Sunday 10th April – 16:00 – White Hart Lane
The two best defensive teams in the Premier League go head to head on Sunday, as Tottenham Hotspur (25 goals conceded) host Manchester United (27 goals conceded) in crucial games for both clubs. Second placed Spurs, who drew 1-1 with Liverpool last weekend, currently trail leaders Leicester City by seven points, and more dropped points combined with a Foxes win at relegation threatened Sunderland could effectively hand Claudio Ranieri’s a magical title. I do still believe the North London side are in the hunt for the trophy, but boss Mauricio Pochettino is winless in all six Premier League matches as a manager against Manchester United. Meanwhile, the Red Devils sit in fifth position just a point behind rivals Manchester City, so remain firmly in the fight for a spot in next Champions League. Defeat for them would give the upper hand to the Citizens as well as unlikely European chasers West Ham. United have won four of their last five games and are unbeaten in their last 14 league trips to White Hart Lane, but have they ever faced a Spurs side as strong as this current one? Probably not, but Louis van Gaal’s team are one of just four clubs to beat them in the league so far this season.
- The hosts could be boosted by the return of defender Jan Vertonghen, who has missed the last three months with a knee injury.
- Winger Erik Lamela is likely to be recalled after he missed last week’s draw at Liverpool with a knock.
- Nabil Bentaleb and Clinton N’Jie are the only absentees in Mauricio Pochettino’s squad – both have knee injuries.
- Manchester United trio Phil Jones, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young are all available after recent injuries.
- Wayne Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger (both knee), Will Keane (groin) and Luke Shaw (leg) are still out, whilst Daley Blind is a doubt with an unspecified knock.
- United’s recent good form means that changes are unlikely, especially in the attacking third of the pitch, with Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford continuing to provide a threat going forward.
The Key Battle: Kyle Walker vs Anthony Martial
Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker will want to make amends after his own goal cost his side the game against United back on the opening day. But it could be said he has more than done that already after an impressive season.
Featuring in 27 league matches, the 25 year old has add a consistency to his game that he previously lacked. Now, not only is he fast and creative going forward (Walker has two assists in his last five league games), but solid defensively, winning more tackles and interceptions than any other Spurs player since mid-February.
He will battle it out with Nathaniel Clyne for a starting spot at Euro 2016, but there is no doubt that this has been the season where Walker has become the complete full-back, and he is perhaps in contention to make the PFA Team of the Season.
Whilst Walker has been one of many stars in the Tottenham team this season, Anthony Martial has been one of only a few Manchester United players who have consistently impressed.
Since signing from Monaco in the summer, the striker has 13 goals in all competitions, placing him behind only Wayne Rooney in the Red Devils’ scoring charts.
In recent weeks, Martial has been moved over to the left wing following the emergence of teenager Marcus Rashford, but it hasn’t seemed to stop him, as the Frenchman has three goals in his last four appearances.
Tottenham Hotspur wins = 48 / Manchester United wins = 87 / Draws = 48
*According to http://www.11v11.com
Last Meeting: Manchester United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur (8th August 2015)
Manchester United held on to start their season with a lacklustre win against Tottenham thanks to Kyle Walker’s early own goal. After Christian Eriksen lobbed over when clean through, United went ahead as Walker poked into his own net when attempting to tackle Wayne Rooney. That led to a better spell for United, who did not have a shot on target until Ashley Young’s 65th-minute effort. Sergio Romero – one of five United debutants – saved a late Eriksen drive. [Full BBC report]
Mauricio Pochettino: “You need to believe in football that things can change. It’s important for us to be focused and prepared but we can’t play when Leicester play. We can only do our job and be focused on the three points. There are six games ahead and anything can happen in football.”
Louis van Gaal: “It is very difficult because the pressure is also for Tottenham Hotspur now because they have to close the gap on Leicester City. So it is in the same position more or less as Manchester United at this time and I think until this time Leicester City is in a very good position.”
The Referee – Mike Dean
- Last Premier League game: Norwich City 3-2 Newcastle United (2nd April 2016) – 0 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Tottenham Hotspur game: Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 Sunderland (16th January 2016) – 2 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Manchester United game: West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Manchester United (6th March 2016) – 2 yellow cards, 1 red card
2015-16 Record: Games = 33 / Yellow cards = 103 / Red cards = 9 / Penalties = 10
Infographic (courtesy of Sporticos)
All stats from Premier League only and correct up until 09/04/2016
Stat of the Match
Spurs have recorded victories in four of their last five league games at White Hart Lane (D1), whilst United have triumphed in only two of their last nine away games (D3, L4).
Where Can I Watch It?
Sky Sports 1 are showing the game live from 3:30pm, with kick-off half an hour later. The highlights will then be on BBC One’s Match of the Day 2 at 10:30pm on Sunday evening.
My Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Manchester United
I expect a close and low scoring game because of the tight defences both of these teams possess, but an entertaining match up none the less. It could be decided by just the single goal, from Premier League top scorer Harry Kane to give Spurs an important three points.