The gauntlet begins. Spurs kick-off a grueling two week fixture list that sees them face Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Juventus, not to mention an FA Cup replay with Newport County. This comes off the heels of back-to-back disappointing draws to Southhampton and the aforementioned League Two side. Nonetheless, Tottenham are undefeated for 2018 and while the last two matches weren’t their best, they were coming off a stretch of exceptionally fine form from the Christmas period through the better part of January.
The lilywhites head into this match in fifth place in the Premier League with forty-five points won through twenty-four games. They are ahead of Arsenal by three points with a game in hand, while trailing Liverpool by five points, also playing one less than the Reds. Third placed Chelsea is five points ahead of Spurs, though even on matches played and Wednesday’s opponent Manchester United is eight points clear of Tottenham Hotspur at this stage in the season.
By all accounts, this is the most dominant Manchester United side the Premier League has seen for at least a half decade. The Red Devils don’t feel totally vintage, but they really aren’t that far off. If Manchester City wasn’t in the midst of a potentially historic season, the Prem’s foremost storyline would be the resurgence of the Old Trafford side.
United are good, because they are impenetrable. In his second year at the helm, Jose Mourinho’s fingerprint is fully stamped on this side. Its not the prettiest football, but it is undoubtedly effective. United lead the league in both shutouts (14) and goals against (16) and are the best defensive side by far in a pretty stacked Premier League.
David de Gea is the best goalkeeper in England and Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young absolutely rip down the flanks at the outside back positions. I know both of these guys have featured here for awhile now, but its still incredible how they reinvented themselves later in their respective careers. Nemanja Matic also remains United most unsung and potentially most important player in the team. He is as important to their defensive record as anybody.
While they are less prolific on the offensive end, United still have enough firepower to intimidate almost any club in the world. Lukaku has his flaws, but they are minor, and the Belgium international is a handful at his worst, and absolutely unstoppable when at his best. The storyline for Wednesday will be the introduction of marquee signing Alexis Sanchez. It is unfortunate that he is set to debut against Spurs, but it will be duelly gratifying to see him in another uniform. Paul Pogba, who missed Tottenham’s previous encounter with United in December, is back healthy and destroying backlines at will. Lastly, there are a plethora of high quality options to pair with Pogba and Sanchez in the attack which include Martial, Rashford and Lingard. There is no rest for the weary when facing this group. Any points taken on Wednesday would be a fantastic result.
How to Watch
Date/time: Wednesday, January 31st, 2018, 8:00 p.m. (UK), 3:00 p.m. ET (USA)
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London, UK
Official: Andre Marriner
TV: NBCSN, BT Sport 1, Sportsnet Now, Sportsnet World (Canada), Optus Sport, SBS (Australia), other listings at livesoccertv.com
Streaming: NBC Sports Live Extra (USA)
Radio: Audio streamed at tottenhamhotspur.com, also often at BBC Radio London,BBC Radio 5 Live, and TalkSport
The good news on the injury front is that Danny Rose, Hugo Lloris, Christian Eriksen, and Erik Lamela look set to return. The bad news is that Serge Aurier, Toby Alderweireld, and Harry Winks will all miss out.
Tottenham would benefit so much from a reintroduction of the 3-4-3 in this match, but unfortunately Toby isn’t fit to play yet. That said, I think Poch might surprise everyone and trot the team out in that lineup anyways. With Victor Wanyama back, he can slot Eric Dier to the back three and go with a more defensive shape. I think pace and tenacity is needed at the full-back position and with Kieran Trippier unlikely to provide that down the right-flank, Tottenham need some electricity on the opposite side. In this regard, I think Danny Rose will start at left wing-back. Up front, the only question is who to start — Dele Alli or Son Heung-Min. The interchangeability of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli and their ability to drop back and defend in midfield makes me think that they’ll both start ahead of Sonny. Either way, Sonny is the better “change the game” option off the bench anyways.
My predicted lineup is as follows: Tripper, Dier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, and Rose across the back, with Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembélé partnering to destroy souls in midfield, and Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, and Harry Kane providing the offensive punch up front.
With the form they were producing, nobody from the masthead dared to predict anything, but a win. The song remains the same at the top then with Menno and Wertheimer sharing first place.
Cartilage Free Captain Prediction League Standings 2017-18
|Earl of Shoop||16|
Dustin Menno: Manchester United have Alexis, but we will have Eriksen and Rose back. 2-1 Spurs, all my fingernails are chewed off by halftime.
Matthew Pachniuk: If Spurs play a 4-2-3-1, I think it could get messy. Hopefully Poch makes the switch to the 3-4-3 — or maybe better to say that hopefully Victor Wanyama is fit enough and up for a challenge. If Wanyama pairs with Moose in midfield, with that back three behind them, I think we score a 1-1 draw.
GN Punk: I don’t like this match one bit. 1-1 draw.
Jake Meador: It’s a big league game against a Mourinho team. It will be dumb and bad. 1-1.
Pardeep Cattry: It will be difficult to take points off of a Manchester United side with that set of attacking talent. Lucky for Spurs, I think they’ll get a point out of this one. 1-1 draw.
Skipjack: Looks like our purchase isn’t gonna clear fast enough for this one. 2-1 United.
Ed F: I’m fairly sure I’m not gonna win this thing at this point, so let’s have some fun. 5-0 Spurs.
Salmon Chase: TBD
Earl of Shoop: This is not going to feel good. United 3-1.
Alex Greenberg: Manchester United have great attacking players and we’ll be starting Kieran Trippier in defense. 3-1 United.
Joe Patrick: What Alex said. 2-1 United.
Joel Wertheimer: 1-1. This is going to suck.
Nathan Giannini: Timed our fixtures perfectly for Alexis and Aubameyang to score the winner on their debuts two weeks in a row ffs. 2-1 United.
Bryan A: TBD