Tottenham Hotspur’s midfield has been criticised for being more brawn than brains so far this season, but few would question Andre Villas-Boas if he opted for three of his juggernauts against Manchester City.
Since the Peter Crouch-inspired victory of 2010 Spurs have lost their past three trips to Man City, conceding six times.
This season Manuel Pellegrini’s side have scored 20 in winning their five home matches in the league and their attacking midfield has been crucial to that.
Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure and David Silva have scored eight and set up two at the Etihad, with Jesus Navas adding another two assists on home soil, and even with Silva injured Spurs will have to find a way to counter City’s midfield maestros.
Villas-Boas has generally opted for two of Paulinho, Mousa Dembele, Etienne Capoue and Sandro so far this campaign, but three should be employed in Manchester after Christian Eriksen was ruled out through injury.
With the Frenchman still regaining his match fitness after injury, Dembele, Paulinho and Sandro could all take to the pitch to give Spurs control of the midfield.
Each is strong in the tackle and comfortable with the ball at their feet, with the Belgian’s pass completion rate of 91.4 per cent the 11th best in the Premier League.
Although this might reduce Spurs’ creativity, they will not be facing a team sitting deep against them at the Etihad and their front three will have plenty of room to manoeuvre even without a dedicated number 10.
Both Paulinho and Dembele are both effective going forward, and have averaged more key passes per game than Lewis Holtby, who would be expected to replace Eriksen given his injury.
Starting with the trio will give Spurs the grounding to establish themselves in the game and Villas-Boas will have plenty of attacking options on the bench if needed.
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