The Harry Kane sideshow
Playercam didn’t last long as a Sky Sports invention but don’t be surprised to see a spin-off at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The directors’ box cam will be keeping a close eye on Daniel Levy and his Manchester City counterparts given the Harry Kane transfer saga is more than just a sideshow this weekend, analysing the body language between the two camps and keeping an eye out for any handshakes.
It’s unclear whether the striker will be in Tottenham’s matchday squad given his late return to pre-season training and the lack of fitness that comes with it. If he isn’t in the squad the cameras will no doubt try to pick him out if he is in attendance. This is a big Premier League game in its own right but the story around Kane is bigger.
The transfer of the England captain to the Premier League champions for what would be a huge record fee will dominate the agenda before and after the game, and probably during it too. Nuno Espirito Santo and Pep Guardiola will be well briefed at the barrage of Kane related questions coming their way, and the absence of tactical questions relating to the finer points of the game.
Any deal to take Kane to the Etihad will only step up after this weekend’s game, but what happens on Sunday will be framed around one of the biggest transfer sagas to ever grip the Premier League. It will also add the motivation within the home side, who will be desperate to show him that a career with Tottenham is no last cause.
City’s strongest-ever bench
Guardiola’s selection calls are tricky this week given City’s cohort of English and Brazilian internationals – aside from Jack Grealish – only returned to pre-season training this week, while Kevin De Bruyne is also short of full fitness.
We already know Phil Foden is out but a lot of those internationals are only likely to be fit enough for the bench, with Guardiola relying on the players who have had a longer pre-season to do the business, which could be good news for Joao Cancelo, Nathan Ake, Benjamin Mendy, Fernandinho and Riyad Mahrez.
The upshot might be that City go into the game with a stacked bench. Premier League rules have again sanctioned the naming of nine substitutes, so it gives teams flexibility and City might just have one of the strongest benches they’ve ever fielded this weekend.
Mahrez is the key man
Players who have had a full pre-season and are up to speed in terms of fitness and match sharpness will have a key role to play this weekend and that might make Riyad Mahrez City’s most important player if they’re to come away with all three points.
The winger wasn’t involved in an international tournament this summer, so has had a longer pre-season than his attacking rivals, and he’s also been in fine form.
Mahrez scored in the friendly wins against Preston, Barnsley and Blackpool and played the full 90 minutes at Wembley last weekend, so he could have a big role to play in North London.
Grealish’s first start
Perhaps the only England player who will be involved from the start is Grealish. He joined in training at the end of last week and played 25 minutes against Leicester City at Wembley, so is slightly ahead of his international teammates.
With Foden out and Raheem Sterling only just back it could be that Grealish begins his City career on the left-wing in a 4-3-3. He expects to be used in a variety of positions but it might make sense if this is how he begins life in the team this weekend.
The Tottenham tinderbox
With full stadiums back in the Premier League this weekend there will be festival atmospheres at grounds up and down the country, but you wonder how long that will last at Spurs.
The appointment of Nuno is underwhelming and the Kane saga is dispiriting for a supporter base that has seen enough in recent seasons.
It feels like they’re ready to turn on Daniel Levy and if City can start well and get a couple of goals to the good don’t be surprised if the excitement at fans returning quickly turns to exasperation.
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