This weekend sees two of the sides competing for the Champions League come head to head, with a win for the home side putting them right back in contention. Spurs have seen their form pick up in recent weeks, with Christian Eriksen being pivotal to that. The midfielder has the quality to carry his side to the Champions League, especially considering the inconsistencies of both Liverpool and Arsenal. Manchester United have put themselves in a good position heading into the new year as they are currently sitting nicely in the top four. Many doubted them after a shaky start, but Louis van Gaal is slowly starting to find the winning formula. It was always going to be a tough job, but the side is moving in the right direction.
Spurs have started to move up the table and attack the top four, which is where they should be. They don’t have enough quality to be a consistent top four club, but they should be challenging for a Champions League spot. The breakthrough of Harry Kane and the incredible form of Christian Eriksen has been the main reason for the turnaround in form, with a win on Boxing Day lifting them up to 30 points, which gives them a good platform to attack the top four. Mauricio Pochettino is finally starting to see some consistency and if that continues, they have an outside chance of a top four place. If they want to be considered serious Champions League contenders, they need to be winning home matches against their rivals. This weekend will be a huge indication of where Spurs are at the moment.
Meanwhile, Manchester United have started to secure their place in the top four after a run of 7 wins out of 8, which included an impressive win over Newcastle on Boxing Day. They have finally found a good system at home, but their away form against the bigger sides remains a worry as they can be open at times. Wayne Rooney was very good in his midfield role in Boxing Day grabbing two goals, but it remains to be seen if he can offer the battling presence in the bigger games. There is a lot of quality in the United side with Rooney, Van Persie, Falcao and Di Maria possible starters, but the balance and defence is preventing them from becoming a title contender.
Last season, this fixture gave us an entertaining 2-2 draw, with Kyle Walker and Sandro scoring for the hosts, while a Wayne Rooney brace earned United a point. In the reverse fixture, Tim Sherwood led his side to a 2-1 victory with Emmanuel Adebayor and Christian Eriksen netting the goals. Danny Welbeck scored for United to make things interesting, but Spurs managed to hold on. The North Londoners have been good against Manchester United in recent years and they’ll be hoping that continues on Sunday.
Tottenham don’t have any major injury concerns going into this match, which will give them confidence of getting a result. They are able to go into the match with a full strength side and the likes of Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane will be key. The only doubts are over their defence as they have looked vulnerable over the last couple of months.
Chris Smalling is likely to feature, which will strengthen the defence. Marcos Rojo, Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini and Luke Shaw could all make an appearance after a variety of injuries. Daley Blind won’t be available again until the new year. Falcao is a contender to start after featuring in recent weeks. Angel di Maria is unlikely to feature after picking up a muscular injury.
Tottenham have won their last three fixtures by the scoreline of 2-1. This shows that they have yet to really start firing, but they are getting the results to push themselves up the league.
Manchester United have had 21 different central defensive partnerships, which suggests why they have struggled so much at the back this season. They need to strengthen there this January.
Harry Kane has been brilliant for Spurs this season as he has managed to breakthrough into the first team, due to his goals and his hard working style of play. Many are linking Kane with the England squad and it’s difficult to say that he isn’t on the brink of selection after finding the net 13 times in all competitions, five of which have come in the league. He has surpassed two players who have been transferred for 20m+ in Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor and he has completely deserved his place in the starting eleven. At the age of 21, Kane has a lot of potential to grow into a really good top flight striker. There are still doubts about his quality as the main striker for a side of Tottenham’s stature, but every goal quietens those doubters more and more. He has shown his confidence by stepping up for free kicks in high pressure situations and scoring crucial goals in every competition. His hard working style of play and finishing ability will cause the Manchester United back four problems, as he will try to stretch them at every opportunity.
The Manchester United captain is going to have a big role to play in the second half of the season as he tries to lead his side back to the Champions League. They aren’t in Europe, therefore their squad won’t suffer from fatigue, but rivals Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool all have continental competitions to contend with. Last season Liverpool benefited from this and it could boost United in a similar way. Rooney will be keen to show his qualities as a leader and a return to the Champions League at the first attempt will do that. Van Gaal trusts Rooney both as a leader and a player, which is shown by the Dutchman’s willingness to use his captain in midfield. In a deeper role, Rooney’s work rate and passing quality will come to the fore, while his ability to get forward and arrive late could result in a few goals as it showed on Boxing Day. Having Rooney there also allows Van Gaal to get both Robin van Persie and Falcao on the pitch, who both carry an enormous goal threat. However, the manager will still look to his captain as his main goal threat as the Englishman already has eight goals to his name, and four assists. Considering he has played a number of roles, that isn’t a bad return.
There will be goals in this game as both have a lot of good attacking players and have shaky defences. If Manchester United start all three of Van Persie, Rooney and Falcao then it could harm the balance of the side. Although it worked against Newcastle, it could be problematic away from home. Tottenham are improving and a win for them would see them established as serious top four contenders. I think it will be a draw, with neither side having the defensive quality to win the game.