Three key battles that will decide Spurs vs Man United

We’ve already been treated to fantastic matches in the Premier League this weekend, not least including West Ham’s 3-3 draw with failed title chasers Arsenal.

But having the final say on the weekend’s action is arguably the best fixture of the bunch – Tottenham Hotspur’s clash with Manchester United, hosted at White Hart Lane, at 4pm on Sunday.

The Red Devils come out on top in terms of recent encounters, winning two and drawing three of their last six meetings with the north Londoners.

But there’s no question of which side is enjoying the better season; whilst the second-place Lilywhites find themselves chasing table-toppers Leicester City, United are in danger of not even qualifying for the Champions League.

With that in mind and both sides boasting the two best defensive records in the Premier League this season, Sunday’s game looks set to be an incredibly close encounter that could be decided by the key individual battles. Here are THREE Football FanCast view as the most important.

HARRY KANE VS CHRIS SMALLING

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A clash of two England internationals at the forefront of Roy Hodgson’s plans for Euro 2016.

Chris Smalling has emerged as Manchester United’s and the Three Lions’ most formidable centre-half since the start of last season, whilst Harry Kane’s meteoric rise over the last 18 months is showing no signs of letting up.

The latter has been in phenomenal form in recent weeks, bagging six goals in his last four Premier League appearances, and now tops the division’s scoring charts with 22 league strikes throughout the campaign.

Smalling is an overtly physical defender who does the basics well and in terms of height and power, will feel fairly confident in matching Tottenham’s star striker. But the 22-year-old is a particularly clever centre-forward, who finds space well and boasts two great feet, and that will test arguably weaker parts of Smalling’s game.

Anthony Martial vs Kyle Walker

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On the surface, Anthony Martial’s return of eight goals and three assists in 25 Premier League appearances may not seem so astounding.

But since signing from Monaco last summer, the France international has emerged as Manchester United’s most dependable and dynamic outlet in the final third. In the absence of fellow forward Wayne Rooney, he’ll be the focal point of their attack against Spurs this Sunday alongside striker Marcus Rashford.

That makes the left winger’s battle with Spurs No.2 Kyle Walker a particularly intriguing one. The England international is enjoying a strong campaign and has improved defensively over the last 18 months, but Pochettino likes his full-backs to provide width on the overlap – so Sunday represents a real balancing act for Walker.

The 25-year-old certainly possesses the recovery speed to catch up with Martial if he breaks through on the counter attack. But the United forward has proved time and again this season that he only needs half a yard inside the box to provide a composed finish.

DELE ALLI VS MICHAEL CARRICK

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Manchester United may have spent a small fortune on younger alternatives in recent years but Michael Carrick remains their most influential midfielder, providing control in possession and the ability to build attacks from the base of the engine room.

Indeed, when the England international gets enough of the ball, the Red Devils are always more dynamic and direct going forward. But it’s the defensive aspects of the 34-year-old’s game that will be tested more upon lining up against Tottenham’s Dele Alli this Sunday.

The 19-year-old has proved a revelation since making the step up from League One to the Premier League last summer, going on to bag seven goals and nine assists in his first 30 top flight outings whilst becoming a key figure in Roy Hodgson’s plans for Euro 2016.

He’s a tireless worker who offers prominent output and has already developed a knack for arriving in the box at just the right time, which should be Carrick’s biggest concern ahead of the Spurs clash. Alli certainly has the energy to run off the back of the ageing veteran, providing support to Harry Kane.

The subplot of two England internationals with rather different statuses within the Three Lions squad further adds to this feisty midfield battle, but don’t rule Carrick out just yet. For all of Alli’s youthful industriousness, the United star is one of the craftiest midfielders in the business.