Football Features

Tottenham v Man City: Five reasons Conte might be more confident than you think

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 14:45, 18 February 2022

It’s been 15 games since Manchester City lost in the Premier League, and this weekend they face Tottenham.

On paper, City are overwhelming favourites. Since bizarrely losing to Crystal Palace at the end of October, Pep’s men have been imperious – winning 12 games in a row before drawing with Southampton. The defending Premier League champions have established themselves as league leaders and, for some people, even Champions-elect.


Man City v Tottenham: Premier League odds from William Hill

  • 90 mins: Man City 2/7 | Draw 9/2 | Tottenham 10/1
  • Enhanced odds on Raheem Sterling to score first – was 4/1, now 5/1
  • Enhanced odds on Harry Kane to score anytime – was 27/10, now 10/3

All odds accurate at the time of publication. You must be 18 to gamble. For more information, visit Be Gamble Aware.


Spurs, meanwhile, have lost three games in a row. The Antonio Conte effect has yet to, well, take effect. The squad are playing better than they were but are still not good enough to achieve their goals. Spurs are currently eighth in the league, seven points off that coveted fourth place (albeit with three games in hand). Even Conte himself told beIN Sports this week he’s not expecting anything less than a ‘tough game’ on Saturday.

So this should be a straightforward City win, right? Wrong!

There are multiple reasons for Spurs to be (cautiously) optimistic ahead of their trip to the Etihad Stadium. What are they? Read on and find out!

1. Conte’s record against Guardiola

Not many coaches do well against Pep Guardiola. It’s basically only Jurgen Klopp who can match up to him. And even there, Klopp has lost as many games as he’s won (that alone should tell you how good Guardiola is).

However, way back in 2016/17 when Antonio Conte’s Chelsea were new and furious and thrilling everyone on their way to winning the Premier League, they beat Guardiola’s Manchester City. Twice.

A 1-3 victory in December was followed by a 2-1 triumph in April as Antonio Conte became the first manager to “double” Guardiola in a single league campaign. Pep returned the favour next year when Conte was struggling with egos and City were flying, but that initial pair of games should fill Spurs players with hope that they could spring a similar surprise.

Responding to Conte’s earlier claims that he is the world’s best manager, the Man City manager expressed his own admiration for a peer once described by Jurgen Klopp as ‘the Guardiola of Turin’.

“I appreciate it, but I am not,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday.

“I don’t have words. The movement, and many things, the club rely on him, in terms of ideas.

“He show it in Juventus, and many things since his arrival. Always my first season here was tough, managers need time and investment to be there for a long time, especially in this country.

“He can talk about this, I can talk about this, because we have been in different countries – this country is difficult. I have incredible respect for when I watch his teams, I can learn something new and improve.”

2. Pep’s Spurs struggles

Pep Guardiola has lost to Spurs five times during his career. That may not seem like a lot but only Manchester United and Chelsea have beaten the colossal Catalan more times than that.

More interestingly, since the start of the 2019/20 season, Guardiola has won just two of five games against Spurs, losing three. Alright, one of those wins was an EFL Cup final, but he’s lost 2-0 twice to José Mourinho and even in the first game of this season his side fell 1-0 to Nuno Espirito Santo’s Spurs.

Of course in all three of those wins, City were by far the dominant side, only to inexplicably lose. But the result is the result! That will only give Conte hope that he can lift his Spurs side to a big upset.

3. Son: The City Killer

Son has scored seven goals in 14 games against Manchester City. Only against Borussia Dortmund and Southampton has he scored more. The South Korean winger isn’t in the best of form right now, but City represent almost the perfect opportunity for the Korean to get his groove back.

Of course, when these two teams met at Tottenham Stadium in the first game of the season, it was Son who scored the winning goal. And who can forget the 2018/19 Champions League when City lost on away goals to Spurs a 4-4 aggregate draw. With three of Spurs’ goals being scored by the sublime Korean including a ridiculously against-the-run-of-play brace in the Etihad.

City made the big play for Kane in the summer, but if anyone in white can turn match-winner for Spurs, it’s Heung-min Son.

4. Romero and Dier, together again!

Spurs’ two best centre-backs are Cristiano Romero and Eric Dier. Sure, Dier is more a result of Conte’s coaching than a natural and obvious brilliance like Romero, but still, those two are the top dogs.

Yet because of injury they’ve played together just twice: Conte’s first two games. The 3-2 win over Vitesse and the 0-0 draw with Everton, which isn’t a lot to go on but that clean sheet they got against Everton would be useful on Saturday night.

Conte is a coach who requires his defence to be sturdy, and so for him to finally be able to have his two best defenders in that defence is going to really up the chances of Spurs putting in a good rearguard display and hitting City on the break.

5. The tactical tightrope

Beyond all the history, beyond Conte and Pep, beyond Son, there are two key things at the heart of why Spurs can beat City. The first is tactical: sitting deep and hitting on the break is what Conte likes to do against Guardiola, and is often what undoes Pep’s City as they tightrope walk on the half-way line, exposing themselves to rapid counter-attacks. And when you’re facing Harry Kane and Heung-min Son, the counter-attacks will be rapid.

But also, might both sides be due a reversal in fortune? Spurs have lost three in a row, City haven’t lost in 15. You can feel something coming, right? It’s not really logical; maybe it’s just a neutral’s optimism willing a stunning upset to put Conte’s Spurs back on the right track and drag Manchester City back into a genuine scrap with Liverpool for the Premier League title.

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