After suffering a crushing defeat at the hands of one Manchester club last weekend, Tottenham Hotspur boss Andre Villas Boas is in need of a strong result when his side host Manchester United at White Hart Lane on Sunday (12:00 GMT, live on BT Sport).
Spurs are 9th in the Premier League table with 20 points from six wins, two draws and four defeats. They are only two points off the top four, but last Sunday’s 6-0 defeat to Manchester City has resulted in talk of incipient unrest within the ranks.
It is tempting, however, to think that the City thrashing was a perfect storm. A generally competent first half performance was undermined by two mistakes and one moment of poor defending, and the three further second half goals were the inevitable consequence of a high-lined, slow defence facing off against a quick, technically adept attack.
Before that defeat, Spurs had the best defensive record in the league as a result of their competency at defending as a unit. Their strong, energetic midfielders are generally able to take control of the centre of the pitch, while goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is alert to balls in behind the back four. It is in attack where improvement is most necessary.
Spurs lack a midfielder capable of facilitating the swift, accurate forward movement of the ball. Build up play is methodical at best, slow and uninspired at worst. There has also been little variety in the movement of the wide players, who mostly receive the ball to feet before turning to run at the defence and rarely look to make off-ball runs in behind.
Tottenham’s return of just nine goals (three from the penalty spot) in 12 matches is the equal third-worst in the division and is an area Villas Boas has to improve in the build up to Christmas. Getting more players in and around striker Roberto Soldado and attacking with more pace and variety should be his primary concerns.
Villas Boas is definitely without Christian Erikson and Danny Rose for Sunday’s match, while Emmanuel Adebayor also looks unlikely to take part after picking up a groin injury. A number of first team regulars were rested from Tottenham’s 2-0 Europa League victory away at Tromso on Thursday, so tiredness should not be a major concern.
Man Utd are a point ahead of their hosts on Sunday, sixth in the table with 21 points from six wins, three draws and three defeats. They have not always been entirely convincing, but are, nevertheless, undefeated in their last six league matches.
United come into Sunday’s match on the back of a superb 5-0 Champions League win away to Bayer Leverkusen, a result that secured their passage to the knockout phase with a match to spare. It was an excellent performance, the best of David Moyes’ time in charge to date, illuminated by the class and creativity of Ryan Giggs, Shinji Kagawa and Wayne Rooney.
With Rooney and Robin Van Persie usually forming such an effective partnership, Kagawa is rarely afforded opportunities to line up in his favoured central attacking midfield role. But he thrived in Van Persie’s absence on Wednesday, linking well with Rooney and the two wingers.
United have found the going much tougher in the Premier League, where hard-working, energetic teams have been able to get the better of them in midfield. Phil Jones has produced some promising displays as a midfield destroyer, but otherwise United are one-paced and easily bypassed in the centre of the pitch.
The midfield have been unable to protect a defence who have kept just one clean sheet in United’s last eight league matches. The defence lacks pace and has looked much more comfortable defending deep against the likes of Arsenal and, indeed, Bayer Leverkusen, than against teams who look to sit back and break quickly.
Moyes will be without Michael Carrick for Sunday’s match due to an achilles injury that is likely to rule him out until Christmas. Nemanja Vidic, Robin Van Persie and Rafael are all doubts due to various afflictions, while Darren Fletcher continues to be sidelined by a chronic bowel condition.
Spurs vs Man Utd Betting Tips Advice
Last season’s equivalent fixture ended in a 1-1 draw, with Clint Dempsey securing a point for Spurs with an injury time equaliser. United have won three of the last five meetings at White Hart Lane, and seven of the last 10 at all venues.
Tottenham have been able to take control of midfield against most of their opponents and should again be able to do so on Sunday against a United side weak in that area. Spurs have struggled to turn spacial dominance into chances and goals. There is little to suggest that will change significantly this weekend.
Despite the fact that both sides have been involved in high-scoring matches over the last week, a tightly contested, attritional draw seems the most likely result.
- Back the draw @ best odds of 5/2 with Bet365.
- The Manchester derby aside, United’s matches against sides near the top of the table have seen very few goals. Six of Tottenham’s seven home matches in the league have ended with two or less. Back under 2.5 goals @ 5/6 with BetVictor, SkyBet or Stan James.