Tottenham Hotspur need to keep their Premier League title hopes alive when they host Manchester United this weekend (4pm Sunday, Sky Sports 1). The Red Devils are also in need of the points as they seek to overtake Manchester City and secure a place in next season’s edition of the Champions League.
A 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Anfield last time out saw Spurs fall seven points behind Leicester City at the summit of the standings, with the Foxes’ 1-0 defeat of Southampton increasing their lead at the top. Tottenham will still fancy their chances of overhauling Claudio Ranieri’s charges with six games left to play, although manager Mauricio Pochettino and the club’s players and fans will know that they cannot afford to drop too many more points between now and the end of the campaign in the middle of May.
Spurs’ success this season has been built on a mean defensive unit, with only 25 goals conceded in 32 matches. Man Utd have generally been solid and resolute at the back too, although the recent form of Tottenham striker Harry Kane means the visiting centre-backs Chris Smalling and Daley Blind could be in for a testing afternoon at White Hart Lane on Sunday. Kane recently received the award for Premier League Player of the Month for March, when he alone scored the same amount of goals as Arsenal, Chelsea and Leicester and more than United and Manchester City.
Man Utd’s chances of winning the championship may have long since evaporated, but their recent form has given them a chance of stealing the fourth Champions League spot from rivals City. A 1-0 victory over Everton last weekend was their fourth triumph in five top flight outings, with Louis van Gaal aware that a top-four finish could be enough to save his job at Old Trafford. United are still not producing the entertaining and free-flowing football that their supporters desire, but the introduction to the side of home-grown teenager Marcus Rashford – as well as appearances for fellow youngsters Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Guillermo Varela – has certainly lifted the mood around the club.
Tottenham will be unable to call upon the services of Jan Vertonghen, Nabil Bentaleb and Clinton N’Jie this weekend, although Erik Lamela could be involved again after missing the Liverpool game with a calf strain picked up at the end of March. Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier may come into the XI if Pochettino continues with his policy of rotating the full-backs – Kyle Walker and Danny Rose started at Anfield – while Nacer Chadli will be battling it out with Son Heung-min for a place in the line of three behind Kane if Lamela is not fit enough to begin the game.
United, meanwhile, will definitely be without Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luke Shaw, Adnan Januzaj and Will Keane, although Phil Jones and captain Wayne Rooney may be included among the substitutes. Rashford is likely to continue at centre-forward, with Juan Mata (pictured), Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial the favourites to line up behind him, while Antonio Valencia could take Matteo Darmian’s position at right-back.
Tottenham are rightly considered favourites to come out on top this weekend, but United’s strong form of late means it is worth backing the visitors to pick up a point from their trip to the capital. That result may not really suit either side – Leicester would go nine points clear if they win and Spurs draw, while Manchester City will surely pick up a victory at home to West Bromwich Albion and move further clear of United – but a stalemate does look like the most probable outcome. In terms of the game’s first goalscorer, the surprisingly long odds available on Mata look very tempting indeed.