Alli and Kieran Trippier seemed like gambles at the time but now look like they could both go to Euro 2016 with England. His team are quick, fit and aggressive and clearly have a close bond.

It's the complete opposite of Manuel Pellegrini's side who can often look like a team of individuals. It may seem harsh to be overly critical of the City boss but you can't help but feel that this side should be achieving more and it will be fascinating to see how things change under Pep Guardiola.

DK: Agreed. Sir Alex Ferguson apparently thinks Pochettino is the best manager in the league, and I don't think he's far wrong. The Argentine inherited a rotten squad devoid of cohesion and desperately short of balance and quality. In 18 months, he's transformed Spurs into title challengers while making the club a profit.

As Jonathan says, the team is greater than the sum of its parts, rendering it routinely impossible to pick a Spurs man of the match. Alli and Dier started the season as a League One rookie and an out-of-position centre-half, respectively, while Erik Lamela and Mousa Dembele were derided as expensive flops.

As for Pellegrini, I look at his squad and this season's Premier League and think City should be doing far better.

Pick one player from the opposition who'd get you over the line in the title race.

JS: Kane is Tottenham's standout player but I'd always go with Aguero ahead of him. Clearly City's defence is their weakness so I would probably pick Toby Alderweireld as the man who would make the biggest difference.

Spurs have conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League this season and Alderweireld is the senior figure at the heart of the defence. He was impressive at Southampton and has stepped into the Tottenham back-four without any problem. His leadership and organisation is something City could do with and the fact he hasn't missed a minute of Premier League football would be a big bonus, particularly as Vincent Kompany has been such a huge miss.

DK: Aguero. Spurs are short on strikers and Aguero would improve any team in the world. Pochettino's men would be comfortably clear at the top with the Argentine, who would have turned a lot of their draws into narrow victories.

That said, I disagree with Jonathan. If I had to pick one of Kane or Aguero for Spurs, I'd stick with Kane. Fitness has to be taken into account when considering a player's overall quality and Kane is capable of playing 50 games a season. Aguero isn't.

Prediction

JS: 1-0 to City, Aguero making the difference.

DK: 2-1 to Spurs, who'll have too much for a depleted home side.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.