The Big Match Tactical View: Tottenham v Manchester United

Jan Vertonghen will have to stop Antonio Valencia
Jan Vertonghen will have to stop Antonio Valencia

Michael Cox looks at the tactical battle ahead of Sunday's early kick-off...

"Five of Spurs' six home matches this season have seen under 2.5 goals."

Back under 2.5 goals at 1.9210/11

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United
Sunday 12:00,
Live on BT Sport 1
Match Odds: Tottenham 2.915/8, Manchester United 2.77/4, The Draw 3.55/2.

Andre Villas-Boas kick-started his Tottenham tenure with a famous victory at Old Trafford last season, but would probably have hoped for less challenging opponents this weekend, following Spurs' 6-0 thrashing at Manchester City last Sunday.

Spurs had a notoriously awful record against Manchester United before Villas-Boas' appointment, and that 3-2 victory last September remains Spurs' only win over the champions in the last 28 attempts, which partly explains why the visitors are narrow favourites at White Hart Lane this weekend.

AVB has a variety of selection dilemmas following last weekend's defeat. The combination of Younes Kaboul and Michael Dawson looked very nervous at the back, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Vlad Chiriches recalled. Jan Vertonghen, probably Spurs' best centre-back, is still needed at left-back in Danny Rose's absence.

In midfield, Sandro had a poor match at City but should retain his place, Paulinho is an ever-present, but Lewis Holtby was hauled off at half-time last week and could be replaced by Mousa Dembele, who always seems to perform well against United and scored in Thursday's win over Tromso.

Out wide, Gylfi Sigurdsson was another who performed well in Norway, and could be played instead of Erik Lamela, while Andros Townsend will hope to be recalled in place of Aaron Lennon. Emmanuel Adebayor could start ahead of Roberto Soldado, who played 90 minutes at Tromso.

David Moyes has two problem areas: he's still without Michael Carrick, and Robin van Persie might not be fit to return. In midfield, Phil Jones and Ryan Giggs played in midweek and could continue in the centre here, although Marouane Fellaini is another option. Tom Cleverley hasn't performed well enough to deserve a recall.

Upfront, Van Persie will start if anywhere near fit, but it will be interesting to see Moyes' selection if he isn't - Shinji Kagawa and Wayne Rooney played well together in Wednesday's win over Leverkusen, but against Spurs' high defensive line, Javier Hernandez or Danny Welbeck might be a more promising option.

One of the game's most interesting battles should be Antonio Valencia against Jan Vertonghen. Valencia had suffered from an inconsistent 18 months, but he was back to his best against Leverkusen, constantly flying down the flank.

Vertonghen is a peculiar player at left-back - as a converted centre-back you'd expect him to be comfortable defensively but tentative going forward, but he's actually much better when attacking powerfully, and struggles when wingers run at him. United should transfer the ball out to the right flank quickly, and attack the Belgian.

Rooney will also cause problems, assuming he plays as the number ten. Sandro was isolated in front of the back four last weekend, with his two midfield colleagues playing high up the pitch. If Rooney gets support from Kagawa drifting inside from the left, United should be able to expose Spurs' weakness between the lines, and create a succession of chances.

Spurs' best hope of causing United problems is by exploiting the fact the champions are without Carrick, the league's joint most-prolific interceptor this season. Jones has done well in the central midfield zone, but is a more combative player than Carrick and lacks his positional intelligence

Tottenham's problem is that they don't have a natural number 10 capable of thriving in that zone, in Christian Eriksen's absence. Holtby is a good, disciplined midfielder, but lacks the imagination needed from a player in that zone - Sigurdsson could be another option, although he's also done well from the left.

Under 2.5 goals looks likely here - that's been the case in five of Spurs' six home matches, and Moyes won't be overly adventurous away from home. That's available to back at 1.9210/11.

Recommended bet:
Back under 2.5 goals at 1.9210/11

The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

May 2001 was the last time Manchester United were beaten at White Hart Lane (3-1). Since then they have visited 12 times and left the Lane with eight victories.

They arrive this time unbeaten in their last 11 games in all competitions, stretching back to the home defeat by West Brom in September.

Tottenham, in contrast, have suffered back-to-back Premier League defeats and no goals scored in their last three it has to be a cause for concern. AVB's men are yet to record a victory this season against top half opposition, losing three and drawing two – scoring only once in those five encounters.

United have scored in each of their last nine league games and have 12 from their opening six away fixtures - averaging two goals per game on the road is the best in the league.

However, when facing top six opposition they have lost twice, failing to score in the 1-0 defeat at Anfield and just sneaking a consolation in a 4-1 defeat at Man City.

The involvement/fitness of Robin van Persie is a key element for me in this game, so you may wish to wait until the teams are announced before getting involved.

With a bit of a built in safety net (mainly due to question marks over Van Persie), I will be backing Man Utd in the Draw No Bet market at 1.98.

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