Perhaps the most storied managerial rivalry in Europe resumes on Sunday, after a break of about 13 months, when Pep Guardiola leads his second-place Manchester City squad into Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, to face the latest team to be headed by the “Special One,” Portugal’s Jose Mourinho. But with neither team in serious contention for the English Premier League title, the rivalry appears to have lost much of its luster, and was even described as an exercise in “irrelevance” by ESPN FC correspondent Mark Ogden.
With Liverpool already 22 points clear of City at the top of the table, Guardiola’s club has no realistic chance of turning their back-to-back Premier League titles into a three-peat. And Tottenham, which Mourinho took over on November 20, continues to struggle, sitting in eighth place, seven points off the Top 4.
In addition, the club failed to land a striker to replace the injured Harry Kane, while losing attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen to Inter Milan.
Nonetheless, Spurs have fared better this season under Mourinho than his predecessor, Mauricio Pochettino, taking 20 points in 12 league matches, compared to 14 from 12 under the Argentine who led Spurs to their first-ever UEFA Champions League final last season, according to Sky Sports.
In addition, when taking the lead, Spurs under Pochettino dropped 12 points in 12 games, while they have not dropped any in five games while leading under Mourinho.
However, when facing teams above them on the table under both managers, Tottenham have taken but a single point of a possible 18. Not surprisingly, Spurs enter the match on their home ground as heavy underdogs, with odds of 19/4 on their managing to take the full three points from Manchester City, according to odds published by The Soccer Times.
The Citizens, on the other hand, have been set at 1/2 to win.
Though Spurs have found the back of the net 12 times in their last six games at their $1.3 billion new stadium this season, they have won only four of their last eight at the North London facility.
Manchester City absorbed a 1-0 defeat in the second leg of their Carabao Cup semifinal against crosstown total Manchester United on Wednesday, but Guardiola’s side nonetheless won the tie 3-2 on aggregate, booking a place at Wembley. There, they will take on Aston Villa on March 1 — giving Guardiola’s team an excellent chance at taking home silverware this season, despite the league’s title having already escaped their grasp. Liverpool — who have not lost a league match all season — need just seven wins from their final 13 to clinch the title.
Mourinho and Guardiola have faced each other 22 times, with three different teams for “Pep” and four for the “Special One.” Guardiola has 10 wins to five for Mourinho, with seven draws.
The Sunday match gets underway at 5:30 p.m. in London, or 12:30 p.m. EST, 9:30 a.m. PST in the United States, where NBC Sports Network will televise the Spurs vs. City clash nationally.