Tottenham Hotspur host defending Premier League champions Manchester City on Sunday in a blockbuster encounter to round off the opening weekend of highly-anticipated action in the 2021-22 season.
The buildup to this headline fixture has been filled with plenty of off-field drama that will only add to the attention on a clash that was always set to draw plenty of eyeballs.
Earlier this month, Spurs’ star striker Harry Kane failed to report for his scheduled pre-season coronavirus and fitness tests as he reportedly tried to force a move to … yes, you guessed it, Manchester City.
However, City manager Pep Guardiola recently confirmed the powerhouse club would only make a move to sign Kane if the London club were willing to negotiate over the England captain’s price tag.
Meanwhile, Man City had no hesitation in recently announcing the signing of Jack Grealish on a six-year deal from Aston Villa for a British record fee reported to be £100 million.
Grealish will wear the No 10 shirt, which was recently vacated by the departure to Barcelona of striker Sergio Aguero.
“I am incredibly happy to have joined Manchester City,” Grealish commented after his signing was confirmed. “City are the best team in the country with a manager considered to be the best in the world – it’s a dream come true to be part of this club.”
The fee shattered the previous British record of £89 million paid by Manchester United to sign Paul Pogba from Juventus in 2016.
Guardiola already has the likes of Phil Foden, out for three weeks, and Raheem Sterling in dynamic attacking roles, while Kevin De Bruyne, also out for this match, Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez offer further firepower for a City side that looks well-placed to launch a successful title defence.
Of course, though, it can’t be overlooked that Grealish’s Manchester City debut turned out to be somewhat of a letdown as Leicester City clinched a 1-0 win in the Community Shield on Saturday.
However, Guardiola will hardly be fazed by this result in the annual curtain raiser to the English top-flight season, particularly considering player absences meant City went into the clash with a weakened side.
Spurs’ new boss Nuno Espirito Santo will be looking to get his campaign off to a flyer despite the distracting transfer saga surrounding Kane.
It does appear to be a rebuilding period of sorts for Spurs, who bid farewell to long-serving Toby Alderweireld, who left the North London club with two years left on his contract to join Qatari side Al-Duhail.
Spurs have replaced Alderweireld with Atalanta’s Christian Romero but he will not be available this weekend. Santo has already brought in Atalanta goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini and Sevilla winger Bryan Gil, with Erik Lamela heading the other way to the Spanish club.
Last season, Spurs claimed a 2-0 win at home in the first fixture between these sides on 21 November 2020, but City returned the favour later in the season with a 3-0 thrashing at the Etihad.