The highlight of the English Premier League this weekend will see a clash between two top sides looking to get back to winning ways after disappointing results. Both sides’ title chances took minor blows as Tottenham were thumped by United’s rivals Manchester City while the Red Devils conceded late to earn only a point at Cardiff City. Andre Villas-Boas has said he and his Tottenham Hotspur players should be “ashamed of ourselves” after the club lost 6-0 at Manchester City, their heaviest defeat in the Premier League since 1996.
To Win (90mins)
Manchester United 7/4
Tottenham are now ninth on the log, eight points behind the leaders Arsenal, and also lost 1-0 at home to Newcastle United in their league game prior to the decimation at City. They will return to White Hart Lane, where they have only managed to win half of their six games and score just five goals. Much more was predicted for Tottenham at the beginning of the season after investing £110m in seven players, financed by the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. Villas-Boas left Andros Townsend and Jermain Defoe on the bench as unused substitutes at the Etihad, but Emmanuel Adebayor was brought on at half-time following his recent attitude problems that moved the manager to have him train with the youth squad. Jermain Defoe has been excellent in the Europa League and is yet to be given a proper chance to prove his goal scoring capabilities. Besides upfront, Villas-Boas needs to change things at the back and get Jan Vertonghen back to his natural position at the centre of the defence and find a solution for the left back position he currently is filling. Michael Dawson and Younes Kaboul looked lost against the constant movement of the City forward line, and lacked accountability, discipline and control. Consistently caught out of position, Dawson’s place in the starting eleven must be in doubt for this clash with the defending champions.
For a long time it looked like United would continue their recent surge up the table with a hard-fought win over Cardiff City last weekend. The Welsh team had other ideas though, scoring a fantastic equaliser in injury time to end the score at 2-2. The match wasn’t without its controversy either, with Wayne Rooney very much at the centre of proceedings. Whether or not he should have been on the pitch when he scored the opener was the key matter for debate. Out of frustration, Rooney kicked out at midfielder Jordan Mutch and was given just a yellow card. United failed to dominate the match and both Marouane Fellaini and Tom Cleverley struggled to impose themselves in the heart of the midfield. They failed to shield their defence, while making little impact in creating chances. The fact that Ryan Giggs can still be a viable option for the most demanding position in the team only highlights the opportunity for the Red Devils to improve in central midfield. Manchester United have picked up some good results away from home but they too were embarrassed at the Etihad, losing 4-0 there in October. Robin van Persie missed the trip to Wales last time out but will be back to inject some much needed firepower into the Red Devils attack.
VERDICT: Tottenham 31/20
Spurs are in desperate need of a win as they are without a victory in their last three matches. They were unbeaten against United last season, winning at Old Trafford and drawing at home. Villas-Boas is expected to shake things up with the talent in his squad and with home advantage, Tottenham are tipped for the victory.