Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United; third versus second. Sunday at White Hart Lane could be one of the key matches of the season. Sir Alex Ferguson has labelled this a massive fixture for his team’s title chances, with three points vital to stay in touch with rivals Manchester City at the top of the table. For Spurs, a win would close the distance to United and at the very least maintain the seven point gap to fourth. However, for manager Harry Redknapp, the players and the fans, this match is arguably about one thing – the reaction to the loss last weekend in the North London derby. Spurs though have not beaten Manchester United in 21 Premier League games. No pressure then?
These sentiments were echoed by the Adebayor, again in the Sun: “After losing 5-2 to Arsenal we can’t ask for a bigger challenge than playing Manchester United, but we are looking forward to it. It will be a tough game but I think we are ready for it. We just have to show personality and character and bounce back as quickly as possible. We have to keep focused. We have to show character in front of our fans and manage to win that game.”
For the Lilywhites, Scott Parker is suspended whilst Gareth Bale, Kyle Walker and van der Vaart are doubtful, though Walker and van der Vaart could be available. How the team handles the absence of undoubtedly big players for Spurs may be as much a test as their reaction to last week.
Aaron Lennon, who has caused Patrice Evra problems in the past, should return whilst Niko Kranjcar may replace Bale but will have to show more positional discipline than he did against Arsenal to help Benoit Assou-Ekoto defensively, but also to provide the left-back with an outlet. Sandro may get the nod ahead of Jake Livermore to partner Luka Modric in the centre of the park. The Brazilian’s high pressing and energy, if channelled correctly, could disrupt the central midfield partnership of Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes and United’s supply to their forwards.
In defence, Younes Kaboul may move to right-back if Walker is unfit, with Michael Dawson coming into partner Ledley King, otherwise the back four that has been so solid for much of the season should line up. If van der Vaart is fit then Redknapp may revert to a 4-4-1 formation with the Dutchman playing off of Adebayor. If not, then Redknapp may match United’s probable 4-4-2 set up with Louis Saha alongside Tottenham’s leading scorer in the Premier League.
Apart from the odd short sequence, such as their 8-2 thrashing of Arsenal followed by 5-0 win over Bolton, United are acknowledged to be winning games via a mixture of grit, experience and the odd touch of class. Meanwhile, Sir Alex has gone on record as saying that Tottenham have been playing some of the best football in the league. Even without Parker and Bale, this Spurs team should have the capability to beat United. The team’s reaction to last week’s defeat may be key to rewriting recent history over United.
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