When Toby Alderweireld scored that breathtakingly ridiculous own goal at Anfield last Sunday, he was really doing his team a massive solid. Gifting the hosts an injury-time winning goal was a small price to pay for garnering the most valuable intelligence since that seen at Bletchley Park in 1941.
In return, Liverpool had agreed to share their secrets: how they twice overcame the might of Man City in last season’s Champions League to win both legs and emerge 5-1 aggregate winners to book their place in the semis.
Poch’s army had every reason to cut a deal: their current status is identical to that of Merseysiders at this stage last season. Sitting third in the league, a mere sniff of the title is now the most they can hope for and, just like Liverpool of yesteryear, they go into this mammoth quarter-final with low expectations but lofty ambitions.
The Reds blew City away last term with three goals inside 30 minutes in front of a rumbustious Kop. Taking their chances just as Salah and co. did that night is absolutely paramount to give Spurs any chance of unseating the Blue behemoths.
New Stadium Bounce
It will be the first big test for the newly constructed 17,000 capacity ‘Kop’ behind the goal, the largest single-tier stand in Europe, and Spurs' inescapable 12th man.
City getting a feel of what to expect come Tuesday night.
You might think this could make for an intimidating atmosphere for visiting teams but Kevin de Bruyne doesn’t think so. “I don’t care about the stadium”, he poo-pooed, maintaining his fascinating personal brand of almost pathological indifference.
Should the Belgian slap home a 30-yard screamer before cupping his ears in front of the South Stand tonight, this fan will happily eat his words. Should City be blown away by the newly unleashed sea of white, he’ll end up wearing an even paler complexion than usual.
Mo Po has oft had his tactical nous questioned of late, just as he did so vigorously when his charges were booted out of this competition by Juventus last season.
Far be it my place to tell him how to do his job (I will though), it’s surely his duty to acknowledge what his team does best and play to those strengths.
Despite not being known for it, the propensity of his side to get down the flank and fling balls across has been especially fruitful this term. In the last round against Borussia Dortmund, each of the Lillywhites’ three goals came from a cross.
And before you question whether that’s merely an anomaly, think again. Poch’s salmons have been rising all over the place this season - with the exception of Bayern Munich, they’ve scored more headed goals than any side in Europe’s top five leagues.
What’s more, Kyle Walker and Oleksandr Zinchenko are both injury doubts with Aymeric Laporte tipped to cover at full back. This should provide their own fit and able full-backs, Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier, plenty of encouragement to press on and pick out a final ball for Harry Kane to attack.
With Sterling and Bernie Silva in such fine fettle for City, any adventure down the flanks will be fraught with danger. But attempting to stifle City, especially over two legs, is surely a pillock’s pursuit. Better to grasp the nettle, especially at home, than pray for 120 minutes of unrealistic defensive perfection.
The Weakest Link
After such a stellar showing in Russia last summer, Kieran Trippier’s season has been a more epic anti-climax than Fyre Festival 2017.
His efforts in keeping opponents out have at times resembled the garden gnome keeping watch on your nan’s lawn. This commitment to low intervention defending was on full display as Raheem Sterling was allowed to waltz past him in and set up the winner this season’s earlier league meeting.
It’s not been a vintage season - the right-back has been done like a kipper no fewer than 24 times this season in terms of opponents dribbling past him. Two goals have come directly from a mistake of his. That’s before you even consider his awful ability to slide the ball directly into his own net just as he did against Chelsea.
To deny the Englishman’s talents going forward however would be to question water’s wetness. He can be a huge asset for Spurs against his former outfit but he needs to screw his brain on in defence and focus on getting balls into the right areas for Kane and co to get on the end of.
Trippier in action in his last outing against Man City.
Poch vs Pep is a well-trodden path. The pair have faced off 14 times since 2009 when they first met in the Catalonian Derby which, incredibly, the Argentine won for Espanyol at Camp Nou. The surprise victory for the long-odds underdogs resulted in their great escape from relegation, lending weight to Poch’s managerial credentials.
Poch has only managed to repeat this masterstroke one other time, dishing out a first defeat in English football with a convincing 2-0 win at White Hart Lane in 2016.
But, as Spurs fans know too well, nothing good ever lasts and the groovy gaffer has reasserted his dominance in the four games since winning 3 and drawing 1.
10 years after their first encounter, it’s high time Poch produced his third win against the man who remains the very cutting edge of his profession.
Time for a big performance? If you were to be hyper-critical of the Chingford Chin (please do note the if), his record against the very best sides could be slightly better.
Before you hurl your phone at the wall at my stupidity, consider this - he's only ever netted twice against City with the four most prolific opponents across his career being Leicester (13), Arsenal (9), Stoke (9) and Everton (9).
Compare that to Sergio Aguero and his mastery in the big matches is apparent. His career tally against Spurs sits at a whopping 10 and the pint-sized whippet can boast more than 7 strikes against the following heavy hitters - Chelsea (15), Arsenal (11), Man United (9), Barcelona (7) and Liverpool (7).
That ability to consistently bend the narrative of the greatest stages to his will is probably all that separates the two finest marksmen in the Premier League right now.
Aside from a brief three match purple patch for Spurs in the middle of the decade, City have owned this fixture of late, winning 11 of their last 17 meetings and pilling 4+ goals on 5 occasions.
Tottenham more than held their own the last time they met, though City still secured to a 1-0 victory at Wembley back thanks to an early Riyad Mahrez tap in.
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