Wednesday 28 June 2017

Five talking points ahead of Manchester United's Sunday showdown at Spurs

Chris Smalling takes care of Spurs attacker Harry Kane
Chris Smalling takes care of Spurs attacker Harry Kane

Simon Peach

Tottenham and Manchester United square off this Sunday in a mouth-watering Barclays Premier League encounter.

Here, we pick out five talking points ahead of Sunday's match.

CAN TOTTENHAM KEEP UP THE PACE?

This is another crucial weekend for Spurs as they bid to win their first league title since 1961. Mauricio Pochettino's side are already seven points off leaders Leicester - a gap that could stretch to 10 should the Foxes triumph at Sunderland on Saturday. Whatever the result in the north east, it is likely to have a psychological impact on a Spurs side that cannot afford to falter. Furthermore, third-placed Arsenal are edging closer, sitting four points off with a game in hand on their rivals.

WILL MAN UNITED KEEP THEIR CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUEST ON TRACK?

Louis van Gaal's men have endured some bumpy patches this season, leading the United boss' style and position to be questioned. However, they could yet end the campaign in the Champions League after the 1-0 win at Manchester City was followed by another slender victory against Everton. That has seen them narrow the gap on their neighbours to a solitary point but United need to keep up the pressure, especially as Manuel Pellegrini's men will be buoyed by their positive display against Paris St Germain in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

VERTONGHEN TO BE RISKED?

Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen's partnership was so impressive this season that the latter's knee injury in late January had fans and pundits speculating whether it would derail Tottenham's title tilt. Instead, Kevin Wimmer has stepped up manfully and Spurs enter the final stages with the Premier League's tightest defence. Vertonghen has resumed training and Pochettino now needs to decide whether to risk him or stick with Wimmer for this crunch clash.

UNITED'S YOUNGSTERS DELAY ROO'S RETURN?

Wayne Rooney is edging closer to fitness but Van Gaal will not risk his captain at White Hart Lane. Instead, the 30-year-old will play for the under-21s on Monday, giving United's young stars another chance to underline their credentials. Jesse Lingard has impressed this term and Anthony Martial has netted three goals in his last four appearances, while Marcus Rashford is in line to make the 10th straight start of his career. Impressive displays will give Van Gaal a selection headache in the final weeks of the season.

CAN ERIC DIER KEEP HIS COOL?

Pochettino's decision to transform the defender into a combative midfielder has proved inspired. Eric Dier has flourished since an unsteady debut in the position during the season-opener at Old Trafford, making him a shoo-in for England's Euro 2016 squad. Dier is key to Tottenham's shape and heads into the weekend on nine yellow cards, knowing another booking will incur a two-match ban. That would seriously dent Spurs' title hopes.

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