Tottenham and Manchester City’s recent meetings have been packed with drama — and Sunday’s clash won’t be any different.
Spurs had won four of their five previous five Premier League clashes with the champions prior to last month, when City came back from 2-0 down at half-time to win a bonkers game 4-2.
Since Antonio Conte arrived in North London, his two meetings with Pep Guardiola’s side have produced 11 goals — not exactly the cautious football we usually associate with the Italian.
He may not be in attendance this time around after having his gallbladder removed earlier in the week.
Conte is someone who really coaches his team from the sideline and lives every kick, so his absence is bound to impact his players.
Funnily enough, however, it may free some of them up a bit.
It’s kind of like when you have a substitute teacher in at school. You know the consequences are the same as usual, yet you behave a little bit differently!
Regardless, I’m sure he’ll be watching anxiously from afar given how pivotal this game is in Tottenham’s quest for a top-four finish.
I reckon that will ultimately be decisive in whether Conte stays in North London beyond this summer.
His side haven’t been impressive or fun to watch this season. But if they qualify for the Champions League, the owners will be content and he’ll have achieved his primary objective.
Fall short, though, and I can see him walking away — and that may be something that suits all parties given the financial implications of missing out on Europe’s premier competition.
City on the rise
Although City have struggled against Spurs time and time again, they’ll travel to London in confident mood.
I’ve been more encouraged with their recent performances. The patterns of play have been more consistent — more like what we’ve come to expect from a Guardiola side.
For whatever reason, they’ve been off as much as they’ve been and that’s why they have a lot of work to do in the title race.
But Pep is clearly much happier with how they are playing — and that spells trouble for the rest of the division.
What’s more, I reckon we may soon start seeing the benefit of City’s terrific squad depth and additional freshness as the season approaches its crunch months.
Julian Alvarez confessed in a recent interview that he has been surprised by the level of rotation at the Etihad — but that is one of the things that makes Pep so special.
He has spoken about the different factors that go into his team selection every single week, such as training levels, tactical tweaks, opposition strengths and weaknesses.
Where many managers have their first-choice XI or at least several regulars, he’s always looking at things on a game-by-game basis and has full confidence in his squad to perform.
It keeps everybody on their toes and assures even the most high-profile stars aren’t resting on their laurels.
Dyche out to derail Gunners
Leaders Arsenal head to Everton on Saturday for what promises to be a much tougher game than it would’ve been a fortnight ago.
Goodison Park is never a trip you look forward to but the Gunners must’ve fancied their chances given their fine form and the Toffees’ recent woes.
But as we’ve seen before, a new manager bounce can produce some sensational results and Sean Dyche will relish being back in the dugout.
It’s a funny one because I don’t think Frank Lampard had lost the dressing room or the Everton fans. Effort hasn’t been lacking in that regard.
Where Dyche may have an impact, however, is on a tactical level. He’ll want Everton to stay compact and make things as difficult as possible.
Can they really keep out Mikel Arteta’s men for 90 minutes? Sadly, I’m not convinced.
On that note, time for my Matchday 22 predictions.
Joleon Lescott’s Premier League Matchday 22 predictions