Spotlight on Spurs’ Porro

Guardiola may be in for a rude awakening. — Reuters

TOTTENHAM Hotspur’s credentials for a possible top-four finish in the Premier League will come under the microscope again tomorrow.

Champions Manchester City are their opposition tomorrow, while league leaders Arsenal welcome Everton today in a game that should be anything but a foregone conclusion. In another featured match, Crystal Palace make their way to Manchester United.

The clash at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium gets the top billing, and if for no other reason, it will be to see how the home team do without their manager Antonio Conte in the dugout and to get a first glance at the quality of right wing-back Pedro Porro, for whom Tottenham paid Sporting Lisbon £40mil (RM211.5mil) this week.

Conte underwent a gall bladder operation in midweek and will miss a few weeks from the sidelines, according to the club.

But there should be more than enough distraction with Porro around to eclipse Conte’s absence.

Big things are expected of the 23-year-old Spanish international, who can also play as an out-and-out right winger and may thrive in that position if given the chance.

If there’s one thing Spurs have lacked this season, it’s goal-scoring. Now sixth in the league standings, they were as high as third earlier in the campaign and will be desperate to get among the top four, which guarantees lucrative Champions League football next season.

In coming up against Man City, Porro will be facing his former club. He joined Sporting from City on loan in 2020.

That deal was then made permanent in the middle of last year when Sporting coughed up £7.5mil (RM39.4mil). The lad played a huge role in Sporting winning the Portuguese league in 2020–21. It was the club’s first league title in 19 years.

Spurs have also signed Villarreal striker Arnaut Danjuma on loan, with an option to make the deal permanent in the off-season.

City, second on the log and five points behind Arsenal (having played one more game), did not do much in the transfer window, apart from letting the industrious Joao Cancelo go to Bayern Munich on loan until the end of the season and signing Argentine Maximo Perrone.

Cancelo’s departure was a bit of a surprise and came after the Portugal player fell out with Spanish manager Pep Guardiola.

Perrone, a 20-year-old midfielder from Buenos Aires, was brought in from South American side Velez Sarsfield for £8mil (RM42.1mil).

His development under Guardiola will be watched closely, particularly by those in the management team of the world champions.

He has played for Argentina’s under-16 and under-18 teams and is widely expected to break into the senior team in due course.

By their own high standards, City have been erratic this season, yet they remain within touching distance of the Gunners.

Despite this, Guardiola knows that they cannot afford to drop anymore points – not with Arsenal rolling on towards their first league crown since 2004.

Mikel Arteta, once Guardiola’s No. 2, strengthened his side in the transfer window by signing midfielder Jorginho from Chelsea for £12mil (RM62.4mil)

That deal was struck just hours before the transfer deadline and after Arsenal failed in their bid to bring in Brighton’s Moises Caicedo. The polesitters also have midfielder Mohamed Elneny out with a knee injury.

Everton, who recently sacked Frank Lampard and replaced him with Sean Dyche, did no shopping in January, and look set to continue with their struggles in trying to escape the bottom three.

It’s difficult to see them beating Arsenal today, but under a new manager, struggling teams frequently defy the odds.

Man United, who reached their first proper cup final under Erik ten Hag this week, should get the better of Palace at Old Trafford.

The fourth-placed Red Devils may have lost to Arsenal a fortnight ago, but they remain a confident team, which may just be enough to defeat Patrick Vieira’s charges.

It might be worth noting that Palace held the Man United to a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture at Selhurst Park last month.

So it may turn out to be a close battle after all, with Spurs and Man City following suit tomorrow.

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