Sports Mole previews Sunday's Premier League showdown between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, including predictions, team news and head-to-head records.

Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United - prediction, team news, lineups

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  • 2019-01-11 23:10:23 10 months ago
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Tottenham Hotspur host Manchester United at Wembley on Sunday in a match which sees Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino face the club he has been tipped to take over in the summer.

The hosts could temporarily move back into second place with a win, while United are looking to continue their recent victorious streak to stay in touch with the top four.


Tottenham

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino pictured on January 4, 2019© Reuters

Pochettino may just feel a little extra pressure on his shoulders than usual heading into this one considering he has been so heavily linked with the Manchester United post.

It is not exactly a job interview - his good work with Spurs so far should speak volumes for what he would bring to the role - but should he want to take over at Old Trafford then a victory over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, one of his competitors for the job, would only enhance his credentials further.

Of course, his current focus will be entirely on Tottenham, and should they continue on their current trajectory then it is possible that Pochettino would see a move from North London to Manchester as a step in the wrong direction.

Spurs are 10 points above United in the table ahead of Sunday's showdown, and victory would lift them up into second place - at least until Manchester City take on Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday night.

Six points separate Pochettino's side from league leaders Liverpool as things stand, although Spurs have been in good enough form to keep in touch and will be ready to pounce on any more slip-ups from a side that has lost their last two games.

Tottenham have won 15 of their last 18 outings across all competitions, including all three so far in 2019 without conceding a goal - scoring 11 in the process too.

A 7-0 win over Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup is the biggest reason behind those impressive statistics, but Tottenham also picked up a 3-0 triumph at Cardiff City in their most recent league outing and overcame Chelsea in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final in midweek.

There is still work to do when they take a one-goal advantage to Stamford Bridge later this month, but it is a very good chance for the club to end their 11-year trophy drought, not to mention pick up a first piece of silverware under Pochettino.

Indeed, Pochettino is yet to win a single major trophy in his managerial career, although he will not have his mind on the EFL Cup alone with Spurs still in contention in all four competitions this season.

Success in any may be enough to help convince the Argentine that he can achieve his goals with Spurs, although it is also only likely to increase United's interest in appointing him as Jose Mourinho's permanent successor.

Recent Premier League form: WWWWLW
Recent form (all competitions): WWLWWW


Man Utd

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer applauds during the FA Cup third-round game between Manchester United and Reading on January 5, 2019© Reuters

Pochettino may not be treating this one as a job interview, but Solskjaer could be forgiven for doing so having made no secret of his desire to land the role on a permanent basis.

The Norwegian has certainly not done his chances any harm at all so far, but a victory over a man still understood to be the club's first choice would be the biggest feather in his cap yet.

Indeed, Solskjaer has already admitted that Sunday's match will provide him with his first real test as United boss, having been handed a relatively kind start so far against Cardiff, Huddersfield Town, Bournemouth, Newcastle United and Reading.

Nonetheless, it has still been a flying start to his managerial career at the club, and should he make it six wins from six this weekend then it would be the best ever start by a Manchester United boss - surpassing the great Sir Matt Busby.

Mourinho's exit has surely played some role in such a dramatic turnaround in form over such a short period of time, but those momentum boosts only last so long and Solskjaer must be given credit for aiding that transformation.

It is not just the results which have been impressive either; Solskjaer has restored United's attacking freedom - they have scored 16 goals in their four outings - and is beginning to get the best out of the big names who were underperforming so often when Mourinho was in charge.

There has even been an improvement defensively, with Saturday's 2-0 FA Cup win over Reading securing back-to-back clean sheets for the first time all season.

Every box has been ticked so far, then, but Solskjaer is not wrong when he describes this match as his biggest challenge yet and, even putting aside the sub-plots surrounding the managers, it will be fascinating to see how a rejuvenated United side fare away to an in-form Tottenham team.

Such a poor start to the season means that a Champions League place is now the ceiling of United's ambitions, and their recent improvement has seen them close the gap on the top four to six points.

Chelsea and Arsenal both play before them this weekend but, just like Spurs are doing with Liverpool and Man City, the Red Devils must ensure that they are there to capitalise on any slip-up from those above them in the table.

Realistically the result of this match is unlikely to have a decisive bearing on which manager United go for in the summer, but if Solskjaer can somehow secure a top-four spot this term then it will surely be very difficult to look past the interim boss.

Recent Premier League form: WLWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): LWWWWW


Team News

Paul Pogba celebrates scoring for Manchester United against Bournemouth on December 30, 2018.© Reuters

Paul Pogba is fit to feature after recovering from a leg injury he sustained against Newcastle in their last league game.

The Frenchman will be one of a number of first-team players to return following the cup tie with Reading last weekend, including David de Gea, Luke Shaw and Nemanja Matic.

Solskjaer is understood to have told Marcus Rashford during their warm-weather training camp that he is the number one striker, so Romelu Lukaku may again have to settle for a place on the bench.

Alexis Sanchez made his first start since November in the FA Cup but limped off with a hamstring injury which leaves him doubtful this match.

The game could also come too soon for Chris Smalling, leaving Phil Jones and Victor Lindelof at the heart of the defence with Eric Bailly still suspended.

As for Spurs, Son Heung-min is expected to start in what will be his final game for the club before jetting off to the Asian Cup with South Korea.

Harry Kane will lead the line alongside his in-form strike partner, with Pochettino having favoured two up front and a diamond midfield four in recent matches.

Hugo Lloris will definitely return to the side after missing out in the EFL Cup on Tuesday night, but aside from that changes could be minimal for the hosts.

