Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester City: 5 Players to Watch on Either Side

Sean BabcockCorrespondent IIAugust 27, 2011

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester City: 5 Players to Watch on Either Side

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    This Sunday, at 1:30pm local time, Tottenham Hotspur are set to play their first home match of the Premier League season, taking the field against an impressive Manchester squad for the second week in a row.

    Manchester City will be entering the match as the league's leading club in overall goals scored for the new campaign, while Tottenham comes in still looking for their first.

    Spurs will certainly have their hands full trying to slow down City's attacking momentum, but in the past they've demonstrated a fairly competent ability to compete against the league's top sides and impress in their own offensive half as well.

    They just haven't managed to achieve that yet this year.

    As Manchester City look to continue their undefeated start to the season and add still more goals to their club tally, Tottenham will be seeking a spark to ignite their own attacking fire and rise to a position in the top half of the table that they feel they so thoroughly deserve.

    As it all goes down for these two sides on Sunday afternoon, here are five players for each side that are worth paying close attention to, as their performances will be hugely important in deciding which club leaves White Hart Lane adding points to the standings.

Aaron Lennon (Tottenham)

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    It was the most frustrating moment of Tottenham's season so far. Aaron Lennon sat clear along Manchester United's byeline at Old Trafford, with Rafael van der Vaart unmarked in front of the goal.

    As Van der Vaart desperately pointed to his feet and screamed at his teammate, Lennon opted for a poor cross into traffic that was easily cleared away. Van der Vaart was hardly secretive of his anger at the Englishman's decision.

    The play almost surely would have resulted in the tying goal if Lennon had been more aware of his surroundings, and could have halted United's momentum and ultimately changed the entire outcome of the match.

    Chances are, Aaron Lennon got quite a talking to following the match for the missed opportunity from teammates and coaches alike. If Tottenham intends to win on Sunday, he'll have to display much better vision and presence of mind than that.

Samir Nasri (Manchester City)

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    What impact will newly-acquired Samir Nasri have on Manchester City as they make their run for the league title? We might get our first hint at the answer to that question on Sunday at White Hart Lane.

    Last year was really Nasri's breakout season with Arsenal, and his ten Premier League goals, along with a few Champions League goals and assists, caught the eye of City in the summer transfer window.

    This week, City finally managed to land the young French midfielder after months of rumors and speculation.

    How will Nasri fit in at City? Will the acquisition prove to be immediately beneficial? This week, we may find out.

James Milner (Manchester City)

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    Samir Nasri may be Roberto Mancini's new toy in the midfield, but there's at least one major reason we might have to wait another week to see how he fits in at Manchester City: James Milner.

    Perhaps Milner knew that his job was on the line and that the Nasri deal was close to finalization. Or maybe he just got caught up in City's attacking tidal wave and plethora of goals. In any case, Milner was at the top of his game last weekend, and it will never be more difficult for Mancini to choose between Samir Nasri and James Milner.

    Milner took the starting spot against Bolton last weekend, filling in for the injured Nigel de Jong. The move payed off substantially for City, with Milner recording two crucial assists and offering a skillfully executed holding presence at midfield.

    Will Milner be allowed to continue his hot streak this weekend in North London? Stay tuned to find out.

Michael Dawson (Tottenham)

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    Michael Dawson is sure to have his hands full this weekend trying to defend City's new Argentine star in the striker position, Sergio Aguero.

    With two goals already to his name with City, as well as an assist, Aguero can be credited with playing a huge role in City's impressive start to the season.

    Aguero's footwork ranks amongst the trickiest in the league, and it makes him nearly impossible to contain. On Sunday, Michael Dawson will be asked to do the nearly impossible and keep Aguero irrelevant to the match.

    Can it be done? Well, we'll see. But if Spurs intend to avoid starting the season by dropping six points right off the bat, Dawson will have to give it all he's got and stop Aguero from having even the slightest opportunity to put City on top.

Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

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    Speaking of Aguero...

    Let's assume that Michael Dawson can't contain the little Argentine (and, quite frankly, he probably can't). If so, Sergio Aguero will tear Tottenham apart. If Manchester City is going to get on the board, there's a good chance that Aguero is going to be involved.

    Aguero recently finished the most successful season of his career in La Liga, and seems set to carry that form well into 2011-12. He's already made a huge impact at City, and is ready to make that mark even deeper at White Hart Lane.

    Aguero's speed is almost unrivaled in the league, and his finishing is phenomenal (currently with two goals out of eight shots). If Tottenham don't find some way to shut him down, then City can easily run away with it and add another three points to their tally.

