Smarting Spurs leave themselves exposed to United's might
Tottenham's poor display against City will give the champions plenty of confidence
If there is one side Tottenham have never liked playing in the English Premier League, it is Manchester United. So, in this toughest of weeks for Andre Villas-Boas and his squad following their 6-0 drubbing at Manchester City, fate has conspired against them with a home match against the reigning champions.
United's record against Tottenham, both home and away, is exceptional. Since the formation of the Premier League, United have a 69 per cent win rate against Tottenham in all matches and have lost only four out of 42. They are unbeaten on their last 12 visits to White Hart Lane, with eight wins and four draws.
That run started with one of the best matches in the Premier League, when United were 3-0 down at half-time, but roared back in the second half to win 5-3. It is almost as if Tottenham, despite changes of personnel, were left mentally scarred by that experience.
It is also Tottenham's misfortune to be playing a United side that has run into form for David Moyes, in similar fashion to the relentless sequences they used to achieve under Sir Alex Ferguson.
When United were beaten 2-1 at home by West Brom on September 28, the calls for Moyes to go reached a crescendo, but there has been barely a murmur of discontent during an unbeaten run of 11 games (seven wins, four draws) since then in all competitions.
Following their midweek 5-0 demolition of Bayer Leverkusen (a good if rather limited German side), United are unbeaten in five matches in the Champions League and only the defeat by West Brom counts as a shock result in the Premier League. Their other two defeats have been against top-five sides Liverpool and Manchester City (both away), and so have two of their three draws (at home to Chelsea and Southampton).
United still have question marks against them - their home form is not as dominant and spectacular as in the Ferguson era and the summer failures in the transfer market may count against them in the long run - and it should not be forgotten they also suffered a heavy defeat (4-1) when they visited Manchester City this season.
In that light, Tottenham's capitulation at the Etihad stadium does not look quite so bad, but there is no doubting that all of Tottenham's frailties were exposed there. Villas-Boas brought in so many new players in the summer that it was inevitable they would take time to gel and the lack of organisation was clear to see against City.
So, too, was the impotence in front of goal that has dogged them all season in the Premier League. Remarkably, Tottenham had only two fewer shots than City (13 against 15), but failed to convert any of them. Overall in the Premier League this season, Tottenham have had the most shots, however, their conversion rate is a poor 5.4 per cent, whereas City's, by comparison, is 21.8 per cent.
At least Villas-Boas' side are creating plenty of chances, as there is usually a clear correlation between shots, shots on target, goals and points. It is interesting that in recent seasons Arsenal and Liverpool were the two most notable teams held back by a poor chance conversion rate and look where they are now that they have put it right.
But one of the most worrying stats is that Tottenham have failed to score from open play with any of their last 78 shots. More than half of their overall shots have been from outside the penalty area, however, which suggests that not all the blame should be pinned on their expensive new striker Roberto Soldado.
It is to be expected that Tottenham will bounce back from the City defeat, but United are the handicap pick on current form and the head-to-head record. Over 2.5 goals looks a good bet too.
The best-value bet in the Premier League is Aston Villa, who in some respects have performed better than expected in their difficult set of early fixtures.
They are starting to face easier opponents on a more regular basis and their unbeaten record against bottom-half teams (which only four other Premier League teams can boast) suggests they have a good chance at home to bottom club Sunderland tonight.
Newcastle also rate well for a home win over West Brom. Alan Pardew's side may appear to have up-and-down form, but they have won five out of eight against teams below them in the table.
Aston Villa, Brighton, QPR, Burnley, Brentford, Hertha Berlin, Roma.