Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United meet for the second time this season on Sunday at White Hart Lane. It is obvious to any person who has even the most limited knowledge of the EPL table that this is a huge match for both sides. Manchester United are in the pole position to capture their 19th League Title. Tottenham, meanwhile, seek to finish in a Champions League spot for the second season running. The trouble for both teams is that there is a logjam at the top of the table. At the moment United are two points ahead of second place City, though they have two games in hand. Spurs sit fourth, four points behind third place Arsenal and one point in front of fifth place Chelsea. With the number of Premier League fixtures dwindling, both sides will want to take maximum points in this one.
Potential Tottenham Line-Up
Team selection for Harry Redknapp has largely been predicated on who happens to be fit each week. Injuries and suspension have ravaged the side with William Gallas, Jermain Defoe, Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone, and the obvious Leadley King and Johnathan Woodgate all having spent significant time in the physio room (as well as others who have spent less lengthy runs out injured). As it stands, long-term injuries have, for the most part, been cleared up with only Huddlestone, Woodgate, and King sidelined indefinitely.
The 4-4-1-1 has been Harry’s recent choice as far as formation is concerned. This formation has found success in large part due to the blistering form of Rafael van der Vaart, who has netted 9 premier league goals so far this season. It is no secret that Rafa operates best when he has Peter Crouch up top to play off of. The trouble is, Crouch has offered very little as far as scoring is concerned with just one league goal to his name this season. His six league assists, however, top the statistics list at the club. Crouch’s partnership with van der Vaart has made him the regular starter on the road. But because this game is at The Lane we are more likely to see Peter introduced as a second-half substitute.
The midfield is another issue altogether. Obviously wing play has been strong this season. Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon have experienced very good runs of form, with Bale outstanding for larges parts of the season. Additionally, Luka Modric has been, according to many, Tottenham’s best player this season. Problems do arise, however, when one considers Luka’s partner in the center. The injury to Huddlestone has clearly come at a bad time. Jermain Jenas and Wilson Palacios have been asked to step up in his absence. The former has performed well at times but still lacks a killer instinct on the pitch and gives the ball away far too often. The latter can be a top holding midfielder on his day but more recently has suffered from mental lapses that have led to poor tackles and needless turnovers.
The back line is another area of concern. Simply put, Spurs concede too many goals. Gomes hasn’t been up to form and the defenders seem to make at least one significant mental error per game. That said, the return of Michael Dawson to the side has really brought some stability as well as leadership. At the moment he and William Gallas represent the most effective CB partnership that Spurs can produce. The fullbacks have played extremely well at times but also, more often than not, tend to be the offenders to let up big plays that lead to goals for the opposition.
It goes without saying that Spurs need top production from all 11 players on the pitch against United.
——-van der Vaart——-
Matchup to Watch:
Gareth Bale vs. Rafael da Silva
This was a matchup that Manchester United won the first time around. Rafael did a superb job match the pace of Bale. He rarely lost contain and was able to keep the Tottenham winger in check for most of the match.
It is vital for United that Rafael do the same in this next leg. Bale can really be the icing on the cake for Spurs. His runs down the left side and crisp crosses in lead to a lot of Spurs’ goals. It is also no secret that Gareth doesn’t mind scoring them by himself. He is a versatile player who can come at you in many ways. Rafael needs to limit the “big plays” of Bale. If he is unable to do so Tottenham have the potential to put up quite a big number on the scoreboard
Tottenham Player to Watch
One thing that has yet to be mentioned is Manchester United’s ability to score goals. So far the league leaders have registered 43 Premier League goals. Not surprisingly this is the leading mark in the league. On top of that United also have the league’s leading scorer in their ranks. Former Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov has netted 14 goals so far in the league this season.
As mentioned, Spurs like to concede. It will be vital, if they are to take any points from this match, that they limit big chances for United and control the pace of the game. Michael Dawson can be a significant help in this regard. It will be up to him to contain the United attack and particularly Berbatov is he is, indeed, in the line-up for the Red Devils. A big day from Dawson could certainly see Tottenham come away with at least one point if not three
Manchester United Player to Watch
Everybody knows what Berbatov and Wayne Rooney bring to the table. Arguably United’s biggest surprise of the season has been Hernandez. He has scored 6 league goals this season both from the bench as well as a starting role. Furthermore, he is in top form. Hernandez is a shifty, pacy player who always seems to be in the right place at the right time to score a goal for United. He can hurt Spurs either as a starter next to Rooney or Berbatov or as an impact sub (the role he plays more often for United). Yes, Spurs need to be award of the threat posed by Rooney and Berbatov. But they must be sure not to overlook the threat that is Hernandez.
Manchester United have owned Tottenham as of late. It is true that United victories have been marred by improper officiating, particularly at Old Trafford. That said, it doesn’t change the fact that Spurs can never seem to find a way to gain points off of United.
That said, both teams are in very good form, perhaps the best form of any two sides in the league. Additionally, both have players who are also in top form. Rafael van der Vaart and Dimitar Berbatov have been finding the back of the net often recently. This game will be anything but defensive. Both sides love to play the counter-attack and do so effectively. We should anticipate a back-and-forth affair with many chances and potentially many goals.
2-2 (Defoe, Bale)-(Hernandez, Nani)