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FA Cup: Four battles to look for in Manchester United vs Tottenham

Manchester United face Chelsea in the FA Cup final. (Nick Potts/ PA via AP)
Roar Rookie
20th April, 2018
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In recent years, Tottenham have evolved into a solid top-four side, however much has been made about the lack of silverware on show from their endeavours.

The FA Cup is their last chance to get their hands on a trophy this season and could represent a milestone in the club’s recent history.

A stubborn Manchester United side stand in the way, having bounced back from their dip in form, and their manager, Jose Mourinho, will be hoping to make a claim for the trophy to make their season a little more palatable.

If either side is to win, they will need to win one of these key battles:

1. Jose Mourinho versus Mauricio Pochettino
Mourinho said the resting of key players against Bournemouth was not down to rotation and those who impress will keep their spot against Spurs.

Alexis Sanchez was an unused substitute against the Cherries, while Jesse Lingard, who impressed on the wing, may hold his place.

Pochettino also freshened up his squad in his 1-1 draw against Brighton midweek, with Dele Alli, Moussa Dembele, Kieran Trippier and Eric Dier all left on the bench.

Toby Alderweireld made his long-awaited comeback to the starting 11, however it remains to be seen whether the Belgian will start, with Davinson Sanchez in fine form.

Lucas Moura also impressed for Spurs in a disappointing display, although it is expected that the Brazilian will make way for Alli.

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2. Hugo Lloris versus Romelu Lukaku
Tottenham’s No.1, Lloris, is going through a rough patch.

Lloris’ sweeping clearances usually appear so calculated and controlled. However, recent mistimed clearances have caused Tottenham to concede usually preventable goals.

Lloris has shown obvious indecision when leaving his line to collect or punch away from a corner, and United have plenty of lofty players who could worry the Spurs captain.

With Lukaku likely to start and Chris Smalling finding the net twice in his last three games, Lloris will need to compose himself.

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3. Harry Kane versus Chris Smalling
Since rushing back from what looked like a serious ankle injury in just two weeks, Harry Kane has not returned to top form.

While still appearing on the scoreboard against Brighton, Kane looks as if he has lost confidence, lacking the sharpness and killer touch that have made him such a threat.

In a difficult match against Manchester City on the weekend, Kane could not work himself into the game, touching the ball only six times in the second half at Wembley.

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Kane was again anonymous in the first half against Brighton and a second-half reshuffle from Pochettino saw Son Heung-min playing just behind the striker. This helped the England international regain his touch somewhat.

Despite Mourinho’s men looking off in the past few weeks, a clean sheet against Bournemouth and a goal to Chris Smalling will boost his confidence.

If Smalling can keep Kane’s touches few and far from goal, United can slow Tottenham’s attacking play.

4. Paul Pogba versus Mousa Dembele
A battle of two raging bulls in midfield.

After a poor game against West Brom, Paul Pogba answered his critics with a man of the match performance against Bournemouth.

Mousa Dembele was not at his dominant best against Brighton, but his piercing runs proved pivotal when Spurs faced the Red Devils at Wembley in February.

Both teams can deploy defence-minded midfielders in Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama for Spurs, and Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera for Manchester United.

That said, if Pogba or Dembele can break through this defensive line, space will open out for the attack to exploit.

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In the midweek fixture, Pogba charged through the heart of the Bournemouth midfield to play a perfectly measured pass for Lukaku to finish the job. He will hope to threaten the Spurs’ midfield in a similar fashion.