Pep Guardiola now faces the highly-challenging prospect of recapturing confidence from a team that has swept all before them this campaign only to come unstuck when it really mattered at the latter stages of the season.
One enormous challenge the Catalan boss faces is bringing the confidence levels of individual players back to their prime level – including Nicolas Otamendi who has struggled throughout the past month.
The Argentine defender has become a defensive stalwart for Guardiola’s City this season but in recent games against Liverpool and Manchester United, Otamendi’s defending could be argued as the reason why City have conceded the majority of their goals.
The Blues have conceded eight goals in three games with the one underlying factor being the 29-year-old has been the only defensive ever-present during that period.
In contrast to the previous eight City games before this apparent slump, the Blues conceded eight goals in fifteen games when the defence was seemingly at the peak of its powers.
Otamendi had made played minutes for City throughout the entire season, and a defensive ever-present in the Premier League, he started alongside seven different central-defensive partners at one stage or another.
There’s little denying the confidence given to him by Guardiola to become City’s number one defender has witnessed a growth and comfort in Otamendi’s playing style with his passing out from the back a sensational and critical aspect of how City keep possession and attack from the defence.
Otamendi was awarded an improved four-and-a-half year contract in November as his form was worthy of such praise this season.
City’s hierarchy felt that he had become the best central defender in the league this season, hence why the club was desperate to reward his performances.
However, since losing to Liverpool at Anfield, Otamendi’s confidence seems to have shattered with him unwilling to carry the ball out from the back and attack the opposing team through the middle.
His hunger and desire seemed to have been drained from him – whether that is down to fatigue or other factors remains to be seen – but he’s certainly struggling when it comes to physical battles when he tends to thrive in such conditions.
His mistake against Liverpool on Tuesday night struck on watchers as a man burnt out mentally and physically as a pass he’s made thousands of times this season was lax and short for Liverpool’s winning goal. The ball fell into the feet of Roberto Firmino who would score the winner on the night to leave a despondent Otamendi laying on the floor pondering his mistakes.
But now ahead of City’s clash with Tottenham, Guardiola may fear dropping his star defender for his mistakes and fatigue and offer him a rest in the hope of him returning to his best form, but instead, crush any remaining confidence he has at this moment should he react badly to the decision.
Spurs are likely to be relentless in pressing City high up the pitch in the hope of making one of their defenders make a mistake for the clinical Harry Kane to latch onto and Spurs to capitalize with a goal.
Otamendi hasn’t shown any form in the previous three games in which the teams City faced would be considered a similar standard of opposition the Blues play face at Wembley on Saturday. Vincent Kompany has now had a seven-day rest since playing in the Manchester derby defeat and he, alongside Aymeric Laporte, could provide the stability Otamendi hasn’t been able to offer in April.