Spurs storming fortress Etihad is mission improbable
08:01 10 November 2012
The Etihad faithful have certainly had value for money over the last 18 months, and their record-breaking home form paved the way for their historic title triumph last season.
A victory over Wigan in March 2011 started a stunning sequence of 20 consecutive home wins in the Premier League – the first time that had ever been done.
That record will irritate Spurs fans, given how close they came to winning at the Etihad back in January.
Having fought back from 2-0 down, the Lilywhites were a toe’s length away from grabbing a late winner as Jermain Defoe narrowly missed Gareth Bale’s low cross – only to concede an even later penalty and lose 3-2.
Dramatic late goals proved to be something of a theme at the Etihad, and few will forget the dying seconds of the campaign as Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero struck to earn another dramatic 3-2 victory – this time over QPR – and wrestle the crown away from Manchester United.
Unfortunately for Spurs, City have picked up where they left off in terms of their home form in the league – they have taken 13 points from a possible 15 at the Etihad this campaign, with only Arsenal escaping unbeaten after a 1-1 draw.
The result is that the Citizens have now won 27 out of their last 29 home games in the Premier League, and have not lost at home for 35 league games, dating back to December 2010.
However, the noisy neighbours are certainly not at their best at the moment, and they still seem to be waking up after their celebrations in May.
Having been knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Aston Villa early on, a disappointing goalless draw at West Ham on Saturday left them in third place in the Premier League.
Meanwhile, Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Ajax in Manchester leaves Roberto Mancini’s side bottom of their group in the Champions League, eyeing an early elimination for the second season in a row.
City’s difficulty in building on last season could be attributed to their failure to really improve their side in the summer.
Last season’s stellar signings – particularly Aguero, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy – were instant hits, but the latest additions are yet to stake a claim for a spot in Roberto Mancini’s best XI.
The headline signing was probably Maicon, who was annihilated by Gareth Bale when Spurs faced Inter Milan in 2010 – and the Brazilian right-back has done little to enhance his reputation in England so far this season.
The 31-year-old has made just two appearances – the 1-1 draw at Stoke and the 3-2 defeat at Real Madrid in September – before succumbing to injury. He has missed nine games but was on the bench against Ajax in midweek.
Meanwhile, Jack Rodwell has made just six appearances for his new club – four of them off the bench – and Scott Sinclair has only started once. Neither has found the net.
Midfielder Javi Garcia has come in from Benfica, while 19-year-old centre-back Matija Nastasic arrived from Fiorentina, and they both started in midweek.
However, City’s defending was poor as they conceded from two corners, and Garcia was withdrawn at half-time with his side 2-1 down.
Rodwell has been out of action since the international break, and David Silva, James Milner, Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards may also miss tomorrow’s clash.
With such an expensively-assembled squad, Mancini still has global stars in every position. Indeed, he fielded Carlos Tevez, Dzeko and Mario Balotelli in the same starting XI for the time on Saturday, introducing Aguero off the bench.
Despite that array of attacking talent, City drew a blank at Upton Park – which irked their manager.
“We missed four or five incredible chances against West Ham and the difference with last year is this – 36 goals [at this stage of last season] against 18,” said Mancini.
“I am worried but if we think we are two points off the top and we have this problem, the moment we solve this, we can go well.”
Given that Spurs conceded eight goals in their two meetings with City last season, Andre Villas-Boas and his players will hope their hosts don’t solve the issue too quickly.
The verdict: Tottenham may have triumphed at Old Trafford on their last trip to Manchester, but that was with a full-strength midfield. Given the injury issues in that position, we have to back City – 2-0