Mousa Dembele is a doubt, but looks to have played his final game for the club anyway amid reports linking him with a move to China.

Tottenham possible starting lineup:
Lloris; Trippier, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Rose; Sissoko, Winks, Alli, Eriksen; Son, Kane

Man Utd possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Young, Lindelof, Jones, Shaw; Herrera, Matic; Lingard, Pogba, Martial; Rashford


Head To Head

These two sides have alternated between wins and defeats in their last eight meetings across all competitions, while the last 14 have seen six Tottenham wins to five for Man Utd.

Gone are the days when United dominated this fixture, then, although Spurs could this weekend record back-to-back triumphs over the Red Devils across all competitions for the first time since 1990.

Tottenham have won the last two league games too, including a 3-0 victory at Old Trafford earlier this season and a 2-0 triumph in the corresponding fixture last term.

United have not won away to Spurs since March 2012, losing each of their last three such visits.


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We say: Tottenham 2-1 Man Utd

The good form of both teams makes this a difficult one to call. United are flying at the moment but this is by far their biggest test under Solskjaer, and their past two performances have just waned enough to hint at a Spurs win in this one.


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Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United - prediction, team news, lineups

Benitez calls for united Newcastle as club fights to avoid drop

Rafael Benitez has called on Newcastle fans to unite behind the club in their fight to steer clear of relegation.

The Magpies have slipped to within two points of the drop zone after winning only one of their last eight Premier League matches and Benitez senses an air of gloom among supporters.

Talks between a consortium led by former Chelsea and Manchester United chief executive Peter Kenyon and the club over a possible takeover are ongoing, while no players have yet been signed during the transfer window.

“This is a big city and it’s a massive club and some people are thinking ‘you have to do this and you have to do that’,” Benitez said before Saturday’s trip to Chelsea.

“The reality is when we stick together, when we are working hard together, when we are united, we are stronger.

“We saw that in the Championship when we won and we saw that last year when we finished 10th.

“This year, people are saying ‘you will do this, you will do that.’The reality is that we have to stick together to the end.

“It’s very clear for everyone. Fans, players, staff, everyone here. So we have to stay united, we have to keep supporting the players.

“This group of players, they care, they work hard and they fight.

“Sometimes you have a bad game or a bad moment, but the next game is another challenge and we have to be ready.”

Benitez refused to discuss the club’s progress in the transfer window, nor was he willing to comment when asked about his own contract talks.

The Spaniard said he thought his current squad was strong enough to stay up for a second season, but stressed they would only do so if he and his players had the fans’ full backing.

“We saw last year that we can do it, but if we want to do it this year we have to make sure everybody is united,” he said.

“We cannot be wasting energy about the tactics, or substitutions, or the signings, this player is good, this player is bad, because we have what we have and we are what we are.”

Benitez confirmed Federico Fernandez (hip) and Ciaran Clark (ankle) would return to contention for Saturday evening’s clash at Stamford Bridge.

But key midfielder Jonjo Shelvey (thigh) and defender Paul Dummett (hamstring) are expected to miss out.

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Guardiola happy to dream of warm-weather camp as Man City battle on four fronts

Pep Guardiola is happy for the “dream” of a warm-weather training camp to wait as Manchester City pursue glory on four fronts.

City have taken advantage of mid-season gaps in the fixture schedule in previous years to travel to work in Abu Dhabi.

Rivals Manchester United have spent the past week in Dubai but City could not head abroad because they were involved in the Carabao Cup semi-finals.

Manchester City training
Manchester City do not have many fixture gaps to head for warm-weather training (Mike Egerton/PA)

With one Premier League game already needing to be rearranged, and title-chasing City also continuing in the FA Cup and Champions League, it may not happen this year.

“It would be a dream,” City boss Guardiola said.

“Last season this period was quite similar but after Wigan beat us in the FA Cup we took time to go there.

“But this morning I saw the schedule. The Everton game is going to be fixed in another week. We don’t have many (gaps).

“We will see but hopefully not because that would mean (we) will continue in the FA Cup and especially the Champions League. If we don’t, we will have this time in the summer.”

City are firmly back in the title race after beating Liverpool to cut the Reds’ lead at the top of the table to four points in their crunch clash last week.

With a star-studded squad and the considerable weight of past league successes behind them, City could make life uncomfortable for the Merseysiders but Guardiola feels the crown is still Liverpool’s to lose.

“I prefer to be in Liverpool’s position,” said City boss Guardiola at a press conference to preview Monday’s encounter with Wolves.

City will hope to have Sergio Aguero back to face Wolves after a bout of illness but Gabriel Jesus excelled in his place in Wednesday’s 9-0 thrashing of Burton, scoring four times.

The 21-year-old put his renewed confidence of late down to having his family over to stay from Brazil but they are now due to return home.

Guardiola accepts it can be difficult for youngsters to settle in different countries but has promised that City will be there to support him.

He said: “The players know they are in an incredible club who try to take care of all of us, all the people working in this organisation.

“The private life is the private life and if they need something we are there. We are there to help.

“Of course, we cannot substitute the mother and when the family can’t be there, it’s difficult. They have to handle the situation but of course he is not alone, he has friends.

“He has an incredible relationship with the Brazilian guys, like Danilo, Fernandinho, Eddie (Ederson), Bernardo, many, many players here.

“I think it won’t be a problem for the next months.”

There were suggestions Kevin De Bruyne, who only recently returned from injury, was unhappy about being substituted after 58 minutes against Burton but Guardiola claimed to know little about it.

He said: “I didn’t speak with him.”

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