Tottenham vs. Manchester United: 5 Things to Look for in Spurs' Match Sunday

Frank Wagner@Fw1812Correspondent IJanuary 20, 2013

Tottenham vs. Manchester United: 5 Things to Look for in Spurs' Match Sunday

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    Sunday's Premier League match between Tottenham and Manchester United presents a big opportunity for Spurs to make their case for a top-four league finish.

    After finally picking up a win at Old Trafford back in September (the only blemish in United's home record this seaon), Tottenham will look to cap their season series with United with a result at White Hart Lane—and a historic double.

    While currently sitting in fourth in the league and with third firmly in their sights, Spurs will know that such a result would be priceless for their pursuit of Champions League football next season.

    Of course, it's not going to come easily against the league leaders, who have proved their mettle on numerous occasions this season.

    So what should one expect from Sunday's ferocious battle at the Lane?

    Here are five things to look for when Tottenham takes on Manchester United Sunday.

Scott Parker Stepping in for Sandro

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    While manager Andre Villas-Boas has done a fair share of experimenting with his lineup in the face of injuries this season, one constant at Tottenham has been Sandro.

    The midfielder has appeared in all 22 of the club's Premier League matches this season, and he's become a staple of the side through his aggression and skill.

    Hence, it was a bit of a blow for Spurs when they found out that the Brazilian will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury he sustained at Queens Park Rangers.

    Luckily, the injury comes just as Scott Parker is getting back to full fitness after the Achilles injury he sustained this past summer.

    Spurs will no doubt be banking on Parker to step in for Sandro, providing the same sort of defensive work and leadership that they know he is capable of.

    However, the Englishman has yet to get consistent starts, so it's hard to tell whether he is fit enough to shoulder this burden.

    It will be an interesting trial for Parker, as he goes up against United's potent attack.

Manchester United's Defense

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    As great as Tottenham's victory at Old Trafford in September was, it's undeniable that Spurs got quite a bit of help from United on the day.

    The Red Devils' defense, facing some key injuries, had quite a few problems throughout the contest, providing porous cover on their net and allowing Tottenham three counter-attack goals.

    Unfortunately for Spurs, the United defensive unit enters this match with far fewer injuries, and the defense as a whole is in better form.

    Still, the extent to which Gareth Bale and the rest of Tottenham's speedsters ran riot at Old Trafford makes whether Manchester can contain the Londoners a legitimate question.

    Given the strength of United's attacking unit, it is unlikely that Spurs will be able to keep a clean sheet; hence, Tottenham will hope that they can find success similar to the type they experienced in September.

    Therefore, how United's defense copes throughout the 90 minutes will be a key in this match.

Jermain Defoe's Form

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    Jermain Defoe's goalscoring this season started like a house on fire, yet it has cooled off quite a bit since.

    The striker scored four goals in Spurs' first five Premier League encounters of the season, but he's only managed six in the 17 matches since.

    With Emmanuel Adebayor at the Africa Cup of Nations with Togo for the next month, the position is quite thin, as Defoe is one of their only recognized strikers. Thus, Tottenham will need Defoe to stay healthy and in top form for, at the very least, the next few weeks.

    A good shift against Manchester United, and maybe even a goal, would be a huge boost for Defoe going forward.

Center Defense vs. Robin Van Persie

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    Robin van Persie has had an incredible season thus far, settling in at Manchester United almost immediately, following his summer transfer from Arsenal.

    The Dutch striker has 21 goals in 27 appearances for United, each of which has seemed to be an important one in the club's march to the top of the Premier League.

    Meanwhile, Tottenham's central defense has not been the most solid in the Premier League.

    Injuries have been a problem for Spurs in this area, as 35-year-old William Gallas has started 17 matches despite his up-and-down play.

    Now, the unit has improved of late, as they have conceded just two goals in the past six matches.

    However, United's attack is another story, especially given the hot form of the lethal RvP.

    Still, Tottenham should draw confidence from the fact that they stopped van Persie from scoring in the clubs' first meeting.

    Can they do it again?

Potential Transfer Opportunities

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    Tottenham have a good squad and seem to be on a good path toward achieving their ultimate goal of Champions League football.

    However, the side is by no means perfect.

    With an ambitious club such as Spurs, a tough match, like the one that they face at Old Trafford, will probably provide a good progress report and expose a few weaknesses.

    With the end of January rapidly approaching, all performances and moments of weakness could prove vital in informing the club's decisions in the final week-and-a-half of the transfer window.

    Watch carefully on Sunday, because it could be key in determining the rest of Spurs' season.

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