THE Premier League continues this Wednesday as Tottenham welcome Manchester United to Wembley. Ben Levene (@BenLevene96) shares his best bets.
Tottenham v Man Utd | Wednesday 31st January 2018, 20:00 | BT Sport
Following their respective FA Cup ties away at League Two opposition, Tottenham and Manchester United take to the hallow turf of Wembley this Wednesday evening.
After seemingly finding their groove over the festive period, Mauricio Pochettino’s side have been held by both West Ham and Southampton since the turn of the year.
Much of that is down to the absence of Toby Alderweireld, while Christian Eriksen was missing from an illness-hit squad at Southampton nearly 10 days ago.
Wembley poses problems
Tottenham look to have got over their Wembley woes, they’ve won four of their last five at the temporary home in the league, not losing since the second game of the season against Chelsea. Spurs were also responsible for the scalps of Real Madrid, Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund too.
As a Spurs fan, the Wembley conundrum is something that I’ve thought deeply about, and I’ve concluded that, when Spurs are tasked with dominating the ball against an organised-defence at Wembley, they tend to struggle.
If we look at Spurs’ early season form for example, they mustered three goals in four matches against Chelsea, Burnley, Swansea and Bournemouth. They dictated each of those games and really struggled, yet convincingly beat Dortmund, Liverpool and Real Madrid when they were able to sit deep and hit early in behind on the counter.
This trend becomes even more significant when you look back at last season’s FA Cup. In their respective semi-finals, Tottenham and Man City controlled the lions-share of the game, yet both were eliminated, and the same occurred in the final when Arsenal were able to overcome Chelsea.
We can also consider England games too. The Three Lions’ best displays have come in a 2-2 draw with Spain, a 2-0 win over France, and most recently, 0-0 draws with Germany and Brazil. Against lesser sides, England have struggled, tending to win by the odd-goal late on or via a penalty.
In their home wins against Stoke and Brighton, Spurs took the lead through an own-goal and a Serge Aurier cross, and were held by West Ham earlier this month. Despite an up-turn in results, the underlying issues still exist.
In my eyes, this is no coincidence. We know how Jose Mourinho approaches games against the top-six. United have already avoided defeat at Liverpool and Arsenal this season, and lost by just the single goal at Chelsea and at home Manchester City.
United are unbeaten in six away games, and with Mourinho securing a new contract and the addition of Alexis Sanchez, the club look refreshed.
Squad depth could play a part
We also need to factor in that Spurs were involved in a gruelling game on a poor pitch in Newport on Saturday, with the likes of Harry Kane and Jan Vertonghen completing 90 minutes, and Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele and Heung-Min Son also featuring.
Conversely, United cruised to victory against Yeovil, resting the likes of Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku.
Tottenham beat United at White Hart Lane late last season, but that was after Mourinho wrote off the league, making changes in anticipation of the Europa League final. United have beaten Spurs to nil in both games at Old Trafford over the last two season when at full-strength.
This game may come a week to early for Toby Alderweireld, while Serge Aurier is still a doubt. As I’m writing this, Lucas Moura looks set to join the North London side.
This will be a tight-game, but injuries and squad-depth mean that Mourinho has greater options at his disposal. I think the best way to go is siding with Utd in the Draw No Bet market in what looks a cagey affair.
Tottenham v Man Utd – Man Utd draw no bet (147/100 Marathon)