Weblog: The football punter

Spurs in good shape to see off Manchester City

Quarter-final second leg
TV: BT Sport 2, 8pm Wednesday

Pep Guardiola always said the quad was the impossible dream so don’t be surprised if his trophy target drops from a fanciful four to a more realistic three following Manchester City's Champions League clash with Tottenham.

Twelve months after Liverpool knocked City out of the competition at the quarter-final stage Pep’s quest for a perfect season could again be thwarted by a Premier League rival.

Spurs put themselves in pretty much the ideal position for this last-eight showdown by winning the first leg without conceding a goal.

Yet because of City’s reputation for battering opponents, they are favourites to make it through to the semis. And that makes Spurs the value to go through as they defend a 1-0 lead.

Sky pundit Gary Neville said on Monday that he can’t see Spurs not scoring at the Etihad and that City, therefore, will have to score at least three times to qualify.

Neville, like the rest of us, is entirely aware that City can turn on the scoring power at will and that if there is one side in the top flight who could notch three by half-time never mind after 90 minutes, it’s City.

But Tottenham have been top-six contenders of some character for a while and they simply don’t look like the sort of side who will fold in the face of a City onslaught.

They didn’t in a cagier first game when Heung-Min Son grabbed the only goal after Sergio Aguero had missed from the penalty spot.

And nor have they at any stage of this remarkable Champions League run which looked doomed almost before it had started following an awful start to the group phase.

Seven points from their last three Group B fixtures – culminating in a 1-1 draw at Barcelona – preceded a simply magnificent 4-0 demolition of Borussia Dortmund over two legs.

Spurs look at home in the latter stages of Europe’s premier club competition under the supreme Mauricio Pochettino and they are going to take some dislodging.

How they approach the game is more of an issue. City’s mindset rarely alters – they would have been attack-minded whatever the first-leg score.

Pochettino has more to mull over. Statistically, at least, losing Harry Kane hasn’t been a huge impediment. They won five out of seven minus the England skipper earlier this year and made the breakthrough against City after he had left the field.

Spurs looked slicker without him and stretched City’s defence. Going the other way, Mo Sissoko and Harry Winks produced towering performances to prevent City at source, though Guardiola will not be fielding both Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho this time.

Despite the stakes and the scoreline from the first leg bookmakers anticipate lots of goals. Over 3.5 is as short as evens, but the 5-6 that both teams score might be more appealing.

The game should be open, as it was when City tried to claw their way back into the tie against Liverpool last year.

And even if it is generally one-way traffic, the chances are that Spurs will get chances, either on the counter or through necessity should they go a couple down. They may have a better chance of getting four or more corners than odds of 9-4 imply.

They chalked up five in Dortmund despite being on the back foot a lot of the time and their pacy frontmen will be able to stretch City at the back.


Tottenham to qualify
Over 3.5 Tottenham corners

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