Humble Pochettino versus arrogant Guardiola
Spurs boss will target City defence to expose Pep's weaknesses
Back in October, Mauricio Pochettino played Dorothy.
He pulled back the curtain to reveal not the wizard of outlandish football, but a manager in a muddle.
Like the exposed, fraudulent wizard, Pep Guardiola has frantically grabbed at different levers, pushed buttons and tweaked knobs ever since.
Nothing has worked. Manchester City's machine continues to malfunction.
The soothsayer at Barcelona and Bayern Munich now looks a bit of a charlatan in England and it was Pochettino who planted that first seed of doubt.
Tottenham's victory against City last October exposed the first chink in Guardiola's armour.
A second triumph at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow morning (Singapore time) could kill the Spaniard's campaign.
The thought of dropping to sixth place is anathema for both Guardiola and City, but it really could happen.
Pochettino's most potent weapons are humility and pragmatism, qualities seemingly lacking in the City dugout.
For 21 games, Guardiola's formation and playing style have seldom changed.
He stuck with three at the back, a ball-playing centre back and a quick-footed goalkeeper because they served the revolution in his head.
Pochettino, on the other hand, deploys a back three because he has the most accomplished fullbacks in the league, reliable centre halves and a goalkeeper who saves first and kicks later.
When the teams met before, City had a system that suited a tactically snobbish manager whereas Spurs had one that suited their players.
If that happens again, an away win will be inevitable because Guardiola remains enslaved by his own dogma.
He isn't at fault for City's appalling signings in recent years but, equally, no one else at the club can be blamed for the manager's inflexibility.
While he got lost in whimsical ideas about ball-juggling goalkeepers and dribbling defenders, Pochettino quietly signed the missing link in midfield.
Victor Wanyama's acquisition means that Spurs now boast the most formidable central midfield duo in the EPL, with Mousa Dembele also providing the muscle and the man-hours.
Age may not whittle Yaya Toure, but Wanyama and Dembele most certainly will if the Ivorian isn't surrounded with reinforcements.
City's cause isn't helped by Guardiola's pre-season obsession with John Stones' fancy footwork.
At times, their back four resemble catwalk models. They look pretty, but it's hard to work out if they have any purpose.
Guardiola insists on persevering with his puritanical vision despite having a couple of Arsenal old-timers as fullbacks, an inexperienced Stones auditioning for Riverdance and Nicolas Otamendi still giving the impression that he should be wearing "L" plates.
All four offer shooting practice for Dele Alli and Harry Kane who, like their teammates generally, are in the form of their lives.
SHOOT ON SIGHT
And Pochettino will order them to shoot on sight, from anywhere, and at every opportunity.
Guardiola favoured the false No. 9 at Barcelona. Now he's lumbered with the false No. 1 at City.
In his last eight games, Claudio Bravo has conceded 14 goals from 22 shots on target, a truly wretched figure.
There were no real howlers on that list, just a worrying inability to prevail in any one-on-one situations with opposing forwards.
Thanks to Guardiola's insistence on countering high up the field, Bravo's weakness becomes a critical one because he's so often exposed.
In other words, when teams break against City, they are presented with space, ageing fullbacks and a goalkeeper who goes down like Frankenstein on ice.
And no side break faster than Tottenham.
They were the first to expose City's frailties and remain the best-equipped side to double down at the Etihad tomorrow morning.
In October, Pochettino's masterclass hinted that Guardiola might not be the Messiah.
A repeat performance could suggest that the Spaniard might not be the right manager for Manchester City.
Mauricio wants title for new era
Mauricio Pochettino believes capping 118 years at White Hart Lane by winning the Premier League would prove "the most important thing in Tottenham's history".
Spurs will leave White Hart Lane for one season to play home games at Wembley next term, before returning to a state-of-the-art new stadium at their north London home in 2018.
Pochettino hailed his White Hart Lane "warriors" for defending their prized citadel in remaining unbeaten in home Premier League action so far this term.
Second-placed Tottenham trail Premier League leaders Chelsea by seven points after 21 games, and play Manchester City tomorrow morning (Singapore time), but boss Pochettino still believes Spurs can mount a credible title battle.
Asked what it would mean for the club to sign off at White Hart Lane with a Premier League title, Pochettino said: "It would be amazing, the most important thing in Tottenham's history.
"The way we are playing this season at White Hart Lane, you can see that we are warriors," said Pochettino. "You defend your home, your house.
"And the fans see too how the players love to fight in every game, and it's the connection and the energy and the feeling that we've got in every game at White Hart Lane is amazing."
Meanwhile, City paid a record £175,000 pounds ($307,000) to sign 13-year-old defender Finley Burns from third-tier Southend United last week, the Times reported yesterday.
The newspaper said the overall cost of the transfer could rise to more than £250,000 if Burns goes on to sign professional terms at City.
No fee or details about subsequent payments were given by either club at the time of Burns' signing.
The Times said City's outlay was unprecedented for a 13-year-old, with the club paying almost £150,000 more than they were obliged to under the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP). The plan governs the compensation given to clubs who lose academy players. - WIRE SERVICES