Manchester United take on Tottenham Hotspur in a mouth-watering Wembley clash on Wednesday night.
United, boosted by the signing of Alexis Sanchez and Jose Mourinho’s contract extension, will travel to London with confidence on a run of eight league games unbeaten.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs – held by League Two Newport County in the FA Cup – face a season-defining month as Champions League and formative top-four clashes lie in wait.
Here are three key battles that will be crucial to the outcome of the clash.
Kieran Trippier vs Alexis Sanchez
The Red Devils’ brand-new signing looks every inch a United player and hit the ground running with a Man of the Match display against Yeovil.
It remains to be seen where Mourinho will deploy the Chilean in his frontline, with Anthony Martial hitting form on the left flank and Jesse Lingard in his element at number ten.
A sneak peek into what life is like at #MUFC for @Alexis_Sanchez… pic.twitter.com/iwG0ihLBid
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 28, 2018
But Sanchez produced his best football at the Emirates off the left, is able to cut inside and let fly or drive straight at the opposing defence.
Spurs’ right-back slot has rotated between Trippier and Serge Aurier this term – how the former Burnley man deals with Sanchez will have great bearing on the momentum of this one.
Dele Alli vs Paul Pogba
Two rangy runners are reference points for most of their teams’ attacks, Alli and Pogba will find any space they can in front of the opposing back four and look to exploit it.
When Pogba plays, United don’t lose and that’s a run going back 35 games in the league. The Frenchman has slotted in effortlessly alongside Nemanja Matic and provided nine assists this term already.
Alli hasn’t had such a seamless season, however, with question marks over several of his performances.
If form is anything to go by, United will look to press home their advantage in the middle of the park.
Harry Kane vs Phil Jones
What can be said about Kane that hasn’t already been uttered? With 21 league goals already, he’s putting himself in the pantheon of Premier League greats.
Top-flight managers across the country will stew on how to stop the striker, but if anyone is going to find the formula it’s Jose Mourinho.
Phil Jones, a player he has invested time and effort into revitalising, could be the ideal on-field general to implement his plans.
A huge week ahead ?
?️ Wednesday: @ManUtd (H)
?️ Sunday: @LFC (A) #MondayMotivaton pic.twitter.com/ZR58ZoVYZQ
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 29, 2018
Kane’s runs need to be assiduously tracked and he’s a threat even with his back to goal, where Jones should be able to match him stride for stride.
Both Englishmen were perhaps saddled by expectation early in their careers, but they are now firmly established at the highest level.