Luka Modric of Tottenham in action during the 2011 Vodacom Challenge final match between Orlando Pirates and Tottenham Hotspur at Coca Cola Stadium (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Okay, so the picture in this post is of Luka Modric. Sorry! If you didn't know, he won't be playing for Tottenham Hotspur on Monday night. The reasons I've heard vary from legitimate injury to vast conspiracy, with the truth probably being something in between. Harry Redknapp said that Luka has a slight injury that he could play through, but that his head isn't right. Sounds plausible to me. Now, onto players who will actually figure in the match against Manchester United.
Niko Kranjcar and Tom Huddlestone are set to be the starting central midfielders for Tottenham, and I'm okay with that. It's far from ideal, but we could do a lot worse. The main problem with this is going to be if United go with a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 setup in which Wayne Rooney drops deep and acts as just as much of a playmaker as he is a goal scoring threat. When Chelsea did not have Michael Essien at full fitness in their Premier League decider last spring, Rooney absolutely dominated his area of the pitch. Without Sandro or the good version of Wilson Palacios, this could be a serious problem.
The good news is that with United's injuries on the back line, that's the only place I see them truly taking over the game. Their wide players are very good and will be very influential, but I have some faith in Vedran Corluka and Benoit Assou-Ekotto. Additionally, these players are more effective when supported by Rafael da Silva and a completely fit Patrice Evra.
Evra is expected to start, but it's no guarantee. It's also up in the air who starts on the other side of him, at right back. Indications are that Chris Smalling will get the nod over Fabio da Silva. In any event, I like Gareth Bale's chances of having a big game against a weakened United back line.
I'm at a loss for who is going to start for us up top, as I think you could easily make a case for anyone. Peter Crouch was penciled in as the starter by most of us after he skipped the Hearts match, but some reports indicate that he's picked up a slight knock. Jermain Defoe was effective against Hearts and it might be good to stick with the hot hand. And, of course, Roman Pavlyuchenko is the best fit in theory, but it rarely turns out that way in practice.
Basically, there are a lot of unknowns to this game. Once we're in the middle of the season and we know more about managers' first choice teams and player fitness, it's easy to determine what we're going to see. Right now, I'm kind of grasping at straws. I can throw out a prediction that is an educated guess, but I could end up being very wrong. You'll just have to tune into the game.
Projected Manchester United lineup (4-4-1-1): De Gea; Evra, Jones, Evans, Smalling; Young, Carrick, Anderson, Nani; Rooney; Berbatov
Projected Tottenham Hotspur lineup (4-4-1-1): Gomes; Assou-Ekotto, Dawson, Kaboul, Corluka; Bale, Kranjcar, Huddlestone, Lennon; van der Vaart; Defoe
Prediction: 1-1 draw. Normally I'd be very pessimistic about a Luka-less Spurs at Old Trafford, but United's injuries give me hope.
Make sure you stop by our live match thread during the game. It'll be a party!