Only goal difference separate Tottenham Hotspur from Manchester United, and if Spurs manager Tim Sherwood gets his tactics right, this is a winnable game. Here is how Tottenham should line up against United.
Proposed Formation: 4-4-2 Diamond
In the 3-0 win over Stoke City, Sherwood played a 4-4-2 with Christian Eriksen deployed in a false winger role.
He started on the left but gradually moved inward as reflected in his average positioning.
From a defensive perspective, if Eriksen is central then there is no cover on the left, meaning the opposing right-sided players can gang up on the Spurs left-back.
United attack down the right flank 43 percent of the time in league play, so this is a problem Sherwood faces if he does not tactically adjust.
What is the solution?
Alter the current 4-4-2 to a diamond, and here are the pros.
Eriksen is at the tip of the diamond, which plays to his advantage as Spurs signed him because of his ability to unlock defences in a playmaking role
At the bottom of the diamond, there will be a dominant ball-winner and two shuttlers to cover the flanks.
This is an expedient option against United, but moving forward, Sherwood will need to address the Erik Lamela situation because he is a player who thrives in a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 not a 4-4-2.
• Just when Paulinho, who has been underwhelming when you compare his performances for Spurs to Brazil, looks the part against Stoke City, he is savagely cut down by Charlie Adam.
"Paulinho has sustained significant ligament damage to his right ankle after a heavy challenge from Charlie Adam," as per the official Tottenham Hotspur website.
Adam tweeted: "... And I would never intend to injure a fellow professional."
Here is Charlie Adam not intending to injure any other player.. pic.twitter.com/1lbgMfO0e8— Aaron (@TottenhamKing69) December 31, 2013
Yet Adam cannot explain why he follows through on his tackles when he knows he has minimal chance of winning the ball.
This was not a 50-50 challenge or an accidental collision.
It was the equivalent of assault on the football field, and the FA have made a non-call.
Shame on the FA and shame on Adam.
• Nabil Bentaleb has completed 40 of 46 passes in his two sub appearances in the Premier League.
Bentaleb is stylish on the ball and positions himself well while Smith was running around aimlessly.
In a 5-3 defeat to the Fulham U-21s, Bentaleb made a Mesut Ozil-like pass to put Gareth Bale Kenny McEvoy through on goal, and he scored.
Bentaleb probably completes these passes regularly in training to have bolted into the first-team.
He deserves a start against a United midfield that should not dominate him (in theory).
Bentaleb is bigger than Tom Cleverley, while Michael Carrick prefers intercepting passes rather than tackling.
"He's [Bentaleb is] a top player and ready to play. I knew he was ready. If I don't think they [Spurs prospects] are ready, they won't even be on the bench," Sherwood said, as per the club website. "I knew he wasn't going to be fazed, he’s not that type."
• Roberto Soldado is compensating for his poor finishing by making a concerted effort to create goalscoring chances.
This is what Fernando Torres has been doing throughout his Chelsea career because he feels so ashamed by his finishing that he would drop deep and pretend to be a No. 10.
Overtime he has become more comfortable passing than shooting. He is passive instead of aggressive.
Soldado cannot afford to slip into that mindset.