Poch v Pep: What can Catalan and Celtic clashes tell us ahead of Spurs v Man City
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | September 30, 2016
Mauricio Pochettino’s managerial debut saw a struggling Espanyol hold city rivals Barcelona, coached by a certain Pep Guardiola, to a goalless draw in the Copa del Rey on January 21st 2009.
“Espanyol were dead and had no chance”
Although Espanyol would go on to lose the two-legged cup tie, when they met a month later in La Liga the poor relation of El derbi Barceloni became the first Spanish side to win at the Nou Camp that season. It gave Pochettino his first win in management.
“I don’t know how we did it,” Pochettino told Sky Sports when asked to reflect on the result that launched his coaching career.
“Espanyol were bottom and Barcelona were top, and all the people were saying Espanyol were dead and had no chance. It was a special victory and an unbelievable memory.”
For further context, his Espanyol team kept out the all-conquering front three of Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi, with Barca relying (ironically with hindsight) on Yaya Toure to score what proved a mere consolation.
Barcelona scored a then record 105 goals en route to lifting La Liga, one leg of their treble that culminated in Champions League glory and had us all raving about tiki taka.
Guardiola and Pochettino have both moved jobs twice since their nine clashes in the Catalan capital, and the former certainly had the better of the head-to-head record at five wins to one and three draws (all of which were at Espanyol).
Character to come from behind at Celtic
Ex-Barca boss Guardiola now takes his Manchester City side to Tottenham where they are 7/5 favourites with Coral to win, having lost his 100 per cent record in charge of the Etihad outfit.
City remain unbeaten under Guardiola, though, and retain a perfect Premier League win rate despite their memorable 3-3 Champions League draw at Celtic. What does that blemish tell us?
A game in which a partisan home crowd witnessed the underdog Bhoys catch the Catalan coach’s charges cold at the start of either half courtesy of Moussa Dembele, a poacher particularly proficient at Parkhead.
Maybe operating with usual wing back Aleksandar Kolarov in the centre of defence isn’t such a swell idea after all, then, as Man City had to thrice come from behind to take a European point in Glasgow.
Yet for all the disappointment of his rearguard succumbing so easily, there’s the absence of Etihad club captain Vincent Kompany due to persistent niggles alongside creative influence Kevin De Bruyne to consider, while Guardiola’s other key attackers still did their job.
Raheem Sterling scored (at both ends) and is an 11/4 anytime chance to find the target for the fourth game in a row. David Silva made many promising situations and Nolito netted when Sergio Aguero’s (4/1 for the opener) only real clear sight of goal was parried by Craig Gordon.
How can Pochettino earn his Spurs against Guardiola?
Pochettino’s Tottenham were also on their travels at a very hostile CSKA Moscow, and they came away with a win despite being without injured star striker Harry Kane.
Son Heung-Min simply can’t stop scoring on the road, but now Spurs enjoy home comforts with the South Korean a 9/4 anytime chance.
We learned more from Man City about being unable to follow up on the perfect 10 than we did from the Londoners’ greater mileage trip to Moscow. How do you get at Guardiola?
Set-pieces could be an avenue for 19/10 chances Tottenham, though, with Christian Eriksen able to aim for Belgium centre back duo Toby Alderweireld (8/1) and Jan Vertonghen, plus physical midfielder Victor Wanyama.
Intense pressing, a hallmark of Pochettino teams, and swift counters also gave Celtic joy, so they should serve Spurs well too. Eriksen odds of 10/3 anytime are especially appealing as the Dane has a great return from midfield against Man City, with three goals and four assists in seven career appearances.
One thing Tottenham’s Argentine coach does not have that he enjoyed with Espanyol, however, is a player at his disposal that knows Guardiola like Ivan de la Pena did.
Selection on style or substance
The diminutive playmaker, belatedly capped by Spain five times in 2005, was a Nou Camp colleague of Guardiola’s for four years.
De la Pena’s pair of goals sunk Barca in the February 2009 fixture, but if the Celtic showdown was any indicator it may be dynamism that does for Man City.
Spurs can call on Dele Alli in this regard. Yet to show the same unshackled freedom as last term, his box-to-box ability remains and he’s an 11/4 chance in the anytime market – the same price as England colleague and in-form club opponent Sterling.
Yet Man City are not without their own stylish movers, as midfield all-rounders Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan both looking bright when getting Guardiola’s team on the front foot.
Tottenham did the double over Manuel Pellegrini’s incarnation of the Etihad outfit, so they know winning is more than possible.
Draws are rare in this fixture in modern times, with just one in 21 since the end of 2003/04 season, but you could also back honours to be even at 5/2.
Other in-depth Premier League features such as this are plentiful on Coral’s dedicated page.