Saturday morning sees the return of Tottenham Hotspur to the Etihad, a fixture that was notorious last season for the 6-0 thrashing the Blues meted out to the Londoners. Jesús Navas opened the scoring on 14 seconds and closed it on 90 minutes to collect his brace, while two goals from Sergio Agüero on either side of half-time was closely followed by one from Álvaro Negredo. An own goal from Sandro capped a miserable day for Spurs, who fell foul to Man City’s home form last season.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino will be keen to avoid the fate that befell his predecessor André Villas-Boas; Man City have an eye on the 5 points that separate them from league leaders Chelsea.
To see how fans of both clubs may be thinking about this game, we looked at the Beat Your Manager! Fantasy Football data from this fixture last season, to see what players were picked for the line-ups last year.
Beat Your Manager! Fantasy Football is a game similar to “Football Manager”, but applied to live football, where you manage your favourite club and pick line-ups, the bench, formations and substitutions, all in real-time. When fans play the game, the Beat Your Manager team can measure the popularity of different players, by looking at how frequently they are selected for the starting lineup, substitutes bench or not selected at all.
The app ran for the 2013/4 EPL season and is currently inactive while the developers are creating the revised version – we’ll keep you posted on when it’s going to re-launch.
Formation: 4-4-2 by far the most popular choice
Just under half (49 per cent) of City fans went for a 4-4-2 formation for this game last season, with a more attacking 4-3-3 in second place, selected by 34 per cent. A third of Spurs’ fans similarly went for a 4-4-2 formation, with 26 per cent opting for the more aggressive 4-3-3.
Goalkeepers: A position under siege
Fans of both clubs did select their regular number 1 to start for this fixture, but confidence in both keepers was low; 71 per cent City fans opting for Joe Hart and only 59 per cent of Spurs fans going for Hugo Lloris. Breathing hard down both players’ necks was their number 2; with 27 per cent of Blues selecting Costel Pantilimon and 34 per cent of Spurs fans picking Brad Friedel to start.
AVB agreed with the fans and started Lloris between the posts, while Hart had been undergoing a poor run of form and was dropped by Pellegrini in favour of Pantilimon for this game. With Man City drafting in Willy Caballero (from Malaga) and Pochettino signing Michel Vorm from Swansea City, the pressure on these two is only likely to increase.
Defenders: Spurs defenders are the clear favourites
Tottenham Hotspur had the three most-popular defenders: Jan Vertonghen topped the poll with a perfect 100 per cent rating, closely followed by Michael Dawson and Kyle Walker (both 96 per cent), with Vlad Chiricheș just sneaking into the last spot in the back four on 67 per cent. Additionally, Vertonghen, Dawson and Walker took up three of Spurs’ top-four most popular player spots.
City similarly had three fan favourites in defence for this game, with Joleon Lescott (89 per cent) City’s most popular defender in place of the injured Vincent Kompany. Gaël Clichy (79 per cent) and Martín Demichelis (76 per cent) were grouped together further behind Lescott, with Pablo Zabaleta the least-popular defender surveyed for this game, on 63 per cent.
Instead of fan-favourite Lescott, Pellegrini fielded Matija Nastasić (42 per cent fan rating), but ended up replacing the Serb for the English centre-back for the second half due to injury. André Villas-Boas similarly made one change from the fans’ line-up in defence, starting Younès Kaboul (only 4 per cent fan rating) instead of fan-pick Chiricheș.
Lescott is now plying his trade at West Bromwich Albion but Pellegrini has brought in new blood in the form of Bacary Sagna (Arsenal) and Eliaquim Mangala (Porto). Spurs’ options have also been limited by the move of Walker to Hull City, but Pochettino has brought in Federico Fazio (Sevilla) and Ben Davies (2nd Swansea City acquisition) to boost the defence.
Midfielders: Can Spurs avoid being overrun by Man City in this area?
As they did in the actual match, Man City’s midfielders dominated, taking the top three most-popular slots.
With David Silva out, Yaya Touré (99 per cent) was jointly City’s most popular player, closely followed by Samir Nasri (97 per cent), with Fernandinho (89 per cent) a little further behind.
Spurs’ midfielders took up the next four midfield popularity slots, with Paulinho (81 per cent) Spurs’ most popular midfielder and 5th most popular player. Andros Townsend was next, on 70 per cent, followed by Moussa Dembélé (56 per cent) and Étienne Capoue (52 per cent).
Fourth fan-pick Navas just scraped into the City fans’ midfield with a below-average 42 per cent rating, but he rewarded both fans and manager with 2 goals, each bookending the game. While Pellegrini picked the same midfield as the fans, the difference could hardly have been greater between fans and AVB; the Portuguese making three changes to the line-up recommended by fans.
Aaron Lennon (41 per cent fan rating) was preferred instead of Townsend , while attacking midfielder Lewis Holtby was started instead of the more defensive Capoue, despite rating zero per cent with the Lane faithful. AVB also fielded Sandro (19 per cent fan rating) instead of Dembélé and the Brazilian duly rewarded him with an own goal on 34 minutes.
With Sandro (QPR) and Holtby (Hamburg) now gone and with no new replacements in midfield, Pochettino faces a difficult selection on Saturday. City have dominated midfield in recent seasons and new arrivals Fernando (Porto) and Frank Lampard (Chelsea) look set to continue this trend.
Forwards: Soldado the only man for Spurs, but City divide the spoils
Roberto Soldado was Tottenham Hotspur’s most popular striker and jointly (with Vertonghen) their most popular player overall, with a perfect 100 per cent rating. Jermain Defoe was Spurs’ second-choice striker, mustering only a barely above-average rating (52 per cent) with fans. Instead of Defoe, Villas-Boas fielded Érik Lamela, who rated very similarly with fans (48 per cent).
Agüero and Negredo were the choice upfront of both Pellegrini and fans they duly rewarded both manager and the Etihad faithful with three goals between them.
With Negredo now at Valencia and Defoe at Toronto FC, both clubs have lost attacking talent and neither have brought in additional strikers. That said, City’s attacking strength in depth from the midfield forward should be enough to see them eventual winners.