After a hectic period over Christmas and the New Year, where all Premier League teams played four games in that competition, plus an FA Cup Third Round tie, the league has taken on a somewhat surprising shape over those fixtures, with Liverpool’s unbeaten record ending with a 2-1 defeat at Manchester City but the Reds remain four points clear at the top of the table.
That was due to a double slip up by Manchester City over the festive period as they lost at home to Crystal Palace and then on the road to Leicester and with Spurs also losing a crucial home game against Wolves, that allowed Liverpool, who had been in great form going into the City game, to open up a healthy lead on the chasing pack.
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However, after the 2-1 defeat to Manchester City, Liverpool were then eliminated from the FA Cup as what was effectively a reserve team for the Reds were defeated 2-1 by Wolves at Molineux, which means that Jurgen Klopp’s team go into this weekend on the back of two defeats in a row, a fact which makes their game away to Brighton all the more important.
That said, it won’t be easy for their two main rivals for the title this weekend either as Manchester City have to wait until Monday night for their game, a home match against Liverpool’s FA Cup conquerors Wolverhampton Wanderers. Nuno Espirito Santo’s team earned a draw with Manchester City at Molineux earlier this season and as they showed when beating Spurs 3-1 recently at Wembley, they have the quality to cause even the very best teams’ problems.
There’s also two key relegation battles to look forward to as Cardiff City host Huddersfield and Burnley take on Fulham in what are two huge relegation six-pointers for the teams involved. These are games that all managers of the four clubs will have earmarked as games that they should win and as such, they could go a long way towards deciding who stays up and who eventually drops into the Championship at the end of the season.
The biggest game of the weekend though comes at Wembley on Sunday afternoon as third placed Tottenham Hotspurs, who are in fine form at the moment with six wins out of their last seven games, face Manchester United, who under new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have won all of their last five to close the gap on the teams above them in the table.
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Tottenham v Manchester United Preview
Last time out at Old Trafford, Tottenham came away with a fabulous 3-0 victory over United as Jose Mourinho’s disjointed team were given a lesson in finishing in the second half. Since then Spurs have maintained their form moving to third in the table and in the title race with Liverpool and Manchester City.
United sacked Mourinho following their 3-1 loss to Liverpool and appointed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, their former striker, as caretaker boss. Since then, United have won all their last five to move clear in sixth in the table and onto the heels of Arsenal and Chelsea in fourth and fifth spot in the Premier League.
However, it should be noted that those wins have come against the Premier League lesser lights, as well as Reading in the FA Cup, so this will be the first real acid test of how far United have improved under Solskjaer, a fact that the manager readily admitted to the press in the days leading up to the game.
Both teams have similar recent form heading into the match which is promising to be a cracker at Wembley on Sunday.
Tottenham Current Form (last 10 games)
- V Leicester (A) – W 2-0
- V Barcelona (A) – D 1-1
- V Burnley (H) – W 1-0
- V Arsenal (A) – W 2-0
- V Everton (A) – W 6-2
- V Bournemouth (H) – W 5-0
- V Wolves (H) – L 1-3
- V Cardiff City (A) – W 3-0
- V Tranmere R (A) – W 7-0
- V Chelsea (H) – W 1-0
Played 10, Won 8, Drawn 1, Lost 1, Goals Scored – 28, Goals Conceded – 6
Man Utd Current Form (last 10 games)
- V Southampton (A) – D 2-2
- V Arsenal (H) – D 2-2
- V Fulham – (H) – W 4-1
- V Valencia (A) – L 1-2
- V Liverpool (A) – L 1-3
- V Cardiff City (A) – W 5-1
- V Huddersfield (H) – W 3-1
- V Bournemouth (H) – W 4-1
- V Newcastle (A) – W 2-0
- V Reading (H) – W 2-0
Played 10, Won 6, Drew 2, Lost 2, Goals Scored – 26, Goals Conceded – 13
Tottenham Likely Team – (4-1-3-2) – Lloris, Trippier, Rose, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Winks, Sissoko, Eriksen, Alli, Son, Kane.
I can’t see Spurs making too many changes from the team that beat Chelsea in the Carabao Cup Semi-final first leg in the week, perhaps only Lloris coming in for Gazzaniga being the main change. Ben Davies could start if Danny Rose isn’t fit enough to play but I’d expect the Englishman to start if fit. This will be Son’s final game for Spurs before he jets off to compete for South Korea in the Asian Cup.
Man Utd Likely Team – (4-3-3) – De Gea, Valencia, Shaw, Lindelof, Jones, Matic, Herrera, Pogba, Martial, Lingard, Rashford
With Erik Bailly still suspended, Rojo injured and Alexis Sanchez picking up a slight niggle against Reading, United still have limited options defensively, so I expect the back four to remain unchanged. I’d expect Lingard to come in for Mata and Rashford will likely continue up front despite Romelu Lukaku netting three goals in his last three games.
Tottenham v Manchester United Tips
Outright Winner – Tottenham – Evens
Spurs have not drawn a game in the Premier League this season and United don’t look like drawing too many at the moment either, so that bet which would have been my gut pick, I think is a non-starter. As such, with Spurs having more to lose, home advantage and a much better defence, not to mention an attack scoring plenty of goals, I think the odds favour the home side here.
Correct Score – Tottenham 3-1 Manchester United – 16/1
Both these teams have scored plenty of goals in recent times, but if you look at the defensive record of both, Spurs clearly have the edge. As such, and with home advantage, I think that Tottenham will pick apart United’s back line and go on to record another solid victory. I can’t see them keeping United out at the other end, but I do back Spurs to win the game by a 3-1 scoreline.
Anytime Goalscorer – Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – 15/8
The South Korean star has been in sensational form over the last couple of months and he will be a huge miss when he goes to Asia to play in the Asia Cup for a few weeks after this game. However, Son always tends to come up big against the top teams and I would back him here to do the same against a porous United defence.