A tough task, but Red Devils should edge Spurs
The league leaders are on a superb run and have not lost at White Hart Lane for almost 12 years
Manchester United travel to Tottenham tomorrow to tackle one of the most serious obstacles still standing between them and another Premier League title, although they are bound to take heart from their superb current form as well as their excellent record at White Hart Lane.
Having got one of their most difficult games out of the way when they disposed of old rivals Liverpool last weekend, United face Tottenham on a run of nine wins and a draw in the league since their last defeat - 1-0 away to Norwich on November 17.
Robin van Persie has scored in eight of those last 10 games and United have averaged 2.7 goals per game during that run, which has taken them from one point behind Manchester City to seven points in front. The visit to fourth-placed Tottenham is a stiffer task on paper than last week's home game against Liverpool, who are four places and nine points behind Tottenham in the table, but United do find White Hart Lane a welcoming venue.
United haven't lost there for almost 12 years - an unbeaten 11-match run that started in September 2001 with one of their most memorable Premier League victories, 5-3 after trailing 3-0 at half-time. Those 11 games have yielded eight wins and three draws.
Until Tottenham's 3-2 win at Old Trafford in September, United had gone 22 games without defeat in the league against Tottenham (17 wins and five draws).
Andre Villas-Boas ended that dismal run for Tottenham at his first attempt with September's victory and his side have improved since then, but there is still a question mark over whether they are as effective at home as they are on the road.
There are also doubts about their ability to deliver consistent results in the big games. Apart from the 3-2 win at United, Tottenham have not beaten another side in the top seven (losing four of the other five).
By contrast, United have been highly effective against the rest of the top seven with four wins out of five, apart from the Tottenham defeat (the other loss was in the opening match of the season, 1-0 at Everton).
High-scoring wins at Manchester City and Chelsea suggest United are a good bet at Tottenham, with 18 wins out of 20 this season in games in which they have scored.
Chelsea v Arsenal, the first half of tomorrow's double bill, is harder to call. There is little doubt Arsenal are a worse team than Chelsea, but the odds may overstate the gap between the two sides.
In games between the top eight, Chelsea have won three out of seven (perhaps significantly, none of the wins were at home) and Arsenal three out of eight (one win out of four on the road). Two of the last three games at Stamford Bridge have been disastrous for Chelsea - losing 1-0 to QPR in the league and 2-0 to Swansea in the Capital One Cup semi-final - and Wednesday's 2-2 against Southampton wasn't much better after they squandered a two-goal half-time lead.
Largely sandwiched between a difficult start for interim boss Rafa Benitez and the recent disappointing home results was a run of impressive high-scoring wins in domestic competition, but nobody can be quite sure which strand of form shows the real Chelsea.
Benitez's side are a risk at the odds but punters determined to play on this match could look at Chelsea on the handicap. Eight of their 12 wins have been by two goals or more - the highest tally in the Premier League.
The best bet in the Premier League is West Brom at home to struggling Aston Villa. West Brom are seventh in the table and, more significantly in terms of tonight's match, they have the third-best home record after the two Manchester clubs.
Steve Clarke's side have won six out of nine against teams in the bottom seven. On current form, Villa are the worst team in the league.
Newcastle are a whisker short of rating a good home bet too, against Reading, and they are well worth considering.
Stoke could take something at Swansea, while QPR have to be considered on the handicap - at least for their trip to West Ham - as they have lost only three out of 11 under Harry Redknapp and look set to improve further.
- West Brom home win Too strong for neighbours Aston Villa
- Brighton on handicap Have lost only one out of 17 against teams below them
- Leeds home win Ranked fifth in the Championship on home form
- Millwall home win Have won six of their last eight at home
- Real Madrid away win Can repeat their midweek cup success
West Brom, Brighton, Leeds, Millwall, Stevenage, Doncaster, Sheffield United, Real Madrid, Lazio.
Today (11pm unless stated)
Manchester City v Fulham, Newcastle United v Reading, Wigan Athletic v Sunderland, Swansea City v Stoke City, Liverpool v Norwich City, West Ham United v Queens Park Rangers, West Bromwich Albion v Aston Villa (1:30am Sun)
Chelsea v Arsenal (9:30pm), Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United (12am Mon)