High-fly­ing Spurs take on floun­der­ing City

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

LONDON: The night be­fore Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur’s last trip to Manch­ester City, 11 months ago, was the night Erik Lamela fa­mously told Danny Rose that Tot­ten­ham could win the Pre­mier League ti­tle.

The next day Spurs won 2-1 at the Eti­had Sta­dium and looked, be­fore their spring col­lapse, like they had the mo­men­tum and the power to catch up with Le­ices­ter City.

To­mor­row Spurs go back to City and some­thing ap­proach­ing the same op­ti­mism is brew­ing at White Hart Lane.

They have won six straight in the league, as good as their best run last sea­son, trans­form­ing them from aim­ing to scrape back into the top four to Chelsea’s most gen­uine ti­tle chal­lengers.

While the high­light of that run was the 2-0 mas­ter­class against Chelsea, it also in­cluded four-`goal pound­ings of Southamp­ton, Wat­ford and West Bromwich Al­bion, dis­plays of to­tal dom­i­na­tion and con­trol in which the op­po­si­tion did not get a look-in.

Spurs, right now, are play­ing the best foot­ball of the Po­chet­tino era and the num­bers prove it.

After 21 league games, Spurs have nine more points than they did at this stage last year. They have won four more games.

They have scored nine more goals and con­ceded three fewer, giv­ing them a goal dif­fer­ence that is 12 bet­ter than it was.

And all of this in a league that is harder than ever be­cause of the big strides made by the top teams. Spurs have done what few thought they would last sea­son, which is im­prove. Po­chet­tino said at the start of the sea­son that Spurs’ last step to take was in their heads, but the ev­i­dence of the last few weeks sug­gests that is what his team have done.

And to­mor­row, after see­ing his team wipe the floor with West Brom, that is what he pointed to.

“We are show­ing that we are clever and that we learn a lot,” Po­chet­tino said. “It is true, as in life, that ev­ery day you can im­prove and you can learn. If you are open and your mind is open that is a good thing. We are show­ing this sea­son that we are more ma­ture, we com­pete bet­ter, and maybe we missed that a lit­tle bit last sea­son.”

Po­chet­tino did not want to draw too many par­al­lels be­tween to­mor­row’s trip to City and Spurs’ win there last year.

“We are in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent pe­riod and a com­pletely dif­fer­ent mo­men­tum,” he said.

“Ev­ery game in ev­ery sea­son is com­pletely dif­fer­ent.” But it is fair to say that Spurs will go to City play­ing even bet­ter than they were when they went there and won last year.

The in­jury to Jan Ver­tonghen is their only dis­trac­tion, but even then they have Ben Davies to come in. The big­ger ques­tions for to­mor­row lie with Pep Guardi­ola’s side. City have lost their three straight league games to Spurs, their open style and slow de­fend­ers pro­vid­ing easy prey for Spurs’ rav­en­ous press­ing. Po­chet­tino clearly has City’s num­ber and Guardi­ola’s job will be to come up with a way to stop him. Be­cause right now only one of these sides looks like chal­leng­ing Chelsea. – The In­de­pen­dent

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