Manchester United host Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday in a top(ish) of the table Premier League clash. United will be hoping to break out of their indifferent run of form in the league, while Spurs fans will be hoping for a response from the team’s disappointing Carabao Cup exit. We spoke with Friend of the Site (he’s been here before) Sean from Cartilage Free Captain about the match, expectations for the season, and our mutual love for Dimitar Berbatov.
tBB: Only goal difference separates our two sides at the moment, and supporters of both clubs will be gutted if their team doesn't either win the league or come damn close. What are your expectations for Spurs this season?
CFC: With all the spending that happened this summer, I think the realistic expectation was Top Four in the league, knockout rounds of the Champions League (which is looking really good at the moment!) and hopefully some silverware in the FA Cup. Spurs bowed out of the Carabao Cup in rather disappointing fashion on Wednesday, but given how brutal the schedule is this November and December, I'm not all that broken up about it.
tBB: Pochettino was recently dismissive of the FA Cup and the *checks Google* Carabao Cup. Do you agree with him that the "lesser" cups aren't important? He has a point, but it's a strange position to take when you haven't won anything - most great English sides typically get a taste for success in the domestic cups before going on to bigger and better things.
CFC: I hate the League Cup with an absolute passion, but I can't agree with him on the FA Cup. I really wish England would ditch the first competition and just stretch the FA Cup throughout the entire season. The schedule wouldn't be nearly as hectic in the second half of the season and maybe English sides wouldn't be wiped by the time they hit March and April.
tBB: What key tactical battles will decide Saturday's match?
CFC: The battle in the midfield is going to be a fun one. I'm assuming Matic and Herrera start for United, and Spurs will counter with some combination of Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele and Harry Winks. My guess is the first two get the nod and Winksy comes on in the second half. That battle is going to make or break things for eiher side.
tBB: Which of Herrera and Dier get the other booked first?
CFC: Plot twist! Both get booked at the same time for going studs up on each other and not hitting a damn thing.
tBB: During what summer will United sign Alli? 2018? Or do you think he'll only leave to follow Pochettino to Old Trafford in 2020?
CFC: Awful presumptive, aren't you? I guess it's only fair since I had to make you relive the Liverpool match :)
Honestly, I think Dele ends up in Spain at either Real Madrid or Barcelona. We know Daniel Levy is the hardest negotiator to deal with and he's going to be more willing to sell Dele overseas than he will in the league. As for Pochettino, I have absolutely no idea if and when he leaves North London. The next couple of seasons will be telling for the future of Tottenham Hotspur.
tBB: We're about ready to give up on Luke Shaw. His conditioning is a disgrace, and Mourinho isn't even bothering to hide his disdain. I'm not sure I particularly rate Danny Rose, but I'd swap him for Shaw in a heartbeat. Given that Rose wants out, would you make that swap and bet on Pochettino to get the best out of his old left-back?
CFC: I don't think it's a secret that Luke Shaw has wanted to reunite with Mauricio Pochettino and, thanks to that Sun interview, Rose is probably on his way out in the summer unless something strange happens. That being said, it wouldn't be a straight up swap. United would be getting the better player and will need to sweeten that deal with some cash, but I don't think it's outlandish to think that the players swap clubs next year.
tBB: I miss Dimitar Berbatov every day. Sorry, this wasn't really a question.
CFC: Man, you and me both. Did you read his interview over on ESPN FC? The man is wonderful and dreamy and....wait, where are we again?
tBB: How do you expect Spurs to line up?
CFC: Only Victor Wanyama is out, presumably needing to go through the six million dollar man process that the now T-1000 version of Erik Lamela went through. While Lamela is getting up to fitness, he may make the bench on Saturday. As for the lineup? Don't expect many surprises....
*Checks his phone this morning*
Oh, look at that. Harry Kane is ruled out with a minor injury. Excuse me for a second....
[Yells string of 47 obscenities in a row.]
Alright, so about that lineup...
3-4-2-1: Lloris (C); Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen; Aurier, Dembele, Dier, Davies; Eriksen, Dele; Son.
tBB: Prediction for the final score?
CFC: Think this one has draw written all over it. I'm going 1-1, but won't be surprised if someone nips a late winner.
Check out my Q&A over at their place here.