Manchester United v Tottenham
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Match Odds: Manchester United 2.30, Tottenham 3.60, The Draw 3.50.
Mourinho has key selection decisions
Last weekend couldn't have been much different for these two sides - whereas Manchester United fell to a shock away defeat to Huddersfield, Tottenham produced a superb performance to thrash Liverpool 4-1. It is Jose Mourinho, rather than Mauricio Pochettino, who has plenty of question marks ahead of this contest.
United were dreadful at Huddersfield last weekend, with both Juan Mata and Anthony Martial substituted at half-time - it would be a surprise to see either start this game. With Marcus Rashford grabbing a late consolation goal last weekend he's probably in line for a recall here in place of Martial, while Jesse Lingard grabbed two goals in the midweek Capital One Cup tie and is likely to start again here, particularly as United will need both discipline and energy.
Therefore, we can probably expect Romelu Lukaku to start upfront and be supported by a trio involving Lingard and Rashford. The third player remains to be seen, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Ashley Young start as a defensive winger, a role he's played regularly under Mourinho in big games. Tottenham's wing-backs offer a great attacking threat, and Mourinho will probably want a disciplined player on either flank.
Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic should start in midfield, with Matteo Darmian likely to come into the side to play Young's left-back role. Eric Bailly may return from injury, which would be handy considering Phil Jones limped off last weekend. Victor Lindelof will surely have to wait for Premier League opportunities after last week's error.
Tottenham likely to continue in 3-5-2 system
Pochettino rotated heavily in midweek, and will surely look to start the majority of the side that played so well against Liverpool. That was an unusual system for Spurs, something like a 3-5-2 with Son Heung-min pushing forward to break in behind with Harry Kane, but it worked excellently and Pochettino might use a similar approach here.
The difference may come in midfield. Both Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama were out injured last weekend, which meant Pochettino used a technical midfield trio of Harry Winks, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli. They played well, but here Pochettino seems likely to be more cautious away from home, perhaps by using Dier in place of Winks to shield the defence. He could decide to deploy Dier in defence instead, opening up the possibility of a more flexible system, but we've seen that relatively rarely in recent weeks.
Serge Aurier played on the left last weekend but might start on his favoured right side if Danny Rose is finally considered fit enough to return, with Ben Davies another option.
Set-pieces may be crucial
The key to this game is United's level of attacking ambition - they were dreadfully negative against Liverpool a fortnight ago, and after last weekend's defeat might sit back more than the home fans would expect here too. Counter-attacking seems the order of the day, but it's slightly difficult to work out where United will prosper - Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld will be confident of keeping compatriot Lukaku quiet, while the attacking midfield section might lack the dynamism to support him closely, especially if Rashford is pushed back into defensive positions. It's tempting to fear a repeat of the Liverpool performance.
Tottenham, on the other hand, have so many sources of goals. Kane can't stop scoring, Son's pace will be a tremendous threat, while Alli will look to arrive from deeper positions and Eriksen is so good at finding space on the edge of the box.
It's also worth considering set-pieces here. United are a very tall side and look set to score plenty from dead ball situations, but Tottenham's back three, combined with Dier and Kane, means they have some excellent players in the air too.
United have a fine home record, but I fancy Spurs. Whether they're faced with a deep defence or have license to play on the break, they have the attacking tools to cause United problems, and they should be capable of recreating Huddersfield's press that caused Mourinho's men so many problems last weekend. I'll back an away win at 3.60.
Manchester United suffered their first defeat of the season last week against Huddersfield and that led to criticism from their manager for a lack of work ethic, maybe the heavy fixture list is already starting to take its toll on this Red Devils side.
They can’t afford to drop off the pace, as this tough game against Spurs is followed by an equally tough trip to Stamford Bridge next week.
Prior to the midweek collapse in the League Cup, Spurs were really starting to gather momentum and if they can come out of the Bernabau with a valuable point they will think they can do at least the same at Old Trafford. Their recent record isn’t great there, they had back-to-back wins in 2012 (2-3) and New Year’s Day 2014 (1-2) but they have failed to score in three defeats since that latter victory.
The hosts are priced up at 2.32 in the Match Odds market and that looks a bit short to me, having scored just once in their last two league games against Liverpool and Huddersfield, winning none of those matches.
Spurs have faced the same opposition recently, scoring eight goals and comfortably winning both games. They are available at 3.60 to win this and that looks a much more attractive proposition. The draw though is a big player here and therefore I am more drawn to the Asian Handicap market where I will be backing Spurs 0 & 0.5 @ 2.00 so I get a half win on the draw.