TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

v

MANCHESTER UNITED

White Hart Lane, London
January 15, 2011, 21:30 PM IST [ESPN]

***

Tottenham host Manchester United in what has been a very exciting fixture over the years and it is expected to be no different this time around. Spurs last tasted victory against United in 2001 but this is a very different side than the ones which accepted defeats over the years. With Spurs still having an outside chance for the title, the result of the game could prove to be decisive come the end of the season. The reverse fixture at Old Trafford produced a 2-0 win for the Red Devils but the game was not short of controversy as the referee allowed a bizzare goal by Nani to stand which sealed the win for the home side.

Spurs find themselves in a very healthy fourth position in the league table – one point ahead of local rivals Chelsea. Harry Redknapp would hope to continue the good work and would be hoping for his side to take as many points as possible before the start of the Champions League knockout phase. Although Spurs do have a pretty poor record against the Red Devils, their manager certainly thinks that his team is capable of ending the unbeaten run the league leaders have currently put together. Three points in this game would be massive for Tottenham as it would open the league for all the teams in the top five including themselves.

United, on the other hand, are top of the league having played fewer games than the teams chasing them. They are still unbeaten in the league this season, but Sir Alex, despite stating the contrary, would be the first person to know that his team has been far less convincing than their usual selves, especially away from home. The manager would be hoping to gain maximum points from the game which could prove very crucial for United especially with trips to Anfield, Emirates and Stamford Bridge yet to come.


Team News and Tactical Brief

Tottenham Hotspur

Harry must be thrilled to have Gareth Bale fit for the game after the Welshman missed the last few days training with a back problem. Younes Kaboul also returns for the home team after serving a suspension. However, they will be without the services of Jonathon Woodgate and Ledley King who are still out with injuries. Also missing would be Jamie O’ Hara and Tom Huddlestone with back and ankle injuries respectively.

Harry would opt for his most preferred 4-5-1 formation in this game with Rafael Van der Vaart making trademark late runs and supporting the striker. Modric and Palacios would be partnering the Dutchman in central midfield area with the latter protecting the back four while Modric taking up the role of playmaker. However, Tottenham’s biggest strength this season has been their wing play and counter attacks and once again they will try and cause problems to United using the pace of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon. Despite Keane leaving for Birmingham, Redknapp still has options to choose from the striking department and he might be tempted to go with Defoe who showed glimpses of his good form in last week’s FA Cup win over Charlton.

Football Fans Know Better

Manchester United

Sir Alex has been handed a much-needed injury boost before the game. Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic have been declared fit for the game while Van Der Sar also has a very good chance to return after missing the last three games. John O’ Shea and Wes Brown still lack top level match fitness after recovering from injuries and playing for the reserves and would not be considered. Paul Scholes is still out while Antonio Valencia is on track for his return in February. Park Ji Sung is currently in Qatar playing for Korea in the Asia Cup.

Javier Hernandez has given some selection headaches for the manager having done reasonably well in absence of Wayne Rooney. However, the young Mexican could find himself on the bench once again as Rooney is declared fit to play. Sir Alex could deploy Rooney on the left hand side in a 4-5-1 formation to counter the Spurs’ five man midfield. Carrick would be the holding midfielder while Anderson and Fletcher will carry out the distribution duties. Berbatov is expected to be the lone striker as he returns to White Hart Lane to face the boo boys. However, if United find themselves trailing, Sir Alex could switch to a 4-4-2 with Nani shifting on the left and Fletcher taking up the right flank while Rooney will partner Berbatov in attack.


Key Match Facts

1. Tottenham has not defeated United in the last 23 matches in all competitions.

2. Crouch has assisted 5 of 9 goals scored by Van der Vaart.

3. Giggs is on 599 league appearances for United.


TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

Rafael Van der Vaart (Tottenham)

Dutchman - The key man

The Dutchman has been firing on all cylinders in his debut season and is currently the top scorer for Spurs. He was unlucky at Old Trafford earlier in the season to not find the net as his stunning strike from outside the box crashed against the post. His late runs and movement in the box would be a  cause for trouble for United’s defence.


TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Tottenham 2-1 Manchester United

United have been lucky to remain unbeaten this season especially away from home. But their luck is most likely to run out at White Hart Lane as an exuberant Tottenham side will edge past them in an exciting game.


TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST