LONDON (Reuters) – Tottenham Hotspur have enjoyed their best ever start to a Premier League season and opened their Champions League campaign with a win this week but Antonio Conte’s side face the ultimate test of their credentials at Manchester City on Saturday.
They travel to The Etihad for the evening kickoff (1630GMT) knowing victory would put them top of the table after seven games but Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions will feel they have unfinished business with the Londoners.
Remarkably, given the sky-high standards City have set in the past few seasons, Spurs have won four of the last five Premier League clashes between the sides.
Last season Tottenham claimed a notable double, winning 1-0 at home under the short-lived management of Nuno Espirito Santo and then claimed a remarkable 3-2 victory away in February when Harry Kane scored a last-gasp winner.
Spurs have won four of their opening six league games, piling up the points despite the impression that there is far more to come from Conte’s team.
City’s record is identical but they sit above Tottenham in second place owing to a superior goal difference.
Both City and Spurs enjoyed Champions League wins against Sevilla (4-0) and Olympique Marseille (2-0) respectively this week and on paper they look fairly evenly matched.
The reality is, however, that whereas City have a squad brimming with proven winners, Tottenham’s players are still trying to prove they can claim silverware for the club.
Guardiola once rather disparagingly describe Spurs as the “Harry Kane team” but while Kane has five goals this season, Conte’s side are not totally reliant on the England skipper, nor strike partner Son Heung-min who is yet to open his account.
Richarlison, signed for a reported 60 million pounds ($69.20 million) from Everton, scored his first Tottenham goals on Wednesday with a brace in the victory over Marseille and he could be in line for a start at the Etihad Stadium.
City sold Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus in the close season but appear to have hit the jackpot with Erling Haaland.
The 22-year-old has Norwegian international has scored 12 goals in his first eight games for City, including an incredible 10 in six Premier League games with two hat-tricks.
Stopping him will be a massive task for Conte’s side.
“For the moment he is scoring the goals and obviously it helps us win games, and it is a pretty good thing for him. A perfect start,” City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne said.
Leaders Arsenal, who dropped their first points last weekend in a 3-1 defeat at Manchester United, will look to bounce back at home to winless Everton on Sunday when the visitors will be without their injured England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
The weekend action will begin with Chelsea hosting Fulham in their first game since sacking manager Thomas Tuchel on Wednesday. The Stamford Bridge faithful are used to managerial changes but this one took everyone by surprise.
Brighton & Hove Albion’s Graham Potter appears favourite to replace Tuchel and could even be in place by the weekend.
While Chelsea will hope to end a seismic week with a much-needed response to Tuesday’s 1-0 Champions League defeat at Dinamo Zagreb, Liverpool are also in need of a statement performance at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Wednesday’s humiliating 4-1 defeat at Napoli in the Champions League has raised questions about Juergen Klopp’s side that have not been asked for several years.
Nine points from their opening six league games is Liverpool’s worst start since 2015 but Klopp does not expect to be given the Tuchel treatment anytime soon.
“Our owners are rather calm and expect me to sort the situation out and not expect that someone else will sort it,” the German said after a shambolic night in Italy.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)