12:30 BST, Saturday 28th October, Old Trafford (Manchester, England),
October was always set to be a testing month for José Mourinho’s side. However, few predicted Manchester United would slip so much following an imperious start to the season. Defeat this weekend would mean only one point has been taken from the last three Premier League games with a trip to Chelsea up next. Alternatively, a win would once again establish them as a force to be reckoned with in the league and add to United’s three successive wins over Spurs at Old Trafford.
Mauricio Pochettino was disappointed by the lack of aggression and motivation amongst his players after their defeat to West Ham, a problem which also affected United last weekend. It was eleven games unbeaten (W8 D3) before the cup defeat though and Pochettino will seek an immediate response against one of their biggest rivals on Saturday. With Real Madrid waiting in the wings for their Wednesday night clash, this is the first of two big games for Spurs which can help show just how high expectations should be this season.
Last Time Out
Swansea City 0-2 Manchester United (Carabao Cup)
Manchester United made it through to the semifinals of the cup with a comfortable victory that saw them bounce back from defeat at Huddersfield last weekend. With both teams making eight changes each from their previous league games, it was a player who has struggled to make the starting XI in recent months who proved to be the biggest difference on the pitch.
Jesse Lingard took both goals in giving his best performance of the season, a far cry to the peripheral figure who provided no impact against the Terriers. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial were also much improved as they looked to be making a point to their manager who had heavily lambasted his stars last Saturday.
Tottenham Hotspur 2-3 West Ham United (Carabao Cup)
The second meeting between these two sides this season saw the scoreline reversed as the Hammers were able to successfully rally after falling behind this time. There was good news for Spurs in the shape of Danny Rose making it back into the starting lineup after a long break.
The defender, who made a number of negative comments about his clubs transfer policy during his injury break, also stood out as the best performer at the back as Tottenham looked unusually poor defensively especially after half-time.
While Fernando Llorente failed to make a huge impact up front on his own, Moussa Sissoko continued his unlikely renaissance as the best player in a Lilywhite shirt. In the end, though, there were too many sub-standard players for Spurs and three goals in 15 minutes saw the balance of the game swing, sending Tottenham tumbling out of the competition.
Manchester United Lineup
Paul Pogba (hamstring), Marouane Fellaini (knee), Marcos Rojo (knee), Michael Carrick (knock), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee) and Eric Bailly (knock) will be missing for United. In better news, Phil Jones will be available once more and is expected to join Chris Smalling in the heart of defence. Marcus Rashford, on the other hand, faces a late fitness test following a knock he took against Swansea.
Tottenham Hotspur Lineup
Erik Lamela (hip) and Victor Wanyama (knee) are the only injury concerns for Mauricio Pochettino as Mousa Dembélé is once again fit having played the final 20 minutes against West Ham. Danny Rose could also feature having started in midweek. However, he won’t be pushed too hard as he makes his way back to full match fitness and so will likely start on the bench.
Key Battle: Jesse Lingard (Manchester United) vs Dele Alli (Tottenham)
With Henrikh Mkhitaryan failing to deliver recently after his blistering start to the season, Jesse Lingard could be the player used centrally for this game. In a game that will see both teams wanting to give little away, the little playmaker will be key.
Jose Mourinho moved Lingard from his usual place on the right side to the number 10 position against Swansea and it proved to be fruitful for both the England forward and the Red Devils collectively.
As one of the few players to shine against the Hammers, Dele Alli is currently approaching his peak following a glorious all-round display against Liverpool. While it looks like he will fall short of the 22 goals he scored for Spurs last season, Alli is becoming increasingly influential for the team and is able to play in almost any position his manager requires him to fill.
With many eyes focusing on Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen, the latter of whom destroyed Mourinho’s men at White Hart Lane last season, this meeting could see a different player in a white shirt take the headlines.
Early Kick Off
Where they were once used to prevent fans drinking excessively before a derby match, the early kick-off has become a staple in the modern fixture list. Global TV rights are now factored into the scheduling of matches and can often dictate that high-profile, crunch encounters become lunchtime games.
The early start time can often lead to games being a little more sterile, especially in the opening stages of a game. While this is the same for both sides, it can mean there’s less chance of an early goal and less chance that the new global audience will be entertained.
A Golden Race
This fixture also sees a battle between two players aiming for this season’s golden boot award. With 54 goals between them in the Premiership last season, Harry Kane is currently edging this season’s race with eight goals to Lukaku’s seven. Kane is clearly the striker in form though, scoring freely in all competitions since August, especially away from home.
There’s also a question mark still hanging over Lukaku’s ability to have an impact against the top teams. Having failed to score in the last two Premiership games, He still has a higher shooting accuracy (65%) and a better conversion rate (27%) than Kane (55% and 22% respectively) meaning it will be a close-run contest between the two strikers at Old Trafford.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
An improved midweek performance and a penchant for taking draws from this type of game against top sides will give Jose Mourinho confidence that his side are capable of delivering at home this weekend. While both teams have been served a recent reminder that they are not unbeatable, Pochettino’s team are the side to have hit higher heights in recent weeks and United’s lack of presence in midfield could end up costly for them against Spurs.
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