Two out of the EPL’s top three in-form sides face each other on Sunday, as Tottenham Hotspur host Manchester United at White Hart Lane.
Spurs will be looking for a remarkable “double” over United – something that hasn’t happened since the 1989-1990 season – after their gritty 3-2 win back in September at Old Trafford. Sitting in 4th place and an overwhelming 15 points behind Sunday’s opponents, Manchester United, a title challenge is all but over for Spurs. But with a 3-point gap between themselves and 5th placed, Everton, bringing Champions League football back to White Hart Lane is a realistic target, and something that would surely categorise AVB’s first season in charge of Spurs, as a success? Despite being held to a 0-0 draw at QPR last weekend - largely due to some heroic goalkeeping from Julio Cesar in the QPR goal – Spurs have picked up 23 points from a possible 30 since the defeat to Arsenal back in November.
Manchester United – having dropped just 2 points since losing to Norwich back in November – travel to Spurs as the EPL’s form side. Despite conceding 8 goals more than at this stage last season, United find themselves 4 points better-off. Aside from the defeat to Spurs earlier in the season, United have impressed in the “big” games this season, completing the double over Liverpool, as well as defeating Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City. The strength and depth of the United squad – as noted by Brendan Rodgers in his post-match comments last weekend – looks unrivalled going forward, with the likes of Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez, and of course, Robin van Persie, all demonstrating their ability to lead the line and be “match-winners” in the absence of – the much relied upon – Wayne Rooney, which leaves Sir Alex with a “healthy” selection headache this Sunday. The return of long-term absentees Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, and Nemanja Vidic has re-installed some much needed competition for Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans in the centre of defence.
Tip: Van Persie has an excellent record against Spurs but will he be first to score? Check out some first scorer odds at bwin: https://sports.bwin.com/en/sports/4/betting/football
Spurs have had little luck against United in the EPL, with the win at Old Trafford earlier in the season, only their 4th in 41 attempts. Much has changed since the 3-1 defeat to Manchester United in the corresponding fixture last season at White Hart Lane. Out of the Spurs side that started that day, only Walker, Lennon, Sandro, and Adebayor were in AVB’s first 11 at Loftus Road last weekend.
AVB’s Spurs side is a different proposition to the one United faced last season, as they know all too well. Despite arguably losing their two most creative players in Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric, AVB has utilised the pace of Bale and Lennon to get in behind defences on the break and has been rewarded for his trust in Jermaine Defoe, who despite a recent loss in form, remains the joint fifth top goal scorer in the EPL this season, boasting a higher clear-cut chance conversion rate (43%) than Robin van Persie (37%).
Spurs will be without Sandro after he picked up an injury against QPR last weekend, with Scott Parker being the most likely replacement. William Gallas and Younes Kaboul will definitely miss out through injury. Emmanuel Adebayor will be absent after meeting up the Togo squad in preparation for the African Cup of Nations. Clint Dempsey is likely to come in and operate just behind Jermaine Defoe in attack.
Nemanja Vidic and Jonny Evans are likely to be fit for United. Meanwhile, Ashley Young will miss out after picking up a knee injury against Liverpool last weekend. After Wayne Rooney completed 90 minutes – his first since the win over Sunderland in mid December – against West Ham United in the FA Cup on Wednesday night, it will be interesting to see if he renews his strike partnership with Robin van Persie and returns to a United side which has won all four league games in his absence.
Ones to Watch
United will need to be wary of the likes Jermaine Defoe, who is the top scorer for Spurs this season in the EPL with 10 goals, and Gareth Bale, who has 9 goals in the EPL and has created the second most chances (43) for Spurs this season, only second to Aaron Lennon (44). Aaron Lennon has excelled under AVB this season and has created 8 clear-cut chances, which is double the amount created by fellow winger, Gareth Bale (4).
Undoubtedly, Spurs will need to keep Robin van Persie quiet if they are to have any chance of completing the “double” over Manchester United. Not only is Robin van Persie the top scorer in the EPL with 17 goals, he has also been the most creative player for United this season, creating 41 chances, of which 10 have been clear-cut .
Despite Robin van Persie (37%) comparing unfavourably to the likes of Demba Ba (50%), Luiz Suarez (50%) and Jermaine Defoe (43%) when it comes to converting clear-cut chances, Robin van Persie has had the most clear-cut chances this season (27) when compared the likes of Suarez (22), Ba (14), and Defoe (14), suggesting that United’s style of play is highly suited to Robin van Persie, and that to the regret of the rest of the EPL, there could be a lot more to come from the United front-man.
Both sides are in good form going into the game on Sunday. Spurs have struggled at home this season against the likes of Wigan, Norwich, and Stoke, who have got men behind the ball and made it difficult. But that is perhaps the one consolation in playing Manchester United, as they will undoubtedly be going for the win with the firepower at their disposal. Hence, an open game looks to be on the cards.
A simple formula which takes into account home advantage in the EPL, the defence weakness (goals conceded) of both sides, and the attacking strength (ability to score goals) of both sides so far this season, indicates the following expected goals:
Spurs: 1.85 goals United: 1.91 goals
bwin odds (3Way result):
Spurs: 2.9 Draw: 3.4 Manchester United: 2.3
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.