Tottenham v Manchester City: Force is with Mourinho as Guardiola rivalry resumes

By Sports Desk November 19, 2020

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola meet in the Premier League on Saturday - going head to head for just the second time since November 2018.

Tottenham host Manchester City and will be hoping to continue their strong start to 2020-21, in which they have won five times and lost just once in eight league matches.

City are five points worse off than Spurs but have likewise suffered only one defeat, and Guardiola's record against his old LaLiga rival will give fans reason to believe they will emerge triumphant in north London.

Mourinho has certainly not always enjoyed facing Guardiola, but recent encounters – and the trends in their teams' performances this term – suggest he might just have his old foe's number...


Guardiola may once have described Mourinho as "the f****** boss" but, when it comes to this rivalry, he is the man on top.

No manager has beaten Mourinho more often (10 times) than Guardiola, with Rafael Benitez next on that list with six victories. That win total for Guardiola does not include the 2013 UEFA Super Cup, either, when Bayern Munich beat Chelsea on penalties after a 2-2 draw.

Indeed, Mourinho has won only six of 23 meetings with Guardiola and has been out-scored 37 to 27 in those matches – although only Jurgen Klopp (eight) has beaten the Catalan more often.

They first faced off when Mourinho's Inter hosted Guardiola's Barca in the Champions League group stage in September 2009, a game that finished 0-0. Mourinho would win just two of the next 13 meetings with Guardiola: a 3-1 semi-final first-leg win en route to Inter's 2009-10 Champions League triumph, and a 1-0 victory with Real Madrid in the 2011 Copa del Rey final.



Things have slowly swung more in favour of Mourinho in the past eight years.

The Portuguese has won four and lost three of their previous nine meetings (if you exclude that Super Cup match six years ago), including two of the most recent three league matches: the famous 3-2 comeback win in the Manchester derby that saw United postpone City's title celebrations two years ago, and a 2-0 victory for Spurs in February this year.

That match was billed as something of a Mourinho masterclass, but City were undeniably unfortunate. They missed a penalty, had Oleksandr Zinchenko sent off, and still out-shot their hosts 19 to six, having 41 more touches in the opposition box and 67 per cent of the possession.

Still, the 2020-21 season has seen Spurs generally playing superior football to City – and in a style that could cause them particular harm.


This season, Mourinho has tapped into his more adventurous side. Spurs have outscored City 19 to 10 in the league, an average of almost one goal per game more, and attempted 111 shots to City's 103. Spurs have played eight games and City seven.

While they average fewer touches in the box per game (21 compared with 29), Tottenham have created more than double the number of big chances (27 to City's 13) and converted 59 per cent compared with City's 31 per cent.

Spurs have played just four fewer passes into the opposition box than City (28) and attempted roughly the same number of crosses (74 to 75), and that's despite averaging seven per cent less of the possession.

And Mourinho's more traditional trump cards are still in play.

City have conceded a league-low 11 high turnovers this season, 19 fewer than Spurs, but high pressing is unlikely to be a go-to tactic for Mourinho's men anyway (they have registered 108 pressed sequences this term, only the seventh-highest in the division).

Instead, they are likely to find joy through more expected means: dropping deeper and springing a counter-attack from their own half.

City's style carries with it an inescapable risk of a quick counter. On average, they begin a sequence in possession 46 metres from their own goal, the highest such number this season, and only Liverpool (68) have won possession within 40 metres of the opposition goal more often than City (37).

Yet if Spurs beat the press, they can be devastating. No team has managed more direct attacks – an open-play sequence, ending in a shot or touch in the opponent's box, where at least 50 per cent of the movement has been towards that goal – than Spurs (18).

It's a tactic that has seen Harry Kane and Son Heung-min thrive. They have already directly combined for nine league goals this season, including two in that 6-1 hammering of Mourinho's old club Manchester United and four in their 5-2 victory at Southampton.

They might just unpick an uncertain City defence to give Mourinho the bragging rights.

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