Pep Guardiola and Manchester City looking to solve Tottenham riddle in the absence of Antonio Conte

After a glut of Cup fixtures, the Premier League comes roaring back to life this weekend with Manchester City taking on Tottenham in the showcase match.

The two teams are meeting again after their first clash of the season just over two weeks ago where Manchester City came from 2-0 behind to blow away Spurs 4-2 after the dust had settled. However, the first-half performance of the defending champions left a lot to be desired that day, making Tottenham, a team that has had its own share of problems, look like the better team.

City found their second wind after the break as World Cup winner Julian Alvarez and goal machine Erling Haaland helped them draw level with goals in the 51st and 53rd minute, two quickfire blows from which Spurs could not recover. Riyad Mahrez would then add the proverbial final nails to Spurs’ coffin with a brace to put a perfect bow on the situation.

This time around, City are coming into the match with a morale-boosting FA Cup win over Premier League title rivals Arsenal while Spurs themselves have put 3 goals past Preston in their own cup tie. But both teams have at least a huge name missing from their midst.

For Spurs, they’ll be without their talismanic coach Antonio Conte, someone whose tactics City boss Pep Guardiola has had difficulty adapting to, having lost their last three away games in the Tottenham Stadium. Interestingly, in those 3 matches, the free-scoring City side did not manage to find the net even once.

This time, however, due to Conte’s absence due to gallbladder surgery, assistant manager Cristian Stellini will be at the helm. And he has quite the task at hand due to Spurs’ sloppy home form this season. In their last 5 Premier League home games, the Lilywhites have shipped in at least 2 goals in each match as well as conceding first every time. With City applying their vintage high press, the Tottenham defenders will have their hands full in neutralizing them.

Tottenham’s Son Heung-min. (AP)

The huge miss for City will undoubtedly be left back Joao Cancelo, who after a reportedly volatile bust-up with coach Guardiola, left for Bayern Munich on loan in the winter transfer window, a deal which increasingly looks like it’ll be made permanent in the summer unless something drastically changes.

Netherlands’ Nathan Ake has, however, made Cancelo’s spot his own since the World Cup, relegating the Portuguese to the bench, even scoring the only goal in the FA Cup win over Arsenal. But with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min’s counterattacking prowess, he will have his work cut out for him.

With both teams vying for the elusive Champions League spot and in City’s case bridging the gap between them and league leaders Arsenal, this one has all the potential to be an explosive encounter.

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