The Premier League’s return is closer than ever, and fans of the English game can look forward to a huge clash in the race for Champions League qualification almost immediately, as Tottenham Hotspur host Manchester United on 19 June.
Harry Winks and Fred tangle as they battle for possession
The Friday night game kicks off what is set to be a fiercely-contested battle for the top four – five if Manchester City are unsuccessful in their Champions League ban appeal – as Jose Mourinho’s Spurs look to make up ground and drag themselves up from eighth place.
Manchester United head into the game in high spirits. Fans have been desperate to see the Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba link up ever since the Portuguese midfielder signed in January, and with Pogba now fully fit, it looks like the wait could finally be over. The duo will have to click swiftly, however, as United still sit in fifth and also have a lot of work to do themselves if they want to be playing among Europe’s elite next season.
When is Kick-Off? Friday 19 June What Time is Kick-Off? 20:15 (GMT) Where is it Played? Tottenham Hotspur Stadium TV Channel/Live Stream? Sky Sports Referee? TBA
Spurs head into their returning fixture without midfielder Dele Alli, who will serve a one-match suspension for making a coronavirus-related social media post in February.
A boost for them, however, is captain Harry Kane’s return to fitness. The striker underwent surgery after suffering a hamstring injury on New Year’s Day, but has recovered during the lockdown period. Moussa Sissoko and Ben Davies are also once again fully fit, recovering throughout the break in play in March. Son Heung-min is also available after recovering from an arm injury and completing military service in South Korea.
— Dele (@dele_official) June 11, 2020
Injury news aside, Spurs are still unsure on the future of defender Jan Vertonghen, whose current contract is set to expire before the new end of the season. Vertonghen is yet to agree to an extension beyond June and has been linked with a move abroad.
For one of the first times all season, Manchester United boast an almost full squad. Marcus Rashford has recovered from a stress fracture in his back, while World Cup winner Pogba is also available having made just eight appearances in total this season. Odion Ighalo has extended his loan until January 2021, leaving United with a healthy selection.
Phil Jones is a doubt, to nobody’s surprise, having missed two of United’s friendlies in training so far.
Tottenham: Lloris; Aurier, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Davies; Winks, Lo Celso; Bergwijn, Sissoko, Son; Kane.
Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Pogba; James, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial.
United have beaten Spurs 92 times in their history, while the Lilywhites have only managed to topple United 52 times. The two sides have drawn 48 times, but it was Solskjaer’s United who wound up winners last time the pair met.
Marcus Rashford was at the double in December when Spurs visited Old Trafford, helping his side to the 2-1 victory, having wrapped up a win in 2019’s other meeting. Mourinho will be desperate for revenge against his former employers, having failed to beat them since being replaced by Solskjaer in December 2018.
Rashford grabbed a brace as United beat Spurs 2-1 in December
With Rashford now back in contention, but having not actually playing a competitive game for some time, he will hope that he can produce a performance similar to the one against Spurs last time out, now supported by the firepower of Fernandes.
Tottenham have strengthened too, and Steven Bergwijn will look to hit the ground running after a stop-start time in north London since joining in January.
‘Recent’ is a term used lightly here. The suspension in play means nobody has played competitive football since early March. While sides are trying to regain some match fitness with training ground friendlies, there will be some obvious ring rust.
Spurs slumped to a disappointing 3-0 defeat in their last game before the break, crashing out of the Champions League at the hands of RB Leipzig, leaving the Premier League as their only competition to focus on. The break in play has given them a chance to forget that they were winless in their last five games…
Spurs were dumped out of the Champions League by RB Leipzig
United headed into the break on a high note, dishing out a 5-0 thrashing away to LASK in the first leg of the Europa League round of 16. While the opposition this time round will prove much more difficult to beat, they will use whatever they can remember from that win as inspiration down south.
Here’s how both sides looked before the suspension of play.
RB Leipzig 3-0 Tottenham (10/3/20) Burnley 1-1 Tottenham (7/3/20) Tottenham 1(3)-1(4) Norwich (4/3/20) Tottenham 2-3 Wolves (1/3/20) Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham (22/2/20)
LASK 0-5 Manchester United (12/3/20) Manchester United 2-0 Manchester City (8/3/20) Derby County 0-3 Manchester United (5/3/20) Everton 1-1 Manchester United (1/3/20) Manchester United 5-0 Club Brugge (27/2/20)
On paper and just looking at previous form alone, this one should have been a formality for Manchester United. It’s never that simple, though, not least when a global pandemic has suspended play for 12 weeks.
This one will be a close encounter, with neither side wanting to give to much away, while also getting back up to speed with the throws of football and the new, behind-closed-doors environment.
27 points up for grabs.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) June 12, 2020
Having said that, United seem to be heading into the game higher in confidence and in stronger stead. Spurs will make it hard for Solskjaer’s men, but ultimately the Red Devils will be leaving with all three points.