Manchester City have already won at Tottenham Hotspur this season, a 1-0 victory thanks to an early Riyad Mahrez goal in October. But that was at Wembley stadium in front of 25,000 empty seats.
Things will be very different on Tuesday night when the two sides meet for the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Spurs, following last week’s successful opening with a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace, will host City at their pristine new stadium, a £1 billion project that is the envy of clubs around Europe. It is the stadium, too, that will host Tottenham’s game against Inter in this summer’s International Champions Cup.
The atmosphere on Tuesday evening – given what is at stake – will certainly be raucous. With more than 60,000 fans packed into the steep, imposing stands, City’s players might be forgiven for feeling slightly overawed.
Pep Guardiola and his players will, of course, handle the occasion as they would any other. But there is no question Spurs, having finally moved into their new home and started with a win, will be in confident mood ahead of the game.
City will still be strong favourites. The Premier League leaders are 16 points clear of Tottenham in the top flight and have got the better of Mauricio Pochettino’s side in most recent meetings.
But they are not infallible. Last season’s Champions League defeat against Liverpool at this stage showed up some vulnerabilities, which Spurs will look to exploit on Tuesday. With the backing of a vocal crowd and the need to take a lead to the Etihad Stadium, expect Tottenham to play with intensity and aggression.
It is difficult to truly assess such intangibles, but there is no doubt such an occasion can have a positive impact on the home team’s performance. In Tottenham’s case, it may just prove to be the slight edge they need against the side many have tipped to win this season’s Champions League.
“At some moments in the game, we feel the power,” said Spurs captain Hugo Lloris of the new stadium. “I think this can be a help for the team. We will need the crowd for every game. Of course, this is a big moment for the club. To be part of a quarter-final for the Champions League is a great opportunity.
“The target is to make City's life harder. To be ready to compete from the first minute. We know we're going to have the help of the crowd and so we have just to enjoy the moment. When I say to enjoy, I mean to enjoy running, defending, attacking, to enjoy everything that can be decisive.”
From the perspective of the visiting team, the atmosphere, the stadium, will simply be another distraction. The aim for City will be to go about their game regardless of the surroundings. They are more than capable of doing that. But, as was proved twice at Anfield last season, it is not always easy.
“I don’t think there will be any difference,” City maestro Kevin De Bruyne has said of the stadium. “They will probably be a little bit more excited but, in the end, it’s a stadium with supporters. If they go to Wembley with 80,000 or there, it’s going to be the same. It will be a tough game, but I think we will be alright.”
City will hope that they have the required mental strength to cope with even the most partisan of atmospheres. But the focus, understandably, will be on Tottenham and their imperious new home. There will be a determination, a drive, to make the first European night at the arena a memorable one. If things go right for Spurs, it could be a special evening in North London.
“It's a special moment. I feel and believe it is the best stadium in the world,” Pochettino said. “I'm pleased for Daniel Levy because of this fantastic project and I dedicate that victory to him. Now we are World Cup winners in facilities. Now the stadium is here and we need to be on the same level.
“We need to start to think about the new chapter, the new era, to ensure Tottenham is a real contender for the big things. With our training ground, this new stadium, you must think big.”
Beating Manchester City and taking a step towards the Champions League semi-finals would be the perfect start.