Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur | Sunday 15 March | Old Trafford | 18:00
As we reach the business end of the season the race for a top four spot has intensified. There are five clubs in the running for a Champions League spot with the top two places practically already secured by Chelsea and Manchester City. This weekend sets up a meeting between fourth-placed Manchester United and sixth-placed Tottenham Hotspur in a match that will affect both sides’ European ambitions. The Red Devils sit just three points above Spurs, so a win for United will mean they will pull six points clear of their opponents with just nine games remaining, while victory for Tottenham will give them a major boost as they will go level on points with United.
To Win (90mins)
Manchester United 17/20
Tottenham Hotspur 3/1
Manchester United will be out for blood after suffering a disappointing 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final loss to Arsenal on Monday night. It was United’s first loss to Arsenal at Old Trafford since 2006. The end of this season will mark the first time that United have gone two campaigns without a major trophy since 1988-89, and with good reason. Humiliated in the Capital One Cup by Milton Keynes Dons, they are riding their luck in the Premier League and lost to the better team in the FA Cup on Monday night. One factor that will bring the Red Devils confidence this weekend will be their superb home form prior to Monday night. United have won eleven of their fourteen home matches in the league, losing just twice and banging in thirty goals whilst conceding only eleven. Striker Robin van Persie will again be missing through injury while Angel Di Maria will be sorely missed after being shown two yellow cards against Arsenal, one for diving and the other for laying his hands on the referee. Defender Jonny Evans will also watch from the stands as he serves his six match ban by the FA for spitting at Newcastle's Papiss Cisse. Juan Mata should return to the starting lineup in place of Di Maria and the Spaniard could bring some much needed creativity to a somewhat boring Manchester United team.
Harry Kane scored twice more as Tottenham Hotspur recovered from their Capital One Cup final defeat with a 2-1 victory at Queens Park Rangers last Saturday, a result that saw Mauricio Pochettino's side move up to sixth place on the Premier League table. Kane’s goals were his 25th and 26th in all competitions during his breakout campaign and significantly, they came with England manager Roy Hodgson watching from the Loftus Road stands. Spurs needed the lift as they were also knocked out of the UEFA Europa League prior to their Capital One Cup disappointment. Spurs have been in good form of late in the league, losing just once in their last seven matches and winning five times. That loss came against Liverpool at Anfield and Tottenham can’t afford to drop more points against a fellow top four hopeful. Mauricio Pochettino’s men have been inconsistent on the road with seven wins from thirteen travels but have lost four times. Their main downfall has been their failure to keep teams out on the road. Spurs have conceded twenty goals in their thirteen travels whilst scoring only 21. Another worrying stat is that they have picked up just one point in their four travels to big clubs this season. They lost 3-0 at Stamford Bridge to Chelsea, 4-1 at Manchester City, 3-2 at Liverpool and managed a 1-1 draw against local rivals Arsenal.
It’s no doubt that Tottenham’s danger man is their spearhead in attack, 21-year-old Kane. He now has 26 goals from forty appearances in all competitions this season, which makes him the third-highest goalscorer in Europe's top five leagues with only La Liga superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi ahead of him. Kane's double against QPR put him level with Messi's Barcelona team-mate Neymar. Kane is also now just a goal off the league’s top scorers, Diego Costa and Sergio Aguero. Kane's rise has been mesmeric. The Englishman ran riot in his side's Europa League campaign, helped them seal a spot in the Capital One Cup final and has played a major role in Tottenham's quest to finish in the top four. Kane also has quality support with the three-man line in Christian Eriksen, Andros Townsend and either Nacer Chadli or Erik Lamela.
VERDICT: Manchester United 17/20
Unite have not beaten Spurs since March 2012, with the Lilywhites winning twice at Old Trafford and drawing thrice at White Hart Lane in that five-game unbeaten streak. However, considering United’s good form this season and Tottenham’s inconsistency on the road, the Red Devils are unlikely to lose a consecutive match at the Theatre of Dreams. The reverse fixture ended in a goalless draw and United are tipped to make home advantage count by claiming the victory.