Manchester City Face Season-Defining Game Against Tottenham

Rob PollardFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2016

Manchester City's Pablo Zabaleta, right, and Nicolas Otamendi stand on the pitch during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, Saturday Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Jon Super/Associated Press

Manchester City have suffered with a horrendous injury list this season—and the situation shows little sign of abating.

They go into a potentially season-defining weekend without seven first-team stars, with the news Fabian Delph, who has emerged as a key player in recent months, will be out for up to seven weeks with an Achilles tendon injury.

He joins Bacary Sagna, Eliaquim Mangala, Samir Nasri, Jesus Navas, Kevin De Bruyne and Wilfried Bony on the treatment table. All of them are unavailable for Sunday’s game with Tottenham Hotspur.

Leaders Leicester City travel to Arsenal earlier in the day knowing a win could see them end the weekend nine points clear of City.

Given the importance of three points, it’s a far-from-ideal situation for Manuel Pellegrini, although he is boosted by the returns of Vincent Kompany and David Silva.

“It is a long [injury] list,” Pellegrini said on Friday. “We start in defending, we have Bacary Sagna [and] Mangala. In midfield we have Fabian Delph, Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas and Kevin De Bruyne and Bony.

“David Silva is OK.

Jon Super/Associated Press

“It is difficult when you have so many players injured and in the same position. Unfortunately, it is part of the season, and we must try and manage with the players that we have.”

Tottenham, who are resurgent and suddenly have the look of champions, will provide City with a difficult test.

The old Spurs—inconsistent and soft—have been replaced by a wonderfully attractive yet hardworking side who are getting consistent results.

They have won their last four games in the league and sit second, five points off leaders Leicester, who face third-placed Arsenal on Sunday.

Tottenham's high-pressing game was too much for City to handle in the reverse fixture back in September, with Mauricio Pochettino's side running out 4-1 winners.

A repeat of that performance, coupled with a Leicester win, would have damaging ramifications for Pellegrini's side.

City's season has been defined by their struggle for momentum. They won their first five league games, with their players looking sharp and refreshed after a positive pre-season campaign, but they have struggled to put a decent run together since.

The last time they won back-to-back league matches was in October, when they beat Bournemouth and Newcastle United. It’s a staggering statistic that sums up their problems.

The return of Kompany is a huge boost, though. His influence on the side is clear. They have conceded just one league goal all season when he has been on the pitch.

Rui Vieira/Associated Press

He brings leadership, organisation and athleticism to a back line that, without him, looks porous and unstable.

"Vincent is coming back from a long injury," Pellegrini said. "He is also a very important player for our team.

"We hope that we can [put in] a good performance. We'll see tomorrow what the best starting XI for Sunday is.

"We must not just think about one player because it is not fair to the squad. We are involved in all the competitions [despite] having so many injuries because the whole squad have had a good performance.

"I think that you have seen Kompany playing so many years here that I don't have to say what Kompany brings to the team. He is one of the best defenders in the league. He is the captain of the team."

It feels like a season-defining weekend. If City fall nine points behind the league leaders, although not insurmountable, it would leave them in a difficult situation.

They haven't beaten a top-six side at all this campaign. They need a big performance on Sunday to remain in the title race and to send out a message to their rivals that they are serious about winning the league.

Kompany's return makes that all the more possible.

Jon Super/Associated Press


Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2015/16 season. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @RobPollard_.