It’s a set of games that has the potential to define two seasons. Two legs of a Champions League quarterfinal followed by a Premier League clash, the significance of which will be felt both City’s title race with Liverpool and in Spurs’ fraught battle for the top-four.
For Spurs, playing at a stunning, new $1.3 billion home for only the second time, Tuesday’s game provides the opportunity to showcase the “world’s best stadium” to a global audience on the venue’s European debut.
For Pep Guardiola’s City, it’s no overstatement to look at the club’s next three weeks as either history-making or history-breaking.
Having won 22 of its last 23 games, City could scarcely be better placed, but they now face a run of fixtures that could, ultimately, decide the magnitude of this team’s legacy.
Talk of an unprecedented quadruple could be quashed as quickly as it could be amplified. After tonight, the sequels in this unusual three-match series are framed by awkward and crucial Premier League away games at Crystal Palace and Manchester United.
Yet, for all of Guardiola’s domestic dominance in all three of Spain, Germany and England, it seems almost unbelievable that he has not reached a Champions League final since 2011.
With the Carabao Cup already secured following victory against Chelsea at Wembley in February, the Spanish coach may have had no better opportunity in recent years than this to rectify such a statistic.
“The quality of club and organization, and the quality of the players [are the reason we are in a good position],” Guardiola told reporters. “You cannot do what we have done without incredible human beings and football players.
“I push my players and staff, every three days, to try again.”
‘The mind controls the legs’
Just three days on from FA Cup semifinal glory against Brighton, Guardiola has confessed that he simply cannot tell if his team has fully recovered.
“I don’t know how fresh we are,” he added. “I never know before the game how fresh our legs and mind are. The mind controls the legs. In the semifinal we could be better but it’s happened.
“This is another competition, we know how tough it is. All eight teams left in are contenders to win. This leg, it’s a tough opponent we know quite well.”
Mauricio Pochettino has described the first-leg tie as one of his “most important matches as a coach.”
Spurs are four tantalizing games away from a Champions League final, with the Manchester City winning machine first standing in his way. If Pochettino’s team negotiates that not inconsiderable hurdle, Spurs will play either Juventus or Ajax in the semifinals.
Spurs will have to cope without a trio of first-team players. Argentine midfielder Erik Lamela and right-back Serge Aurier are both missing with hamstring injuries, while Eric Dier has a hip problem.
City, on the other hand, have been handed a major boost ahead of their fixture-filled run-in, with star striker Sergio Aguero back in training after missing the club’s recent wins over Cardiff and Brighton.
Left-back Benjamin Mendy is also fit again after an injury-plagued season, while Kyle Walker is likely to be available to face his former club.