Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Sunday 11th April, kick off 4:30pm
by John Spillane
Going into the final quarter of the season, with both teams having played 30 of their 38 games, the hosts lie in sixth place, 11 points in arrears of their second placed opponents and needing to pick up maximum points if they are to challenge for a top four place.
Fresh from their 2-0 victory in Granada, in the Europa league quarter final first leg, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brings his side to North London seeking to extend their 22 match unbeaten away record in the Premier league. However their last trip south saw them far from impressive in a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace and they have struggled to overcome Brighton 2-1 and West Ham 1-0 on home turf, whilst losing in the FA Cup 3-1 at Leicester City. In recent weeks the performances of Bruno Fernandes seem to have dropped a level and without his energy and creativity they can struggle to overcome stubborn opposition. Since the shock 6-1 home defeat to Tottenham back in October the much maligned defence has tightened up conceding 22 goals in 26 league games. The conversion to a 4-2-3-1 in matches against tougher opposition with two of Fred, Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay protecting the back four has made them less vulnerable to counter attacks. At the same time it allows Fernandes (16 league goals), along with Marcus Rashford (20 in all competitions) Mason Greenwood and Edison Cavani the freedom to stay high up the pitch.
After that remarkable success at Old Trafford Jose Mourinho looked like he had Tottenham playing his brand of winning football and they briefly topped the table. The defence was tight, the midfield led by Tanguy Ndombele and Pierre Emerick Hojbjerg was industrious and combative, allowing Harry Kane (19 league goals) and Heung-min Son (13) to punish opponents with their inter play. The introduction of Gareth Bale to the starting line up took considerable time but after looking good for a spell it now seems to have been discarded.
Back on home soil for the first time in a month, following three successive away trips at Arsenal 1-2, Villa 2-0 and Newcastle 2-2 which saw them pick up four points, Tottenham's earlier European set back has seen them with a spare midweek which may give them a slight advantage. They will be looking to atone for a slip up at Newcastle which saw them drop points late on, resulting in some critical comments from Mourinho. Their preferred tactic of dropping deep and hitting opponents on the break could play into the hands of a United team who have six clean sheets in their last seven away league games. Kane has scored nine times in his last eight starts and has the ability to ask questions of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof.
With both sides likely to adopt similar styles chances may be few and far between and if Kane's influence can be limited then a narrow away victory could be on the cards.
Suggested bet : Man Utd win (31/20 at bet365)
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