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    Man City




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    West Ham


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Etihad Stadium

Attendance: 47208

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Manchester City

  • Sergio Ag├╝ero 65'
  • Edin Dzeko 88'

2 - 1


Tottenham Hotspur

  • Steven Caulker 21'

City look to find mental fortitude

Miguel Delaney

Roberto Mancini will need to lift his players after their latest Champions League disappointment

Last season, this exact fixture laid something of a marker for Manchester City. Remarkably, although it took place as late as the end of January, it was the first time that Roberto Mancini's side scored a genuine result-changing late goal. Of course, this was a particularly dramatic one as Mario Balotelli kept his cool to roll in a pressurised late penalty in injury-time and just about win 3-2.

Given that City had previously struggled if they weren't leading a game after an hour, it could even be said this was the fixture in which they developed a pretty important trait, that they broke a key mental barrier. We all know the effects of that by the season's end.

Interestingly, though, City could use just as much of a turning point now. Because, in truth, they haven't yet fully kicked on from May's crescendo. Whereas at this stage last season they were often so prolific they didn't generally need late goals, that hasn't been the case of late.

Look at the bald stats. After ten games in 2011-12, they scored a hugely impressive 36 goals. After the same amount this campaign, it's dropped to 18: exactly half. What's more, it's started to have an effect. City have only hit one in the last two games, with the latest 0-0 draw at West Ham resulting in them losing two points on Manchester United, who also moved to the top of the table.

In the absence of that previously exceptional attacking, of course, all manner of theories have been put forward. Whether it's all ultimately down to Mancini supposedly being unsettled, his players being unhappy with formations or just a hangover, the fact is ultimately that City have lacked an edge. Yes, they remain undefeated, but they've been largely underwhelming.

This fixture is intriguing, though, because we don't really know what we're going to get from Spurs either. For a team on a supposed upward curve, how exactly do you square a victory at Old Trafford in the middle of a fine winning run with a listless home defeat to Wigan?

One answer, of course, is Mousa Dembele, who has done so much to tie Andre Villas-Boas' system together. Here, though, Tottenham are likely to be on the back foot much more. The question will be whether they can ensure City's attacking interchanges remain interrupted, and then pierce them on the break.

Despite the relative uncertainty and openness around both of these teams at the moment, this match may actually be surprisingly tight. As such, the trait that City developed last January may prove telling again.

Manchester City player to watch: Yaya Toure. With Dembele set to be out, Spurs lack that driving force in the centre of the pitch. As such, there is likely to be even more room into which Toure can thunder forward. And, given that City have oddly struggled to link up their overload of strikers further forward, that may be the difference.

Tottenham Hotspur player to watch: Clint Dempsey. As City have wavered between a standard back four and Mancini's improvised 3-4-3, a gap has often been left right in front of defence. Last week, for example, Sam Allardyce noted the lack of a player like Nigel De Jong and appeared to specifically target it. With such uncertainty there, a goalscoring attacking midfielder like Dempsey may find a lot of joy suddenly arriving from deep.

Key battle: Jermain Defoe/Emmanuel Adebayor v Vincent Kompany. The area in which Manchester City have had the most problems is also the one where Spurs have had the least. Quite simply, City's comparative lack of goals has been even more of an issue because they are no longer to keep them out so proficiently at the back. Worse, the player that pretty much defined last season for them, Kompany, has been well below his best.

By contrast, Defoe has been so dynamic for Spurs that, despite initially not appearing to suit Villas-Boas' system, he has completely banished Emmanuel Adebayor to the bench. Here's the thing, though: should Kompany recover form and stifle Defoe any time Tottenham break, City may have an even bigger problem if the Togolese striker comes on. So far, Mancini's defence have conceded a higher percentage of goals from set-pieces - 56% - than any other Premier League team. Such is his aerial ability that Adebayor may well see a lot of enjoyment against his former club.

Trivia: This match is something of a duel between two of the most prolific Premier League substitutes. Edin Dzeko is one of 16 Premier League heroes to have scored ten or more goals from the bench. However, he still has some way to go to equal Jermain Defoe, who is the Premier League's all-time top-scoring substitute with 20.

Stats: Tottenham's nine wins away at Manchester City since 1992-93 are more than any other Premier League team except Arsenal and Chelsea, who have 10 each. Should Tottenham equal that, though, it will also be the first time they've won four away games in succession since April 1989. A victory would also mark their 300th in the Premier League.

Odds: Manchester City are 1.57 to win this game with Bet365 while Tottenham are a massive 6.00. A draw, meanwhile, is 4.00.

Prediction: A 1-1 draw.

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