Where do you start with Tottenham Hotspur in the past few weeks?
Countless injuries and suspensions to both key players and squad players, three league defeats in a row, including a 4-1 loss at home to Chelsea, and slipping further and further out of the title race with every passing week, surely it couldn’t get much worse?
The next game? A visit to the champions.
Despite our form against Manchester City being fairly decent in the last few seasons, with memorable wins both at home and away, not even the most optimistic Spurs fan would predict a positive result for Sunday’s trip to the Etihad.
Looking back at the previous game against Aston Villa, another where we scored the first goal but went on to lose, there were no fewer than eleven first-team players unavailable, leaving Ange Postecoglou to pick a starting XI which included a first league start for Giovani Lo Celso in over two years, a first league start for Bryan Gil since January, and no recognised centre back in Ange’s usual 4-3-3 formation.
It was also a first start for Rodrigo Bentancur since February due to injury, though he was forced off with a knock after just half an hour. Despite early signs being promising, however, it has been confirmed that he will be out until the new year at least.
With injuries and suspensions in mind, let’s do our best to predict Ange’s starting XI for Sunday’s trip up north…
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GOALKEEPER: GUGLIELMO VICARIO
The most obvious choice on the list. Vicario has been a revelation since signing from Empoli in June and seems to pull off world-class saves every week, even when we are up against it.
RIGHT BACK: PEDRO PORRO
Porro has also turned his Spurs career around somewhat, firmly cementing himself as our first choice right back after a shaky start. Another fairly straightforward choice, though with Ange’s tendency to tinker, don’t be surprised if we see him in another position…
CENTRE BACKS: EMERSON AND BEN DAVIES
As Ange clearly does not rate Eric Dier, Micky van de Ven is out until the new year and Cristian Romero will be serving the last game of his suspension, expect to see the same centre-back duo as it was on Sunday. The pair of Emerson and Davies largely kept Villa out, only to be undone by a set piece and clever movement. Will need to put in the game of their lives at the Etihad.
LEFT-BACK: DESTINY UDOGIE
Udogie is another player who has been a revelation this season in his position. Only turning 21 this week, he still has a lot to learn, such as not to put in two stupid yellow-card challenges in a London Derby, but the Italian has looked a breath of fresh air every time he’s played this season.
CENTRE MIDS: BISSOUMA AND PAPE MATAR SARR
A difficult choice in midfield, though Bissouma would surely be put straight into the starting XI after having served a suspension against Villa, another one who has completely transformed under the guidance of Ange. While Sarr was injured for the game at the weekend, signs that he’ll return for the trip to the Etihad are promising and will be much welcome as Bentancur is out.
THE ‘MADDISON ROLE’: GIOVANI LO CELSO
A controversial pick maybe, but Lo Celso put in a fantastic performance on his first league start in two years, bagging a goal and helping to track back when needed as well. While not as creative as Maddison, who is likely to be out until 2024, he is still a player with a point to prove and, under the guidance of Ange, could be starting to see a revival in Lilywhite.
WINGERS: KULUSEVSKI AND JOHNSON
After playing the last game down the middle, Kulusevski may well switch back to his natural position on the right wing at Man City – he is a player who has scored in both of his previous trips to the Etihad. Johnson, meanwhile, has had his injury troubles at Spurs (who hasn’t) but is undoubtedly one who changes games when he plays.
STRIKER: HEUNG-MIN SON
Newly reappointed captain Sonny looks to be back to his best this season, despite enduring a mini goal drought including an unprecedented hat trick of disallowed goals against Aston Villa, so will surely keep his place in his new position of centre-forward. Again, it’s not like we have many options there.
SUBS: FRASER FORSTER, BRANDON AUSTIN ERIC DIER, ALFIE DORRINGTON, BRYAN GIL, PIERRE-EMILE HØJBJERG, OLIVER SKIPP, ALEJO VELIZ, JAMIE DONLEY
The only changes to the matchday squad are the returns of Yves Bissouma and Pape Matar Sarr, with Bryan Gil dropping to the bench in his place.
Spurs only named eight subs on Sunday instead of the usual nine, again hinting that we are down to bare bones, and it’s entirely possible that it will happen again at the Etihad.
However, if we need to fill spaces on the bench, don’t be surprised if third-choice keeper Brandon Austin sits on the bench to make up the numbers. Other than Gil, it’s the same bench that was named at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium at the weekend.
So there we have it – a squad that will turn up to the Etihad, possibly try and play City at their own game, and score the first goal only to lose.
SCORE PREDICTION: MAN CITY 3-1 TOTTENHAM
Spurs goal scorer: Son