Manchester City lost only four of their first 47 matches in all competitions this season. They have now lost three in a week. It could be four in a row with a visit to Wembley on Saturday night to face a fizzing Tottenham Hotspur team.
City supporters are defending their side until they are sky blue in the face. They’ve just hit a bad patch at the worst time, they say. Every team hits a bad patch, don’t they? This is true. But most of the time good teams, you know, really, really stellar outfits, don’t do it in the Champions League quarter-finals and their derby match.
From surrendering a two-goal lead at home to Manchester United either side of being razed 3-0 by Liverpool at Anfield and then beaten 2-1 in the return leg, City are beleaguered. From a dominant season they will now only have the Premier League title to show off. They probably feel that is a bit of a failure.
It is tempting to reckon they will bounce back against Spurs. But there are some statistics which have emerged that suggest Pep Guardiola’s team are, frankly, exhausted. Against United, for example, they managed 517 sprints in the game. Their average this season has been 544. The amount of ground they covered was also down.
What didn’t help was Pep tinkering with a tried and trusted formation. At Anfield he switched Raheem Sterling for Ilkay Gundogan. Liverpool couldn’t believe their luck. Sterling could have kept a Reds team which is desperate to get on the front foot on its heels. Liverpool attacked with abandon.
There is something amusing about Pep costing his multi-millionaire stars their shot at glory. Revered the world over as a genius and master tactician, Pep is just surely good at spending someone else’s money. He cost Bayern Munich in the Champions League, fiddling with personnel and formation when he didn’t need to.
That Bayern team lost four in a row. That hadn’t happened to Pep before or since. But we’ve seen enough from him and City these last few days to reckon Spurs are the value for the win. We will be betting them at +163 with William Hill and Ladbrokes.
Spurs have won seven of their last eight, including four on the spin after the crushing blow of defeat by Juventus in the Champions League. They haven’t lost in the league since October and City were the last team to beat them in December.