Manchester United's Chris Smalling excited to test himself against Harry Kane
MANCHESTER -- Chris Smalling says he will be relishing his battle with Harry Kane when Manchester United take on Tottenham in their FA Cup semifinal on Saturday.
Kane has averaged better than a goal every two games throughout his career and has netted 37 times already this season. But Smalling, 28, is one of the few defenders who has enjoyed a good record against the England striker.
In seven games against each other, Kane has scored just once, and the United defender says playing against the best forwards brings out the best in him.
"He's someone who is clearly getting better and better," Smalling told ESPN FC. "I think he's getting stronger, he seems to have that extra yard of pace and his finishing, he shoots from everywhere and more often than not they go in.
"It's nice to test yourself against the best. I get to train against the best every week and I'll be looking forward to it. You tend to raise your game when you play against the best.
"Obviously, everyone is expecting him to score and it's down to myself and whoever I'm playing alongside to keep him quiet. It raises my game to make sure I shut him down and don't give him any opportunities."
The semifinal is another trip to Wembley for Smalling and it is a venue when he has had ups and downs.
He made his United debut in a Community Shield victory over Chelsea in 2010 and scored in the same fixture against Manchester City in 2011. He was also sent off in the 2016 FA Cup final against Crystal Palace and scored an own goal in the semifinal against Everton the same season.
That day he was up against Romelu Lukaku, now a teammate at Old Trafford. And Smalling says training against the Belgian, who has scored in every round of the FA Cup this season, is perfect preparation for Kane.
"I have had some tussles with him against Everton but now it's day in day out in training," he said. "He is a handful and he gets you ready for whatever striker you're going to come up against."