Manchester United hosts Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, and the clash at Old Trafford is undoubtedly the biggest game of the Premier League weekend.
José Mourinho’s side suffered a disappointing defeat at Huddersfield in its last league outing, only to bounce back Tuesday with a Carabao Cup victory against Swansea City.
Meanwhile, Spurs demolished Liverpool last weekend but was knocked out of the Cup on Wednesday by Slaven Bilic’s struggling West Ham.
That game was just Mauricio Pochettino’s side’s second loss this season and its first since being beaten by Chelsea back in August. So Tottenham are still one of the league’s form teams heading into this game.
United has struggled to replicate the free-scoring form which was a feature of the early part of its season and could retain its defensive shape against Spurs’ attacking threat.
So we asked our friends at Football Whispers to preview what should be an enthralling encounter.
Key battle: Dele Alli vs. Ander Herrera
The English midfielder and his teammates embarrassed Liverpool last weekend, and whoever plays in the defensive positions for United will have a difficult job on their hands to protect the backline.
When compared to the likes of Real Madrid transfer target Harry Kane, who is a doubt for the game with a slight hamstring problem, Alli has taken a back seat for Spurs this season but he could come to the fore at Old Trafford.
The battle between the 21-year-old and United’s Spanish midfielder Herrera could be a feature of the game, and both players’ short tempers could lead to a fiery encounter in the middle of the park.
Herrera will likely be asked to do a defensive job alongside Nemanja Matic, meaning he and Alli could well collide on a number of occasions.
Potential game winners: Romelu Lukaku (Man United) and Christian Eriksen (Spurs)
Kane is undoubtedly the league’s in-form player but he’s never netted at Old Trafford, so if his side is to be successful, especially if the striker is ruled out, then a lot of the attacking responsibility could fall on the shoulders of creator-in-chief Eriksen.
The Dane has been one of his side’s standout players for some time and he’s again been instrumental in creating goals for others, as well as scoring them. He also is a threat from set-pieces, and this part of the game could be important when it comes to breaking down the United defense.
At the other end, Lukaku has been in great form since his move from Everton. He has struck 11 times in 13 starts for the Red Devils, although he hasn’t netted in his last four. The big Belgian be looking to end that run against Tottenham.
How will they line-up?
Football Whispers uses data to predict the starting line-ups for sides by accounting for a number of different factors, including injuries, suspensions, the statistical likelihood to play, the matches the competition has played, the player’s previous performance and the style of the opposition.
Phil Jones left the field against Huddersfield Town with a hip injury but should be fit. If not, Chris Smalling can come into the lineup.
Eric Bailly is also suffering with a knock, but Mourinho will do everything he can to get the Ivory Coast international in his starting eleven. Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Marcos Rojo are ruled out.
Spurs are likely to stick with a similar shape to that which started the win against Liverpool. Ben Davies is likely to come back into the lineup at left wing-back, while Son Heung-min could drop out, with Eric Dier bolstering the midfield.
Fernando Llorente could start if Kane fails a late fitness test on his hamstring.
Thumbnail photo via YouTube/NBC Sports