Date: 19th January 2013 at 4:05pm
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Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur - Old TraffordIt’s a return to league action this weekend, in what’s our only game in January against a team in the top four.  Sir Alex takes his men to on Sunday, to face a re-invigorated Tottenham Hotspur, aiming to be the first team to do the double over the reds this season.

United entered the weekend seven points clear at the top, fresh off the back of two home wins against mid-table sides Liverpool and West Ham United.  A sterner test will surely come at White Hart Lane.

The weekend is likely to see neighbours City close the gap in someway, as they take on Fulham at home on Saturday, so the seven point cushion for this one will more than prove its worth.

Team news:

United have Nani and Anderson available for the first time in the league in 2013, which is a much needed boost to the squad – especially with the news that Darren Fletcher will be out for the rest of the season.

and Jonny Evans (hamstring and knee) are missing, and Nemanja Vidic is a doubt after receiving concussion in the game against Liverpool next week.

Wayne Rooney is also in line to start upfront for the reds, alongside Robin Van Persie, but after missing his tenth for United in midweek, it remains to be seen if he’ll still be on spot kick duty.

For Spurs, Kaboul is out of the reckoning, and William Gallas faces a fitness test to see if he is available.

Emmanuel Adebayor is on African Cup of Nations duty, so Villas-Boas only has Jermaine Defoe at his disposal as his sole senior striker.

The game:

Spurs are definitely a big threat this term.  Perhaps not for the title, but definitely in individual matches.  They seem a more tactically aware, astute, and organised side.  For me, I’m more pumped up and nervy about this one than I was for the Liverpool game last week (something I never thought would be possible), so that shows how far the mighty have fallen, and how well Spurs have built up patiently over the years.

We’ve seen how good we can be in games this term, but in those same games we’ve also capitulated and made life hard for ourselves.  We’ll have to go in to this game without the possibility of that happening, otherwise Tottenham could do Man City a favour.

View from The Lane

I asked match-going Spurs fan, and friend of Red Flag Flying High, Jo S for her thoughts on Sunday’s match.

SC: We’re both having good seasons this term, and you came to Old Trafford earlier in the season and beat us. Is this a new Tottenham Hotspur that we’re seeing?

JS: It’s been a new Tottenham since the time took over, and he is now certainly getting recognition for it (see last month’s Manager of the Month award for that!).  He is the anti-Harry.  Rather than relying on an old school gaffer approach, he has a calm, measured and technical style.  He has shored up our defence, and changed our approach – it is now paying off in the league, only having lost one of the last 10 games.  Whilst it was clear at times that we hung on to secure a rare result against you, it showed a new determination that Tottenham teams of old haven’t had.

SC: Before that game at Old Trafford, you told us that you were willing to see how performed as boss before passing judgement. Is he meeting your expectations?

JS:  Yes – and at that time so many fans weren’t.  I recall an article saying he had three games to save his job!  He is exceeding them – this was always going to be a tricky first season, especially where he was made a target for media speculation in his time at Chelsea.  He has excelled in that the mood has changed.  He has stamped his mark on the team, and no doubt the new equally stylish training facilities have helped, along with the approach that nobody is a ‘favourite’ for selection.  is assembling a squad, and the players are gelling.  The challenge now is to ensure last week’s slip against QPR doesn’t become a turning point – at this sort of time last year, we drew with Wolves, and the rest is history!

SC: Who are the danger men that United must watch out for on Sunday?

JS:  Sandro having been ruled out for the season this week is a massive loss, but Parker was our player of the season last year, and may well find his form at the right time.  Dempsey is another to watch – he found himself on the bench last week, but he is now settling into his new role in midfield, and is capable of a killer assist.

SC: Which United players do you think could cause you the biggest threat?

JS:  Impossible to look past the front two – RVP is in lethal form, 21 in 27, and it’s hard to see that form dropping.  Couple that with the return of Rooney in midweek, and you have the most gifted front pairing in the PL.

SC:  Score prediction?

JS: I got the approach right last time, and went for a 2-2.  Although I think we will be a very different side from the all-out attack at Old Trafford, I could see a similar scoreline.  I will be there tomorrow, and I never bet on the draw – so I shall be going for a 2-1 to Spurs.  COYS!
It’s certainly the biggest game of the weekend, and when any of the top three teams play each other this season, there could be any outcome.  We have to take points at White Hart Lane though to keep the cushion open at the top of the table. If it drops to four points it’s still a great margin, but the morale boost that’ll give our neighbours will also put a bit of pressure on us.

Wherever you’re watching it, enjoy the game.

Follow me on Twitter: @stevecrab and Jo S: @Mrs_Hotspur

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