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Saturday, 24th April 2010
Kick Off : 12:45 BST
Venue : Old Trafford, Manchester
Manchester United host Tottenham Hotspur in the lunchtime kick-off at Old Trafford on Saturday. It’s a crucial game for both sides as they chase differing but equally important end-of-season aims.
United, looking to keep up the pressure on Chelsea and maintain their title challenge, will hope to replicate their hard fought victory at Eastlands last time out. Tottenham on the other hand, are out to consolidate fourth place in the quest for Champions League qualification.
Both sides fared well in the previous set of fixtures, with United beating their city rivals and Spurs deservedly beating leaders Chelsea. And as it transpired, they both did each other a huge favour. Spurs reignited the title race, while defeat for Manchester City allowed Spurs to climb into fourth spot.
For the Red Devils, nothing other than victory will be sufficient. They are only a single point behind Chelsea, but with only 9 points left to play for a win is imperative. They are a side struggling to hit the heights at present, although they have that in-built battling quality, a never-say-die attitude and an ability to find a way to win.
The Old Trafford outfit will be hoping that striker Wayne Rooney can play a vital role, having lead the line so brilliantly this season. Since injuring his ankle in the Champions League quarter-final in Munich, the England international has looked tentative and has been unable to add to his goal tally for the season. Rooney is such a key component when he is in the team and his goal scoring record speaks for itself.
Should Rooney fail to deliver or suffer an injury, Spurs old boy Dimitar Berbatov could feature. Since making a protracted £30.75m move to Old Trafford, the Bulgarian has failed to hit the heights and to endear himself to the United faithful. Many feel that the hitman is ‘lazy’ and does not put himself about enough. With manger Sir Alex Ferguson often preferring to play a lone striker and the form of Rooney, opportunities have been limited. In the closing games of the season, Berbatov can really step up and write his name in the history books should he fire United to the title.
Spurs, meanwhile, have had contrasting fortunes of late. A comprehensive 3-1 defeat at Sunderland and a shock extra-time exit in the semis of the FA Cup to lowly Portsmouth, ended a fine unbeaten run for the North Londoners. However, stunning victories against both Arsenal and Chelsea have again put Spurs in the driving seat to claim fourth spot. They have picked up an impressive 21 points from their last 8 league matches.
Manager Harry Redknapp has continually stressed the importance of taking one match at a time. The defeat at Wembley had to be quickly erased from the memory, with the North London derby to follow just three days later. Without a league win against their fiercest rivals since 1999, Spurs ran out 2-1 winners much to the delight of the home faithful. The big games have come thick and fast and an outstanding display against Chelsea the following Saturday, underlined the progress Tottenham have made.
In the return fixture at White Hart Lane earlier this season, Manchester United ran out deserved 3-1 winners. The Red Devils recovered from going behind to an acrobatic first-minute goal from Jermain Defoe. And despite playing much of the game with only 10 men, following the dismissal of Paul Scholes, a superb all round performance and a stunning display from Wayne Rooney secured the points for United. Spurs also lost 3-0 at Old Trafford in the quarter final of the Carling Cup.
The clash at Old Trafford is likely to be a cagey affair, with so much riding on the outcome for both teams. The home side will look to contain a Spurs side in a confident mood, who will feel capable of beating anybody on their day. Neither side have been particularly prolific in front of goal of late and with centre-backs Nemanja Vidic and Michael Dawson both in great form, and Ledley King likely to start in defence for Spurs, goals may be in short supply. Spurs also welcome back Wilson Palacios, who will add bite in the middle of the park.
The seemingly most likely outcome would be a single goal victory for a hard-working Manchester United performance. However, Spurs should not be discounted with Gareth Bale and Luka Modric in outstanding form and morale high after two fantastic victories. A point for Spurs would constitute a great return, in their quest for fourth place.
My Prediction: Manchester United 2 Tottenham Hotspur 1.