Football NewsFriday 30th September 2016

Bluffers’ Guide to the Premier League weekend: Pep v Poch at the top of the table

Bluffers’ Guide to the Premier League weekend: Pep v Poch at the top of the table

Up front there is little doubt that Mauricio Pochettino’s team miss Harry Kane, but Heung-Min Son has suddenly found form with a combination of speed and close control that has brought him five goals in as many matches.

The latest of these came against CSKA Moscow in midweek, which brings us to the final area for bluffers’ consideration regarding this fixture: The European factor. Spurs won away in Moscow by that single goal - no mean feat and a major boost for their confidence. Their journey was much further than City’s trip to Celtic Park, but it took place a day earlier.

It was also – with no disrespect to their opponents – much more straightforward than the Glaswegian street-fight that City found themselves mixed up in 24 hours later. Guardiola’s unbeaten record may have remained intact after the match finished 3-3, but his side’s dignity was in shreds.

Most significantly, Pochettino and Spurs will have spotted the way to unsettle City. As Celtic did, they must press high up the field and force errors in defensive midfield – a style of play that is in any case almost instinctive for the high-energy, aggressive London side. City bluffers may attempt to argue that the return of John Stones to their central defence will bring increased composure. This line can justifiably be countered with the word “Really?”

It should all be a lot of fun on Sunday lunchtime and leaves not a great deal of room for bluffers to consider the weekend’s other fixtures. Liverpool may appear to be a shoo-in when they visit the Liberty Stadium to play Swansea in the early game on Saturday: Jurgen Klopp’s side are (jointly with Spurs)  the League’s most prolific away team in 2016, with 26 goals on their travels this year. But they have won only one of their last five Premier League visits to this stadium.

Stoke City travel to Manchester United for Sunday’s noon kick-off, not with a great deal of optimism: the Potters have not won at Old Trafford since 1976, and have lost in all eight of their Premier League visits. Wayne Rooney has scored four and provided two assists in his last three home appearances in this fixture. Stoke bluffers looking for a silver lining might observe that Rooney may well not start this one.