Tottenham take on Manchester City in the long-awaited Carabao Cup final later this months and many will consider the Lilywhites to be heavy underdogs.
Manchester City have only lost two of their last twenty-nine matches, coming at home to Leeds United and to second in the table Manchester United.
They’re in the last four of the FA Cup, the semi-final of the Champions League and have effectively won the Premier League.
Seemingly an impossible task, how do Spurs win it?
The way in which we beat City all the way back in November seems like the only way we can beat them. What we need to do is start the game strong, aggressive and quick to try and get that early goal that would hopefully be a crucial advantage to set up the game.
What doesn’t fill me with any sort of confidence is the way we’ve handled going ahead in so many matches this season because we just haven’t been good enough in second halves.
If we do get that early goal, we simply have to carry on and not sit so deep as we only invite pressure and struggle to create further attacking opportunities in the second half as we have done on countless occasions this season.
Our midfield needs to be switched on and will be the key to our performance when we need a quick transition into attack on the counter. If we do this quickly, it can be very effective. We cannot just go one up again and sit incredibly deep- it won’t work.
We’ll need to try to counter them while they flurry forward leaving gaps and stretching their defence.
We’re obviously going to have to sit back a bit because they are unambiguously better than us. However, we shouldn’t fear them, because we simply have to win this game and if we play with fear, we’ll have no chance.
When you look at Man City’s recent losses, like the Manchester United (0-2) game, United were up 1-0 within two minutes.
The Leeds 2-1 defeat, in which Leeds managed to go one up late in the first half, saw the whites go into the second with 10 men and they still managed to win the game in the last minute through the unity in defence and the fearlessness they had to still go for the win— this is what we need to do.
If we’re on our game and work hard to win the ball back quickly in the midfield, we can counter down the wings and hurt them out wide. My preferred line up would include Heung Min Son and Lucas Moura on the wings to give us that pace when countering. In the middle, we need dynamic and energetic midfielders who can keep up with theirs.
These midfielders will need to be able to track the runs of Gundogan or De Bruyne so they don’t find gaps in the half-spaces as they did to us in February. To stop this threat, Hojbjerg and Lo Celso/Ndombele need to be completely switched on to track and anticipate these runs.
Although Ndombele isn’t the most energetic, we absolutely need his line-breaking ability to play us out of defence when we do knick it, whereas if Sissoko is playing deep there, as we saw against Chelsea in February, he will struggle to play out and cause us unnecessary issues.
In attack, Kane will need to drop deep, sometimes even playing as an attacking midfielder to become our main creative outlet while Son and Lucas Moura make runs in behind their centre backs. City’s full-backs also commit forward, creating more space down the channels and stretching their defence.
A potential positive is the Champions League semi-final. City want the Champions League more than anything and will prioritise that competition over any. They have a semi-final on the 27th or 28th of April, while our final is on the 25th.
This could persuade Pep to rest some players. City’s squad depth is immaculate so this could make no difference but a slightly weaker team might just help us that little bit more, because we’ll need all the luck and slight advantages we can get.
We can take motivation from their 2-1 loss to Leeds, which showed if we are switched on in defence while also having the killing instinct and fearlessness to try counter when the opportunity comes, we may have a chance.
We’re going to need unity, belief and determination to win this. It will take heroic efforts from the entire team but if we stay focused and give it everything, we might just have a slight chance.
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