A very important month for Spurs

This could be Tottenham’s best month in a decade. It started well with the 3-1 victory over Chelsea that broke the 28-year Stamford Bridge hoodoo. On Saturday night, they face Manchester City at Wembley. If ever there was a time to make a statement, it is now. The next couple of weeks can set the tone not only for the rest of the campaign but for next season, too.

City are suffering a crisis of confidence. Last week’s 3-0 defeat by Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-final first leg featured a stunning, opening-period demolition of the runaway League leaders.

Pep Guardiola’s team were embarrassed on Saturday, too. They threw away a two-goal lead against Manchester United, losing 3-2. On Tuesday, they will attempt to salvage their European hopes against Jurgen Klopp’s side in the second leg at the Etihad. Whatever the result, City will be emotionally spent by the time they arrive in north London.

Momentum means a lot in football. Tottenham have it. Since they were finagled out of the Champions League by a wily Juventus team a month ago, they have gone about their business with admirable purpose. Mauricio Pochettino reacted to that defeat in the right manner.

Guardiola has lost his bearings at the wrong time. After the effortless 3-0 victory over Arsenal at the Emirates last month, the Catalan talked about his methods. Although the title was effectively in City’s grasp, the 47-year-old said he would not be resting players with an eye on Europe. “You lose one game,” he said, “then you lose another, then…” He left the sentence hanging but the message was clear. A stumble can easily become a blip, a blip a minor crisis.

Guardiola’s team have lost two in a row. A victory against Liverpool tomorrow will feel like another defeat if City fail to advance to the semi-finals. It is an ideal time for Spurs to play them.

Guardiola’s clarity of thought seems to have deserted him. Against United, he left Sergio Aguero, his most dangerous striker, and Kevin De Bruyne, his most influential playmaker, on the bench.

He was brought to the Etihad to deliver a Champions League trophy, but there are other considerations. City are trying to emerge from the shadow of Old Trafford and assume the role of dominant team in Manchester. Winning the title and shoving it down the throat of their loathed neighbours would have moved the club a step towards that ambition. More than three points were at stake in the derby.

Even if City advance to the semi-finals, the defeats have rattled them. Spurs have an opportunity to deepen Guardiola’s mood of uncertainty. Liverpool and United proved that attacking City is the best policy. Spurs hammered both of those sides at Wembley. They need to do the same to the champions-in-waiting. It is not a time for tentative tactics: a blitz is in order.

After City, Pochettino can turn his thoughts to the FA Cup semi-final against United seven days later. Tottenham have an away game at Brighton before the semi and, if they succeed against Guardiola’s side, the Spurs manager can afford to prioritise. It could be a magnificent April for a team that is getting better by the month.

(Evening Standard)

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