FOOTBALL RETURNS: Tottenham face United in pivotal Friday night encounter


Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham face off against one of the Portugese Manager’s former clubs Manchester United as both seek a Champions League place.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side currently occupy fifth place, potentially enough to secure a Champions League spot dependant on their Manchester rivals’ ongoing battle with UEFA, and could go level with fourth-placed Chelsea should they win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The returning Marcus Rashford, whose actions during the coronavirus break convinced government to extend the free school meal voucher scheme, will help United’s cause as will enigmatic Frenchman Paul Pogba. 

Spurs’ task to compete in the Europe’s elite competition is slightly tougher. Currently in eighth, the Lilywhites are seven points adrift of Chelsea, but could cut the gap to just one over their opponents on Friday night. Defeat for Mourinho’s men could all but end their hopes for this season with Arsenal, Leicester and Everton still to come for the north Londoners.

Speaking in his pre-match press conference via Zoom, Mourinho confirmed that Moussa Sissoko, Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son, all three absentees before the break, would start for his side.

Giovani Lo Celso, one of Tottenham’s stand-out players in a turbulent season, is a doubt for the fixture having only returned to full training this week. Elsewhere, young defender Japhet Tanganga is out with a stress fracture.

Mourinho was bullish when asked whether facing his former side made the return more special:

“No, no. It’s a bit special because it’s quite a similar feeling to the first match of the season. Matchday 1 is always special and all of us – coaches, players – have different feelings of matchday 1.

In the end, this is not matchday one but we can feel it that way because it was a long long time of, let’s say, holiday or this special moment for the world. It was difficult for everybody.

Even the returning to training going through so many different phases. But yes I’m happy to play, even knowing we’ll be behind closed doors, we know millions will be watching it. We want to give a good game and a good football match.”

When speaking pre-match, United boss Solskjaer was full of anticipation ahead of a huge fixture for both clubs:

“It’s a great game. A big game against one of the best teams in the league, Champions League finalists less than a year ago, a hard game.

“We prepared as well as we can, we’ve had a couple of in-house 11 v 11s and one 11 v 11 vs West Brom, which will hopefully stand us in good stead.

We’re young, they look fit and ready, and we’ll see tomorrow night.”

Last encounter

In their last meeting, Marcus Rashford’s double helped Manchester United to a 2-1 win at Old Trafford in December.

After an early goal had been cancelled out by a superb Dele Alli equaliser, the Englishman ruled out of Friday’s fixture due to an FA ban, Rashford converted from the spot in the second half to give the Red Devils all three points.


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