Football

Tanguy Ndombele back to haunt Manchester City

Spurs midfielder was instrumental for Lyon when they beat Citizens last season

Of all the teams Manchester City faced in all competitions last year, only one can say they were never beaten by the English treble winners.

Ligue 1 side Lyon drew with City in France and beat them at the Etihad Stadium in the Champions League last term, with Tanguy Ndombele instrumental on both occasions.

Guardiola praised the 22-year-old Frenchman after the clashes and he was reportedly on City's list for a long-term replacement for Fernandinho.

The English Premier League champions eventually plumped for Rodri to fill that role, but they will still have to come face to face with their midfield nemesis from last season, though this time in Tottenham Hotspur colours.

City face Tottenham on Sunday morning (Singapore time), the team that famously dumped them out of the Champions League quarter-finals last term.

Spurs shelled out a club-record 62 million euros (S$96.2m) to sign Ndombele, and he duly launched their come-from-behind EPL opening-day 3-1 win over Aston Villa with a scorching equaliser from outside the box on 73 minutes.

He told Spurs' website: "It was a tough period in the game, we needed to score...

"It was a great goal! I'm not someone who normally shoots a lot, but this time the ball came and I had a chance, so I did it, I got it on target and I scored, so that's perfect!"

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, meanwhile, said his new signing showed only "30 or 40 per cent of his potential" against Villa.

He said: "It was a fantastic performance. But to be honest, there is a lot to improve, he only showed 30 or 40 per cent of his potential. He has amazing potential to improve.

"It's one of the aspects he needs to work on, he didn't score too many goals at Lyon, but that is one of the areas that is a target for him to improve this season."

More than Ndombele, Spurs were indebted to wantaway midfielder Christian Eriksen for the turnaround against Villa, after coming on for Harry Winks in the 65th minute.

Former Spurs and England midfielder Jamie Redknapp said on Sky Sports: "Until Eriksen came onto the field, I didn't see Spurs winning that game...

"When he came onto the pitch, the tempo changed, the pace of passing changed.

"You could see every time a Spurs player got the ball, be it at the back or up front, the first person they looked for was him.

"He changed the whole tempo of the game. It was more to do with him that Spurs improved than anything else."

Ex-Arsenal and England midfielder Paul Merson went a step further, saying Spurs' top-four chances hinge on whether the Dane is still a Spurs player by the time the European transfer window closes in a few weeks.

He told Sky Sports: "I'd go as far as to say that if he went before the transfer window shuts, I'd be surprised if they got into the top four.

"I watched them against Aston Villa and they'd run out of ideas. There was nothing really happening for them. Harry Kane wasn't getting any service as Villa kept things compact.

"Eriksen came on and it was a completely different last 25 minutes. He put the ball through the eye of a needle, he played little one-twos and he has vision.

"It was a strange one (not starting him)."

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reported yesterday that veteran Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen was "fuming" after been left out of the squad for the EPL opener.

The tabloid claimed his exclusion was due to Pochettino's unhappiness about his fitness and application in training.

The Spurs boss had told the media that the decision was tactical.

Football