First game jitters? Will Spurs open their new stadium with a win?

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A new stadium gets its first Champions League game, but which team will take the advantage to leg 2?

This game featuring Manchester City and Tottenham kicks off the start of the UEFA Champions League Quarterfinals! Get ready for some great football, big names, and fantastic entertainment. This is the first of eight games in this round, and this tie will be decided over two legs; the first at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (in London) and the second at Manchester City’s Emirates Stadium.

Guardiola has his sights set on the Quadruple, can his Manchester City team keep pace?

Manchester City is doing their best impression of their crosstown rivals in red. Only Manchester United have been able to go back-to-back in the Premier League era. They are fight at the top of the League with big-spending Liverpool. Pep Guardiola’s squad has already won two trophies (Supporters Shield and the EFL Cup) but are still competing in the Champions League and the FA Cup. Guardiola has openly discussed his studies of Quadruple-winning teams including the crosstown rivals and Bayern Munich. They are closing in on the treble with just a meeting between themselves and Watford in the way. They are still a ways off from Champions League glory and there are so some serious hurdles still remaining.

Manchester City have already assured themselves Champions League play for next season based off the domestic season. With 5 games left, the Citizens currently trail Liverpool by 2 points (but also have a game in hand). The title chasers stop there with a massive gap between second place and third-placed Tottenham is currently 16 points. Although the Citizens are mathematically eliminated from reaching their 100-point tally from last season, their play has still be phenomenal. Earlier in the season we featured this team and discussed the likelihood of winning again. I talked about how even the teams that have managed to win back to back have been unable to keep up with their initial seasons pace, though the Citizens aren’t too far off. Ironically, in our dark horse post I discussed that the closest Manchester City has been was 11 points off (of the eventual winner), which is well within reach if they can win 3 out of the last 5.

Manchester City was the only one of the English teams to finish top of their group. All of the other were only able to secure second-place finishes (and some barely slid into the elimination rounds). Manchester City only lost one game (to Lyon) and it was the opening game of the group stages. That team however was missing Kevin de Bruyne, Benjamin Mendy, and Sergio Agüero. Although some of those injured did make a cameo, it clearly wasn’t their best game, and it was against a Lyon team that handed City their only roadblocks in their pursuit of Champions League perfect with a loss and a draw.

Players to watch:

-Sergio Agüero: If you’ve followed City at all (or you’ve read any of my other articles), this is not a name that will surprise you. Agüero has made 27 appearances for the club in the Premier League and is averaging just barely under a goal or assist per game. He’s scored 19 goals with an average time between goals at a goal every 105 minutes. Additionally, he’s adding an assist about every 332′ minutes played. Perhaps even more impressive is that his goalscoring record is actually better in the Champions League than the domestic league. He’s made 5 Champions League appearances for a total of 349 minutes, and he’s scored five goals in that timespan, meaning that he’s averaging almost 1.3 goals per 90 minutes in the league. In the Champions League, Agüero is taking a full shot per game more than in the Premier League (4.6 compared to 3.6). In away games in the Champions League, he averages 5.3 shots per game and has scored three of his five goals in these games. Unsurprisingly, we’ve featured him before, noting that as of the Schalke game in the first elimination round which Man City won very convincingly, he had 35 shots on target and had five more denied by the woodwork.

-Kevin de Bruyne: de Bruyne has had some serious struggles with fitness this year, but after a 65-minute cameo he looks fit to make an appearance in this game. I tried to feature de Bruyne in their last game, but he was unfit to go. Hopefully, this time he’ll be able to make an appearance! So much of this analysis comes from the last time I expected him to play. He has only played in two Champions League games, but he’s averaging three key passes per game. Across the 14 Premier League appearances (seven starts, seven substitute appearances), he’s averaged 1.5 key passes per game although he’s averaging only 48 minutes per game during that time. He’s averaged two shots per game and managed a single assist in the two Champions League appearances he’s made. Kevin de Bruyne played only one half against Bournemouth after playing the full 90 in the midweek fixture, seemingly to provide him an opportunity to rest. City has one more game on Saturday before the midweek clash against Schalke; I expect de Bruyne to play against Schalke. He should get himself on the scoresheet as he returns to his form from last season that won him Premier League Playmaker of the Season (in honor of 15 assists).

-David Silva: Silva has been a machine in the Champions League games that he has played in. He’s only appeared in 7 games, with three goals and two assists across that time. He’s also having a profound effect on the other members of his team as indicated by the 2.4 key passes provided on average per game. He’s been even more dangerous in away games in this campaign increasing to almost 3.5 key passes per game. Also, across his four away games, he’s scored two goals, two assists, and averages two shots per game. It seems that his opponents have caught on to his playmaking abilities as he’s the most-fouled player on the team having been fouled 1.6 times per game on average.

