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The north Londoners are in a bad place and things could get worse before they get better.
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It was a truly astonishing episode. Tottenham Hotspur suffered one of their worst ever defeats on Saturday, as they went down 6-1 to Newcastle United at St James’ Park. The hosts led 3-0 in the ninth minute and 5-0 before the quarter mark had elapsed.
The extent to which Tottenham were architects of their own downfall was remarkable. Their defensive structure was nonexistent, with Newcastle able to find space in the final third time after time. Spurs carried little attacking threat, even though Harry Kane got on the scoresheet long after the game was lost.
Cristian Stellini, the interim manager, must take a large chunk of responsibility. He switched to a 4-3-3 formation for the trip to the northeast. This move was welcomed by many supporters. But Spurs looked like they had not conducted a single training session on the new shape. To call them rabbits in the headlights would be unkind to said animal.
The players deserve a fair share of the blame too, not least for their extraordinary ability to make so many basic errors within a short space of time. But unfortunately for Tottenham, the problems run much deeper than that.
We can expect anti-Daniel Levy protests on Thursday. The long-serving chairman, who has been in the role since 2001, is under huge pressure after a poor few years for the club. An increasing percentage of fans feel he should hand over the reins to someone else.
None of Levy’s managerial appointments in recent times have worked out. Even the decision to sack Antonio Conte but leave Stellini, his erstwhile assistant, in place has failed.
Spurs are no longer treading water: they are sinking fast and there is now a very real danger that they will miss out on European soccer altogether.
The mood is considerably brighter at Manchester United, although it might easily have not been. Erik ten Hag’s team were knocked out of the Europa League last week, losing emphatically to Sevilla in the second leg of their quarter-final tie.
Another defeat at the weekend would have dampened the mood further, but United came through their FA Cup semi-final against Brighton & Hove Albion - but only just. Following a 0–0 draw after extra time, the Red Devils edged the penalty shoot-out thanks to Solly March’s miss.
United have already won one trophy this season, having beaten Newcastle in the final of the EFL Cup in February. They will face Manchester City in the FA Cup showpiece in June and are meanwhile on course to finish in the top four.
Returning to the Champions League would be a major boost to the Ten Hag project, as well as to the club in general. United are one of the biggest outfits on the continent and they should aspire to win Europe’s premier tournament, not just compete in it.
The job is not done yet, though. United are three points clear of Tottenham, on whom they have two games in hand. But a loss on Thursday would leave them within reach not only of Spurs, but potentially Brighton too.
Even Liverpool cannot yet be ruled out - despite having fewer points to their name, the Reds are actually available at a shorter price than Tottenham to qualify for the Champions League with the best online sportsbooks.
As for United, they do not have to think about the FA Cup final until the Premier League campaign is over. They have eight games remaining and wins in half of those should be enough for them to get over the line.
Unfortunately for Tottenham, things could get worse before they get better. There has been talk that Stellini could be removed from his position before this match, with Ryan Mason - the current No.2 - potentially handed the reins.
Many fans would love to see Mauricio Pochettino return to the club, but he looks set to be the next Chelsea manager. That would be painful for Tottenham, who had their best moments in the Premier League era under the guidance of the Argentine.
Spurs have some difficult games on the horizon too. After this clash with Manchester United, they must go to Anfield to face Liverpool. They will then take on Crystal Palace and Aston Villa, both of whom are in fine form at present.
United will again be without several first-choice defenders on Thursday, and Kane in particular should have some joy. But Tottenham’s confidence is on the floor and they do not look capable of winning big games right now.
With all that in mind, the best choice from a betting perspective is an away win-back Manchester United to come out on top in the midweek round of Premier League fixture.
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Teams: Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
Date and Time: Apr. 27, 2023, 3.15 p.m. ET
How to Watch: Peacock Premium
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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