Mark O'Haire previews the Super Sunday clash between Tottenham and Manchester United, and he is siding with a low-scoring victory for the away side as one of his two best bets.
Tottenham taking the lead and then dropping points has become a bit of a habit this season but, according to manager Jose Mourinho, it is not his fault. The 58-year-old earned a reputation as a master tactician and defensive-minded coach, but his Spurs side have now lost 15 points from winning positions after last Sunday's damaging 2-2 draw at Newcastle.
The latest setback saw the North London outfit miss out temporally on climbing back into the top four - and a Champions League qualification spot - for the first time since 2 January, following Chelsea's shock loss to West Brom. However, it was the manner of the stalemate that irked Spurs supporters at St James’ Park.
Eleven of those aforementioned 15 dropped points have been lost in the final 10 minutes of games - the most of any side in the Premier League - while Tottenham have also failed to win six games in which they led at half-time, again the most in the league.
Newcastle appeared ripe for taking on Tyneside with two of their most feared forwards out of the starting XI. Yet Spurs allowed the Toon to record their highest expected goals figure in a league game for more than seven years, whilst firing in 17 shots from inside the penalty area, just two of many indefensible stats to be gleaned from an alarming performance.
Modern football suggests Mourinho’s persistent public haranguing of his players is unlikely to provoke a positive response, especially so with Tottenham now managing to take top honours in only eight of 21 Premier League outings since turning over Man City in November (W8-D5-L8). Clearly, there are issues to address.
The saving grace for Spurs could be the return to fitness of Son Heung-min – the Korean has combined with Harry Kane to contribute a massive 40 goal involvements (scored or assisted) from Tottenham’s overall 51-goal tally in the Premier League this term, a huge 78%. Outside of the deadly duo, only Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has emerged with any credit in recent weeks.
Mourinho’s men must also arrest a dire return against the Premier League’s elite. Spurs have posted W2-D2-L7 against top-eight rivals in 2020/21, scoring a maximum of one goal in eight of those 11 outings. Such trends, alongside their meek 1.18 non-penalty expected goals output, suggest they’re understandable outsiders on Super Sunday.
Visitors Manchester United are comfortably on track for a top-four finish with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side commanding respect for their continued accumulation of Premier League points. The Red Devils have been defeated on only four occasions this season and have been beaten just once since the start of November in league action.
As well as remaining unbeaten on the road, United have also avoided defeat in 10 of their 11 against top-eight rivals, recording six clean sheets against the same bracket. Meanwhile, in 2021 alone, Solskjaer’s troops have shipped only two goals in eight games as guests in the Premier League despite trips to Anfield, The Emirates, Stamford Bridge and The Etihad.
Considering Chelsea and Liverpool went off as even-money favourites at Spurs this calendar year, there’s an argument to be had that suggests Man Utd are a value bet on Sunday. But as much as the 1x2 price appears to hold value, I feel there’s a better way to approach this match by keeping the Red Devils onside in a low-scoring showdown.
It’s been well documented (particularly in this parish) how all-Big encounters have failed to live up to the hype this term with 16/26 (62%) paying out for Under 2.5 Goals hunters and six (23%) also banking for 0-0 backers. Interestingly, all six goalless draws featured either Spurs or United and these two teams also accounted for 12 of the Under 2.5 winners.
With that in mind, the 21/20 on MANCHESTER UNITED DOUBLE CHANCE AND UNDER 3.5 GOALS stands out as a confident play. Depending on your preferred bookmaker, this may be something you have to request, although most firms do now have a Bet Builder function, with Paddy Power pricing up at around 5/6, though the best price on offer is with Marathon Bet.
The 10/1 (Bet365) on NO GOALSCORER is also worth a whirl for interest considering the above trends.
Elsewhere, HARRY MAGUIRE TO HAVE 1+ HEADED SHOT ON TARGET (9/2 SkyBet) holds plenty of appeal. The England international has played every minute of Man Utd’s league campaign and managed to land an attempt at goal in 21/30 (70%) fixtures, averaging 1.10 efforts per-game.
A major threat from set-pieces, 26 (81%) of the visiting centre-half’s 32 Premier League shots have arrived via the head, making the 9/2 a price of interest this weekend.
Score prediction: Tottenham 0-1 Manchester United (Sky Bet odds: 15/2)
Odds correct at 0830 GMT on 09/04/21
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