Pochettino said his side was perfect; can Tottenham spring an upset?

Tottenham is mathematically eliminated from challenging for the title this season, although considering their transfer expenditures (or lack thereof) I have to think this season is considered a success for the Tottenham board. Currently, they are only trailing a Liverpool team that spent about $230M and this Manchester City team that spent about $102M. This last week Tottenham had the opportunity to christen their new stadium after months of delays finally. They did so with a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace thanks to goals from Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min. Tottenham has historically had ghosts wreak havoc on their form. However, their actual home stadium has lent itself to fantastic form. This is an opportunity to see just how much “home cooking” means to the Spurs.

Mauricio Pochettino made a statement during the transfer window before the start of the domestic season that he was happy with his club. I’ve continued to touch on how amazing I think that is, and although they are somewhat out of touch with the league leaders, they’ve managed to do it for literally (hundreds of) millions less. However, it’s evident that there’s still a large gap between the top two teams in the Premier League and the rest. However, historically their form at the Spurs stadium (generally) has been far better than at Wembley, given that they’ve played most of the season at Wembley, perhaps next year they’ll get more points. Tottenham leads the Premier League in away form this year, but are seventh in home form. In the prior season, they secured 12 more points in only two more games at home and finishing two places higher than they are on track for this season. Eventually, Tottenham is going to have to push their level of performance up if they want to capture their first Premier League title rather than finishing in the top-4 or even as runners up.

Tottenham have been good in the Champions League winning the majority of their games by keeping things tight at the back. They’ve conceded only nine goals (and 5 of those came against Barcelona) across eight games. Excluding the two games against Barcelona, that’s less than one goal allowed per game. At the same time, this side has not been prolific goal scores with only 14 scored in that span, and their single biggest game from a goals perspective was three scored. Tottenham will have a unique challenge in this matchup against a Manchester City side who’ve scored 26 goals and only allowed seven goals. Tottenham will need to keep up their tidy defending and limit the damage that City can do because they are unlikely to outscore them.

Players to Watch:

-Christian Eriksen: Eriksen has been the midfield general for Tottenham for quite a while. In the christening of the Spurs new stadium, he had a performance to remember. In that game, he scored one and assisted in another for the two to zero win over Crystal Palace. Eriksen is no stranger to assists; he’s added 11 on the season in the Premier League. He’s also been in good form for the Champions League adding two goals and two assists across his five games (in only 550 minutes). Also, he’s also been dealing with a tattered side through the season with both Kane and Son our for extended time. There is an uphill battle against this City side, but if Spurs are to take something from this game — Eriksen will be part of it.

-Harry Kane: Kane spent a great deal of time out injured this season. His contributions haven’t been as lofty as in years past based partly on injury and partly on playing in less than ideal condition. He’s still added 17 goals in the Premier League and five more in the Champions League. Because he missed a fair bit of time from injury, clearly he’s still been producing. That said, he and Tottenham will have to be in great form to overtake Manchester City. His ankle was damaged in the January match against Manchester United, and he was out for almost a month (missing five total matches) — and got right back into the thick of things with a goal. Despite his great return for the club this year, I expect it only to continue — across his entire career he is averaging a goal every game and a half (and there’s a “reasonable” sample of 250 games).

-Son Heung-Min: Son spent some time away from the club with the South Korean national team as a part of their Asian Championship win. Despite his absence has still managed to make 26 appearances for the side in the Premier League. During these appearances, he managed 12 goals and five assists. He hasn’t had the same level of production in the Champions League where across eight appearances (with 550 minutes played) he’s managed only one goal and one assist. In light of the dip in production, it’s important to notice the dramatic increase in attention (and his team’s reliance) on him because of the other injuries.

What to expect in this Champions League game:

This game will be interesting from a Tottenham perspective in particular. Tottenham have good home form in the Champions League having won three of their four home games. The one they’ve lost featured (perhaps arguably) one of the greatest soccer players ever, FC Barcelona. The past six games between Manchester City have not gone the way of Tottenham with City winning four of the six and only losing one. Manchester City’s Manager, Pep Guardiola, has made it clear in press conferences that he has thought (and studied) about the fabled Quadruple. Tottenham are sizable underdogs in this matchup, but if they can keep the score down and convert their opportunities, they have a chance!

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Last Updated: April 8, 2019

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