Since the start of the season, other clubs have watched – either with admiration or deep animosity – Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City take apart teams on the good days and grind out tough victories on the not-so-good days.
While teams on the tail-end of the English Premier League may find it easier to stomach the defeats, it has been harder for managers and players of clubs in the famed ‘Big Six’ as they have all been confronted and defeated – save for one: Tottenham Hotspur. And this weekend, they come against the juggernauts.
It would amount to fallacy to suggest, despite their imperious run, that Manchester City have no weakness. Every team does and if there is one man who is capable of exposing and exploiting weakness of top sides, it definitely is Tottenham’s manager, Pochettino. Worse still for Pep and City supporters, he is not a stranger to defeating Pep from the underdog position.
In 2009 when Poch, then largely unknown, recorded his first win as a manager, it was against an high-flying Barcelona managed by Pep Guardiola. The Argentine led a struggling Espanyol side to the dreaded Camp Nou and returned with an impressive three points, courtesy of a high pressing tactics that rattled Barcelona and caught Pep off-guard.
Espanyol’s second goal in the game defined what would form a crucial part of Pochettino’s tactical setup and urgency of play. Victor Valdes of Barcelona had the ball but under immense pressure from Espanyol’s forwards, he attempted a poor pass and the ball fell neatly in the path of Ivan De La Pena who made no mistake in putting the ball at the back of the net.
This highlights what to expect on Saturday and given Manchester City’s shaky defence and known struggle against high-pressing sides, Mauricio Pochettino may once again orchestrate another unlikely victory over Pep Guardiola.