Tottenham Hotspur begin a difficult and potentially decisive series of matches when they host Manchester United in the English Premier League at Wembley, London on Wednesday (3pm ET).
The next couple of weeks will provide a stiff test of Spurs’ ability to compete at the sharp end domestically and in Europe. The game against Man Utd is followed by Liverpool away, Arsenal at home in the Premier League and then Juventus away in the Champions League.
It is a run of fixtures that will determine how much Tottenham still have to play for thereafter. Right now, they are fifth in the league, just two points behind Liverpool in fourth and three clear of Arsenal in sixth. Somewhere between five and nine points from the next three matches would keep them in the top-four race; four or less would make things difficult.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side did not enjoy a good set of results against fellow top-six sides during the first half of the season. Defeats away to Arsenal, Manchester City and Wednesday’s opponents United were allied to a home defeat to Chelsea and a solitary triumph: a 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool. In fairness, aside from the loss to City, they competed well in their other defeats and it was only a case of marginal things going against them.
That has, in a way, been the story of Tottenham’s season to date. Their underlying statistics suggest they should currently be inside the top four. While points on the board are obviously the ultimate arbiter of team performance, those statistics do back up the general impression they give of a team who are capable of exerting solid control over matches but who occasionally lack a little ruthlessness, particularly when rotating starters.
They are, though, still a side who are unbeaten in six, have only lost once at home all season and who possess the Premier League’s top scorer in Harry Kane. It isn’t a match that Jose Mourinho and his Manchester United side will be particularly looking forward to, especially as they have lost away to Spurs in each of the last two seasons.
After a run of two wins in six at the end of 2017, Man Utd have recovered to record three consecutive league victories and reassert their current standing of second in the table. They weren’t necessarily the most convincing of performances but three clean sheets and six goals were sufficient to see them re-establish a strong eight-point gap to Spurs in fifth.
The season’s initial goal of seriously challenging for the league title is now very unlikely to be achieved, but if Man Utd are able to make good progress in the Champions League and also go far in the FA Cup, it will go down as solid campaign. The club, at least, seem happy with Mourinho’s work, as he has recently signed a new contract extension through to 2020.
They have also backed him in the transfer market by paying Alexis Sanchez a bumper wage to join the club from Arsenal in a swap deal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Chilean forward made his debut in the 4-0 win away to Yeovil Town in the FA Cup on Friday and provided the assist for the second goal in a performance that showed what he will bring to United.
Mourinho has said that Sanchez’s arrival will provide needed competition in the line of three behind main striker Romelu Lukaku. What he will also do is provide the additional cutting edge in attack that may be required to override the relative deficiencies of a defensive unit that has so far been heavily reliant on the brilliance of goalkeeper David de Gea to prevent them conceding more goals than their current league joint-best total of 16.
Spurs will certainly hope to take advantage of a few of those weak points. Mourinho matched their back three in United’s 1-0 win at Old Trafford earlier this season and in doing so, sucked a lot of the life out of the game, particularly during the first half. It was a tight match, decided by a late winner from Anthony Martial.
This fixture is likely to be a similarly cagey affair, but it wouldn’t take that much of a shift in balance from the previous encounter for it to be Spurs who come away with the three points this time around. A couple of subtle tactical changes here and there should be enough for them to kick off a testing period with a home victory.
Our Preview’s Spurs vs. Manchester United Predictions
The best American-facing sports betting sites make home-side Spurs the narrow favorite and this preview shares that view:
- Bet on Tottenham Hotspur to win @ best odds of +125 with Bovada Sportsbook.