Two teams chasing Chelsea, and battling each other for a spot in the top four, collide on Saturday at the Eithad when Tottenham Hotspur visits Manchester City (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC).
Man in the middle: Andre Marriner draws the prime assignment for the weekend. He was the referee for Spurs’ 3-0 win over Hull City on Dec. 14 and dished out five yellow cards in City’s 2-1 win against Burnley on Nov. 26
Table watch: Tottenham is in second place on 45 points, ahead of Liverpool on goal difference and seven points behind Chelsea in the top spot. Manchester City is on 42 points in fifth place and are two points back of Arsenal for fourth.
Injury report: Spurs will have to do without Jan Vertonghen, who’s out a couple months with an ankle injury. Erik Lamela is also still dealing with a hip injury. Otherwise, Mauricio Pochettino’s squad is in pretty good shape.
For City, Fernandinho is serving a red card suspension and Ilkay Gundogan and Vincent Kompany are out with injuries. Fernando could return from his own ailments and new signing Gabriel Jesus could also feature.
What’s trending: Manchester City had 71 percent of the ball against Everton but came out on the wrong end of a 4-0 score last time out. Spurs, on the other hand, have won seven straight matches in all competitions, outscoring opponents 17-3 along the way.
Tottenham also won the first meeting between the clubs this season, 2-0, back in October.
Added drama: The addition of Gabriel Jesus may not be sitting well with Sergio Aguero, who might see the young Brazilian as a threat to his starting place. The Daily Mail reports that Aguero, his agent and manager Pep Guardiola met Thursday night to talk it over.
They said it, part one: “Be careful, they’re only three points behind us and they’re in the Champions League. The judgment is at the end (of the season). I know Pep Guardiola very well, he’s a great manager, one of the best, and you can expect different things. When you arrive at a new club you need to adapt your values to a new culture, and it’s difficult, but I don’t change my opinion of him. I am not someone who judges other people.” — Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino
They said it, part two: “At White Hart Lane Tottenham were much better. In the other games I don’t feel that feeling that the opponents were much better. In football, like in basketball, like in tennis, you have to put the ball inside the net. In the balance of how you create, how you concede, they punish us.” — Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola
Analysis: Manchester City is a slight favorite, but with its form and it’s lack of options in the defensive midfield, it’s tough to understand why. Still, after last week’s thrashing, Guardiola will have his side’s full attention. City will boss the possession stats and get a few chances on the Tottenham goal. That’s not the issue.
The problems will come when Spurs are on the attack. Yaya Toure could get overrun in the City midfield and, should that happen, the back line and keeper haven’t exactly been lights out this season. That’s not a good situation against the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli.
Prediction: Goals, and plenty of them. Tottenham 3, Manchester City 2