Having just won two of their last eight league fixtures, and still trying to recover from last weekend’s draw by a late penalty at Goodison Park, Manchester United will be desperate for all three points against Tottenham Hotspurs on Sunday, while Tottenham will be aiming to open up a nine-point lead over their rivals
Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspurs need positive results in tomorrow’s encounter to keep pace with their rivals and all signs point towards an entertaining encounter.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side have lost just one Premier League fixture this season while the Red Devils have not won on home soil since beating champions Leicester in September.
Spurs will go into the game in confident mood, having seemed to rediscover their mojo during a midweek victory over CSKA Moscow. And the north Londoners are also expected to be the fresher of the two sides with Jose Mourinho’s men set to endure an energy-sapping trip to Ukraine.
Pochettino has confirmed that Erik Lamela remains unavailable as he continues to nurse a hip injury that’s already kept him out for Tottenham’s last eight matches in all competitions. The attacker is struggling to overcome the niggling problem but he also flew back to Argentina earlier this week due to personal reasons so he’s certain to miss Sunday’s trip to Old Trafford.
In a double blow, Pochettino also revealed that Vincent Janssen remains unavailable for selection due to an ankle injury and it may take up to another two weeks before the Dutch international is able to return.
There was some positive news to come out of Pochettino’s team news update as the Argentinean coach confirmed that Ben Davies is back in contention after recovering from an ankle injury that’s hampered him in recent weeks.
Toby Alderweireld is also back in the frame to return to action in the Premier League after making a successful comeback from a knee injury during Tottenham’s 3-1 win over CSKA Moscow in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
Spurs head to Old Trafford sitting fifth in the table, six points above Man Utd but can move level on points with fourth-placed Manchester City with a win this weekend.
Interestingly, Pochettino has claimed Jose Mourinho gets rough justice from refrees and the FA because he is the Special One.
The Manchester United boss served his second touchline ban of the season last week for kicking over a water bottle – and has also been fined £50,000 for comments about ref Anthony Taylor before the Liverpool game.
But the Tottenham boss said: “It is too difficult sometimes to control yourself. You get frustrated on the touchline but I think he doesn’t do anything different from me or other managers. His behaviour is normal. It is too difficult to be on the touchline when you are frustrated with decisions. Sometimes you show your disappointment during the game but he isn’t different from other managers.
“I cannot say anything against him because always he has my full respect. I like Mourinho – I have a good relationship with him – but I try to be objective as well. And I think his behaviour is no different from anyone else but because he is the Special One, sometimes people and referees and the media focus on him. But if you compare him to another manager, other managers behave worse than him and they are not in the focus because they are not the Special One like him.”
The Argentine added: “For me he is the Special One and will always will be the Special One. For me, he was a reference when I worked at Espanyol at the start of my career.
“He was always very kind with myself and opened his door. Always I assess my colleagues try to be objective I really believe he is one of the best. Sometimes you struggle a bit, not easy to arrive at new club, set up ideas and philosophy but for me he was is will be one of best managers in football history.”
Meanwhile, today’s teatime sees Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side travel to the King Power Stadium to face the defending champions. When Leicester hosted Manchester City in December last year, a goalless draw showed they were capable of holding their own against their challengers at the top of the table before they went on to finish above them all.
This time around, the situation is somewhat different; their defeat at Sunderland means the Foxes go into the game just two points above the bottom three and Claudio Ranieri’s men are now facing up to the prospect of a relegation battle.
Manchester City are also reeling after last weekend, when they lost vital ground to Chelsea in the title race and saw Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho sent off after the team collectively lost their heads in the closing stages.
In Aguero’s absence, the pressure is on the talented Nigerian, Kelechi Iheanacho to fill the goalscoring void in City’s attack. His equaliser against Celtic in midweek showed he is capable of doing so, and he will hope to be the latest to take advantage of the slip in Morgan’s standards since last season.
The most recent clash between these two sides was when outsiders truly started to believe Leicester could win the league; their comfortable 3-1 win at the Etihad in February was one of the most impressive performances in Leicester’s remarkable campaign, and that was Leicester’s first win in this fixture since 2003, with City having won 53 of these meetings to Leicester’s 28.
Meanwhile, West Ham United will welcome back defender Aaron Cresswell and midfielder Michail Antonio for Sunday’s Premier League trip to Liverpool, but Cheikhou Kouyate will miss the game.
All three players picked up groin injuries in West Ham’s League Cup defeat by Manchester United on November 30.
“From the three players who got injured in the EFL Cup game, a couple of them should be back,” manager Slaven Bilic told a news conference on Friday.
“Antonio and Cresswell are training with us today after the press conference and according to the medical reports they are fit and they are okay.
“With Cheikhou Kouyate, it is a little bit different. We were hoping he would be okay for Sunday’s game, but unfortunately he will have to miss it.
“It’s not a big injury, but he has a great chance to make it for the Burnley game in midweek.”
West Ham are 17th in the table and have not won in the league since October, but the under pressure Bilic said he had spoken to the club’s chairman David Sullivan and felt he still had the support of the club’s hierarchy.
“We didn’t have a meeting, we had a conversation like we normally have,” the manager added.
“Since I’ve been here, I speak to the chairman a couple of days after every game. After Saturday’s game we spoke on Monday and had a good conversation, but not a meeting.
“I feel the support and have said that so many times and I felt that support in our conversation this week. I believe in myself and my staff and look at what we achieved last year and I believe there is time to turn it around.” West Ham’s last league outing ended in a 5-1 home defeat by Arsenal, and Bilic said his players had reacted well in training ahead of their trip to third-placed Liverpool.
“We all felt bad last Saturday,” he added. “We were one-down after 70 minutes so to lose 5-1 left us disappointed, frustrated and angry but you have to get over it, which we have done and we have a big game on Sunday.
“I have told the players we have got to be positive and I’ve had a great reaction from them this week in training.”