On a weekend of great games in the Premier League, none stand out more than the top-of-the-table clash between Manchester United and Spurs at Old Trafford. The two clubs are locked together on 20 points in the Premier League, occupying 2nd and 3rd places – five points adrift of early leaders Man City.
Both clubs are experiencing impressive campaigns so far, progressing nicely in the Champions League and competing at the top of the Premier League. Jose Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino are two of the best tacticians in the English game, and Saturday’s match has all the makings of a classic. Such as statement could have been made about the Liverpool versus Manchester United game just two weeks ago, so it is with a note of caution that we should hope for a thrill-a-minute game. Will Mourinho deploy stifling tactics on home soil against a title rival? Or will the Red Devils play a more expansive game in search of three points? History would suggest the latter, and Spurs’ attack-minded philosophy also points to a more open game.
The North London club is playing its home games at Wembley this season, and they suffered the humiliation of a home defeat against deadly rivals West Ham at the national stadium in midweek. That 3-2 Carabao Cup comeback breathed new life into a Hammers side which has been a nervous wreck under Slaven Bilic in recent weeks, and it could give them a springboard to launch a good run of results. The East Londoners travel South across the capital to face Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon and could represent a spot of value to come away with an away win.
Of all the surprises this season, perhaps the most unexpected has been Watford’s brilliant start to the campaign. The Hornets are up to the heady heights of 5th place in the top-flight and may have been underestimated by the bookmakers offering quotes of odds-against about a home win when they host Stoke on Saturday afternoon. The Potters have lost five of the last six games and are positioned precariously above the relegation zone by virtue of goal difference.
Manchester United v Spurs
We start with the biggest game of the weekend, where the value looks to be with the draw at odds of +230 with 888Sport.
Mourinho’s United have turned Old Trafford into a fortress again this season, winning all six games on their own turf so far. They’ve only conceded once across those matches – in a Carabao Cup victory over Burton – but critics will claim they are yet to be fully tested by a ‘top’ side. The teams that they have beaten at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ this term are: West Ham, Basel, Leicester, Everton, Burton and Crystal Palace. That criticism may be justified when assessing the quality of opposition, but as the old saying goes, “You can only beat what’s in front of you”, and United have done that with consummate ease. It would be fair to say, however, that Spurs will give them their toughest examination of the season to date.
Tottenham secured a 1-1 draw away at Real Madrid in the Champions League less than two weeks ago, so playing away in a formidable atmosphere should hold no fears for Spurs’ players. They come here off the back of a shocking 3-2 defeat to West Ham in the Carabao Cup, albeit with a much-changed side that didn’t include Harry Kane. A full-strength team will try to get back on track here and Tottenham have enough quality to make it a very competitive game.
Man United have won the last three meetings at Old Trafford to nil, including a 1-0 victory in December last year. A repeat may be more difficult on Saturday as Spurs are playing to a very similar level to the Red Devils, and the draw represents the best value in what should be a game to sit back and enjoy.
Crystal Palace v West Ham
West Ham are a Jekyll and Hyde team, which they demonstrated with markedly different performances in first and second halves at Wembley in midweek. We’re taking the chance that the confidence gathered from that win will enable them to put their best foot forward at Palace and come away with three points at odds of +230 with BetVictor.
Losing 2-0 at half time after a dire first half, West Ham produced a completely unexpected display in the second half to hit Spurs for three and book a place in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals. It was a spirited response led by club captain Mark Noble, and again served as a reminder that when times are tough, it is the players who roll their sleeves up that pull a side out of trouble. Can the Hammers take that momentum into the weekend game at Palace?
Slaven Bilic made nine first-team changes for the cup tie, so has given himself something of a selection headache ahead of the match. It would be no surprise to see Noble and Ayew retain their places, and the likes of Ried and Hernandez are sure to come back in.
Crystal Palace had a much worse time of it in the Carabao Cup, losing 4-1 away at Championship Bristol City. Roy Hodgson also made nine changes to his team for the midweek match but admitted that his players capitulated under pressure from the Robins. It’s a poor result to take into the weekend game, and the ‘turnaround’ that Palace fans had hoped for after beating Chelsea has failed to materialise. The Eagles lost 1-0 away at Newcastle last week in the Premier League and followed up with the Cup defeat, so a return to home soil will be welcome – even if the fans may not be so welcoming.
Palace have won the last two home games versus Chelsea and Huddersfield (cup), but have also been beaten by Swansea, Huddersfield (league), and Southampton. West Ham have won on their last three Premier League visits to Palace, and if they reproduce the form of their second half against Spurs, they can make it four in a row.
Watford v Stoke
Lastly, Watford look good value to win against Stoke at +110 with BetVictor.
The Hornets are excelling under Marco Silva. They’re 6th in the league and beat Arsenal 2-1 in their latest home match. Stoke meanwhile, are 17th in the table, have lost five of the last six games, and have managed just one point from four away matches this term.
Manchester United and Spurs to Draw
Saturday 28th October, 12:30 GMT
West Ham to beat Crystal Palace
Saturday 28th October, 15:00 GMT
Watford to beat Stoke
Saturday 28th October, 15:00 GMT