Brad Friedel (Tottenham)

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    Don't let the scoreline from Tottenham's last match fool you. Despite falling 3-0 at Old Trafford, the 40-year-old American goalkeeper came up with some huge saves that kept Spurs in the match through the entire first half, and stopped the loss from being any more embarrassing than it needed to be.

    This week, Friedel will face the Manchester firing squad yet again, only now it will be from the side that leads the league in goals scored.

    Last week, Friedel recorded 11 big saves against the defending Premier League champions, including an impressive double-save that required him to be quick on his toes and make crucial decisions at the drop of a dime. In truth, the three goals he did let by were shots that were out of his reach and too skillfully placed to really hold against him.

    Is Brad Friedel really the answer to Tottenham's goalkeeping woes? The jury is still out, but this second match in a row against a Manchester powerhouse offense will be another crucial test for Friedel as he hopes to prove his value to his new club.

Micah Richards (Manchester City)

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    With two assists to his name, Micah Richards is already making his mark this season on Manchester City's attacking game.

    Richards loves to make long, and fairly impressive, runs down the sideline for City and he has the talent to make those runs effective. And it's paying off.

    Still, his contributions to the attack have a habit of leaving him out of position to carry out his defensive duties, a fact that Tottenham could take advantage of in a counter-attacking situation.

    Will Spurs capitalize on Richards' offensive mindset? Or will it lead to another assist as Spurs struggle to defend the offensive tidal wave?

    In any case, Richards is certainly one to watch in Sunday's clash at the Lane.

Rafael Van Der Vaart (Tottenham)

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    Tottenham's 2010-11 leading goal scorer has yet to find the back of the net in Premier League play, but it's not for a lack of effort.

    The Dutchman took nine shots in last weekend's clash at Old Trafford, many of which were his signature long-distant attempts from outside of the box. At times, he handed David de Gea huge tests in his new position in United's goal, and at others he was wildly off target and didn't bother de Gea a bit.

    Of course, if Aaron Lennon had been a little more conscious in his attack, Van der Vaart probably would have been able to record his first goal of the season with an easy shot from a wide-open position.

    Will that first goal come on Sunday on his home turf? Manchester City is another tough test for Van der Vaart as he seeks his opening goal of the season, but he can certainly be expected to make plenty of attempts. Maybe he'll put one of those long shots away for a stunning goal that puts Tottenham back on track to reclaim the form they exhibited early on in the last campaign.

Luka Modric (Tottenham)

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    One Premier League match and two Europa League clashes into Tottenham's season, and fans have one thing on their mind: where is the Croatian Sensation?

    Luka Modric has yet to play a meaningful match for Spurs in 2011-12, due to what the club is officially calling a "groin injury."

    Yet, with all the buzz surrounding Modric and his potential transfer to Chelsea throughout the summer, Harry Redknapp was probably a bit closer to the truth when he admitted that Modric's "head is not in the right place."

    After meeting with club chairman Daniel Levy earlier this week, Modric was forced to hear yet again what he's heard so many times over the summer months: "you're not going anywhere."

    And now the club expects Modric to take his spot on the starting roster and honor his contract.

    "He'll be playing on Sunday for sure," Redknapp announced on Friday.

    Stay tuned to find out if Modric will take out his frustrations by making Tottenham wish they never opted to keep him on the squad, or if he decides to show the world why Chelsea wanted him so bad in the first place.

    This summer, we all saw how hot-headed Luka Modric can really be when he's not happy with his situation. After the transfer saga that had all the tabloids drooling for months, he'll certainly be one to keep an eye on during his first match of the year.

David Silva, Edin Dzeko, and Gareth Barry (Manchester City)

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    Ok, so maybe this article's title was a bit misleading, with this slide consisting of three Manchester City players that brings their tally to seven total players to watch in Sunday's match.

    But, It's often said that the key to a successful club is to score goals off the feet of as many players as possible. With that in mind, Manchester City has already recorded goals from four players on their roster in this campaign.

    Sergio Aguero, of course, has provided two goals and an assist, but don't forget about David Silva and Edin Dzeko, who have both scored twice for City in the Premier League as well. Gareth Barry also pitched in with a first-half goal of his own last week against Bolton.

    Silva, just two games in, has already equalled half the total goals he scored in 35 Premier League appearances last season. And Dzeko's early success is cause for a sigh of relief for City fans who worried about the absence of Carlos Tevez from the lineup.

    With this sort of offensive production, City is sure to give Tottenham and their new goalkeeper plenty to worry about on Sunday. While City is finding ways to get goals out of almost anybody, Tottenham is just trying to figure out how to get one goal from somebody.

    It's hard to imagine Tottenham realistically keeping a clean sheet against City, even at home. To that end, Spurs are going to have to find a way to score or go another week in the losers column.