Manchester City are no strangers to a mid-season run to fight for Premier League glory and Pep Guardiola hopes his players use those memories ahead of the clash with Tottenham.
The champions fell to a contentious 2-1 defeat at neighbours Manchester United before Arsenal extended their lead at the summit to eight points with Sunday’s win over Spurs.
Previously embroiled in title battles with Liverpool in prior seasons, Guardiola insists his side will not be relaxed in their chase – but he knows City can use their experience to prosper.
“Relaxed? I have never been relaxed, even if eight points in front,” the City manager said ahead of Thursday’s clash. “Before and during a game, I’ve never been relaxed.
“It’s better, you can drop points and still be (ahead). When you are behind you cannot drop points. (There are) many games to play, it’s how we come back.
“We have been in this position many times in the past, many times. It’s not the first time we are there.”
Spurs suffered their own derby-day heartbreak in a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal and Antonio Conte acknowledged finding form is a must for his side, who are five points adrift of the top four having played a game more.
“We have to play game by game,” the Tottenham head coach said. “For sure, they will be two difficult games because they are second in the table.
“Usually they win the league and also this season I think, with Arsenal, they are the two title contenders to win the Premier League.
“It won’t be easy, it’s normal, but at the same time it can also be a big push for my players to try to give everything to deliver a good result for our fans.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Manchester City – Erling Haaland
Haaland has failed to score in his last two Premier League appearances, the first time he has gone more than one game without a goal in the competition – only once in the top five European leagues has he gone three or more games without scoring.
Tottenham – Harry Kane
Kane is two goals away from becoming the third player to score 200 Premier League goals, along with Alan Shearer (260) and Wayne Rooney (208). Three of his four goals against City in the competition have been at the Etihad Stadium, including a brace in Spurs’ 3-2 win last season.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Tottenham have won four of their last nine away league games against reigning top-flight champions (D2 L3), as many as they had in their previous 49 such games. Four of Man City’s 29 defeats as reigning Premier League champions have come against Tottenham – no side has beaten them more.
– Man City have failed to win both of their last two Premier League games at the Etihad Stadium (D1 L1); they last went three without a win at home in the league in December 2016 (a run of four), which remains the only time Pep Guardiola has failed to win 3+ consecutive home league matches in his managerial career.
– Tottenham have scored nine goals in their last three Premier League away games, two more than they had in their first six on the road this term (7). Following their 4-0 win at Crystal Palace last time out, they’re looking to win consecutive away league games for the first time since April last season.
– Manchester City lost 2-1 at Manchester United last time out, last losing consecutive league games in December 2018. Having lost against Southampton in the League Cup before that, they could lose three in a row in all competitions within the same season for the first time since April 2018.
– Man City manager Pep Guardiola has lost six of his 15 meetings with Tottenham in all competitions (W7 D2) – he’s only lost more often against Chelsea (8), Liverpool (8) and Manchester United (7) in his managerial career.