Manchester City have a deficit to overcome when they meet fellow Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final at the Etihad on Wednesday (20:00 BST, live on BT Sport).
Spurs carry a one-goal advantage into the return following a 1-0 victory at their new, eponymously named, stadium last week. In a relatively tight game in which neither side created a great deal in open play, Heung-Min Son’s second-half goal proved decisive.
Man City had been presented with an early chance to take the lead and get themselves an away goal when Danny Rose handled a Raheem Sterling shot inside the area, only for Sergio Aguero to see his penalty well-saved by Hugo Lloris. Otherwise, chances were few and far between.
Mauricio Pochettino was understandably happy with both the result and his side’s performance, especially given that Spurs had lost each of their previous three matches against Pep Guardiola’s team. Even he admitted that he still views City as the favourites to win the Champions League and consequently progress from this tie. He is under no illusions as to the fact that the tie is still very much open.
Perhaps even more so as Spurs are highly likely to be without top scorer and important final-third reference point Harry Kane on Wednesday after he limped off with an ankle injury in the second half of the first match. Early indications are that he is likely to be out for the season, although given some of the incredibly rapid injury comebacks he has made in the past, nothing should necessarily be ruled out.
Spurs have won 17 of their 19 European knockout ties in which they have carried an advantage from the home first leg into the away return. The manner in which they maturely defended their first-leg lead in their round-of-16 victory over Borussia Dortmund suggests that even as the relative underdogs in this tie, they have a solid chance of advancing.
The first leg was easy to frame as another away match at the business end of European competition in which a Guardiola side were weighed down by cageyness and unnecessary tactical complications. Bereft of a wide outside runner to open up space for him to cut infield, Sterling had a relatively quiet night, while Guardiola’s delay in introducing changes was difficult to explain.
It was also just as easily framed as a solid away performance that would have looked a lot better had Aguero converted that early penalty. It could well have ended in a 1-0 win for City or a 0-0 draw. In truth, it is all fine margins at this stage of the competition. As Guardiola said afterwards, it wasn’t the best result but neither was it the worst.
The loss did fit into a wider pattern of poor results against other English sides in European competition for Manchester City. Not only did Liverpool eliminate them at this very stage last season, but City have now lost all five of their European matches against English teams, scoring just once in the process. More worryingly, only twice in seven attempts have Man City overcome a first-leg deficit against any opponent in European competition.
It is, though, worth noting that while Guardiola’s sides have now gone 10 away matches without victory in the last eight and beyond of the Champions League – a run stretching back eight years to a Barcelona semi-final victory away to Real Madrid – that hasn’t often proved an impediment to progress beyond the quarter-finals. While his sides have lost all four of their semi-finals in that time, they have won four of their five quarter-finals.
The home legs of all of those ties were high-scoring affairs, with an average of 3.8 goals per match in the quarter-finals and four in the semi-finals. Given that Man City’s home matches in league and Champions League action this season have also averaged over four goals, a similar sort of match should be expected on Wednesday.
Our Preview’s Man City vs Tottenham Hotspur Betting Tips Verdict
Man City are the most likely victors on the night, but that is less certain than the available odds (around 3/10 with most of the established UK bookmakers) would suggest. With that in mind, backing plenty of goals seems the safest option.