When Tottenham host Manchester City in the Premier League this Saturday evening, it not only represents a mouth-watering tussle between two of England’s ‘Big Six’ but also a fascinating managerial battle between two old foes.
Along with Liverpool‘s clash against early table-toppers Leicester, Tottenham playing host to City the day before represents the stand-out fixture of the weekend’s Premier League action.
And the top-flight encounter, which follows a fortnight of international football, in north London is set up perfectly for more than one reason.
Pep Guardiola (left) and Jose Mourinho (right) renew their long-standing rivalry on Saturday
Harry Kane and Son Heung-min will be looking to put Man City to the sword in north London
JOSE MOURINHO VS PEP GUARDIOLA
Matches – 23
Wins for Guardiola – 10
Wins for Mourinho – 6
Draws – 7
Goals scored by Guardiola’s sides – 37
Goals scored by Mourinho’s sides – 27
Tottenham head into the eagerly-anticipated clash in buoyant mood, sitting just a point below Leicester eight matches in, after a stand-out 6-1 victory away at Manchester United and most recently a last-gasp winner against West Brom.
But while Spurs have kicked on following a turbulent season last time out, the same can’t be said for Pep Guardiola’s men, who have struggled to get going in 2020-21.
City languish in 10th place with just 12 points from seven games, lacking the usual spell-binding fluidity in attack while also looking vulnerable in defence.
But Saturday represents the perfect chance for Guardiola’s men to lay down a marker with reigning champions Liverpool facing an injury crisis at the back.
And Guardiola’s record against old enemy Jose Mourinho, with whom the pair’s rivalry goes back further than their heated El Clasico days, is cause for optimism.
In 23 matches in all competitions, Guardiola has come out on top on 10 occasions compared to Mourinho’s six.
And in that time, Guardiola’s sides have scored 37 goals in comparison to the 27 of Mourinho’s teams.
It’s a record that won’t sit well in the slightest with Mourinho, especially against a manager he has come to blows with many times in the past.
Their long-running rivalry reached boiling point when they managed Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively – but it goes back beyond that.
Inter Milan, led by Mourinho, took on reigning European champions Barcelona, under the management of Guardiola, in the 2009-10 Champions League semi-finals.
Steven Bergwijn and Son scored as Tottenham beat City 2-0 during their last meeting
And after the Italian side ran out 3-2 aggregate winners following a typically stubborn defensive performance from a Mourinho side, the Portuguese boss ran across the Nou Camp pitch to celebrate with the travelling supporters – which enraged Barcelona fans and their squad.
Mourinho’s rivalry with Guardiola then really took off when they battled it out against each other in El Clasico, with the Guardiola predominantly earning the bragging rights.
The most infamous clash between the two happened at the start of the 2011-12 season during the Spanish Super Cup where the pair exchanged a cold handshake without eye contact.
A brawl was then sparked by a savage Marcelo tackle on Cesc Fabregas that ended with Mourinho poking Barcelona assistant manager Tito Vilanova in the eye.
The pressure on the pair’s shoulders at the helm of the Spanish giants, arguably the two biggest clubs in world football, clearly played a part in their intense feud.
But even after they last met in Spain in April 2012 – Guardiola then departed Barcelona – the bad blood would continue and it would eventually end up in the Premier League, and this time they were both managers of Manchester rivals City and United.
Guardiola and Mourinho’s rivalry reached boiling point during their El Clasico days in Spain
And it was Guardiola who would come out on top in Manchester as City went on to become the dominant force in English football, making history in the 2017-18 season as his side broke the 100-point barrier in the Premier League.
Their rivalry would then begin a new chapter when Mourinho, following his sacking from United, would go onto replace Mauricio Pochettino as Tottenham manager.
But the fresh chapter in their feud is still in its embryonic stage, having come up against each other just once since Mourinho took over in north London.
But when Mourinho played host to Guardiola at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, it was in fact the Portuguese who reigned supreme.
Then debutant Steven Bergwijn and Son Heung-min netted for Tottenham as they overcame the 10-men of City after Oleksandr Zinchenko was sent off.
Mourinho will be desperate for a repeat of that gritty performance and result this Saturday, to put to bed any rhetoric regarding Guardiola’s dominance over him down the years.
And the Portuguese boss will be confident his Spurs side have a real shot of beating City once again following their strong start to the season.
Mourinho runs on the pitch after Inter Milan’s triumph over Guardiola’s Barcelona in 2010
Tottenham have been in formidable form going forward this term ever since their opening day defeat to Everton, scoring 19 goals in nine matches – only Chelsea have a better record in attack so far with 20.
Harry Kane and Son have once again provided the magic for Spurs thanks to their telepathic partnership, with the England striker scoring seven times and the Korean winger getting eight.
But it’s not just goals where they are more than delivering the goods. England international and Spurs talisman Kane sits pretty at the top of the assists chart with eight to his name already, three more than Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish in second.
Add Gareth Bale to the equation, while the likes of Lucas Moura, Carlos Vinicius and Bergwijn can make the difference from the bench, they can inflict harm on any of their opponents’ in the Premier League.
And Mourinho’s in-form attack will be hoping to gun down City’s defence this weekend as they look to keep the pace at the top of the Premier League.
Guardiola was dominant over Mourinho during the pair’s time in Manchester together
However, it’s in defence where the game could be won or lost for Spurs, as they aim to cope with City’s star-studded attack.
Raheem Sterling is an injury concern for City after suffering a calf problem while on international duty with England, but he is hopeful of being fit in time for the weekend.
But even without Sterling, Guardiola can depend on Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus and Co to torment Tottenham’s defence.
It will certainly be an intriguing battle. With City struggling to find their usual rhythm going forward, there would be no better time for them to rediscover their mojo against a Spurs side who have conceded the joint fewest goals in the Premier League.
But while Guardiola has plans to kickstart City’s season this weekend, Mourinho would absolutely relish putting another huge dent in his foe’s title aspirations.