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Sep 11, 2009

Unbeaten Spurs face United test

Live on ESPN (UK) on Saturday from 17.00BST.

Tottenham's 100% record appears to be in jeopardy as reigning champions Manchester United visit North London on Saturday evening.

Harry Redknapp v Sir Alex Ferguson

The game at White Hart Lane witnesses a battle of wills between two of English football's most experienced managers. Ferguson, the overlord of Old Trafford, has 1,281 games under his belt at United while Redknapp has stood on the touchline no less than 1,123 times since taking over at Bournemouth in 1983. Familiarity has not bred contempt though and a healthy dose of mutual respect exists between two of coaching's great survivors.

Despite the odd cup upset during his spells with Bournemouth, West Ham and Portsmouth, Redknapp has lived firmly in Manchester United's shadow, but thanks to Tottenham's 100% start to the season after four games, he finds himself in the unusual position of sitting one place above Ferguson in the Premier League table.

With England stars Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon bursting with confidence, Spurs have been in rampant form this season when recording victories over Liverpool, Hull, West Ham and Birmingham City. However Luka Modric, who has been instrumental in the club's success from his position as a midfield playmaker, suffered a broken leg in their win over Alex McLeish's side and his absence will be keenly felt, if mitigated by the deadline day arrival of Niko Kranjcar.

It has been a far less convincing start to the season for United, who famously lost 1-0 to Burnley in their second game of the campaign. A victory over Arsenal at Old Trafford last time out could have a galvanising effect, but Ferguson will be aware that his side required a penalty and a comical own goal from Abou Diaby to defeat Arsene Wenger's side at Old Trafford. With Michael Owen seemingly a fixture on the bench and Antonio Valencia yet to hit his stride, the aftershocks of Cristiano Ronaldo's departure to Real Madrid are still being felt.

Jermain Defoe v Nemanja Vidic

Despite failing to earn a starting role in England's 5-1 win over Croatia, Defoe is very much the man of the moment at White Hart Lane and tops the Premier League goalscoring charts, alongside United's Wayne Rooney, having scored four goals this season. Redknapp has recognised that confidence is oozing out of the striker, commenting recently: "He's up with the best when he is playing like he is now. He's so sharp - he's lethal."

However, in Vidic, Defoe will come up against one of English football's most uncompromising defenders. The Serbian was a formidable presence in United's title success last season and he could well be joined by partner Rio Ferdinand who is in line to make his first league appearance of the season after shrugging off a thigh problem.

There are few defenders who could stop Defoe in his current form but Vidic is emphatically one of those. If he can keep the livewire England striker quiet then Tottenham may struggle to break the visitors down.

Aaron Lennon v Patrice Evra

Fresh from lighting up Wembley as he tore Croatia apart with a ferocious display of lightning wing play, Lennon comes into Saturday's game on a real high. The diminutive midfielder created England's first two goals and also has two Premier League assists this season, meaning he is a key line of supply for strikers Defoe and Robbie Keane.

The searing pace possessed by Lennon is a real asset but in Evra he surely meets his match. The word 'dynamic' could have been invented for the Frenchman who defends with poise and attacks with precision. Evra is a key component of Ferguson's side and his high-octane battle with Lennon is likely to catch the eye.

The Frenchman revealed this week that his ideal post-football career would be as a babysitter, and if he can keep the Spurs winger subdued throughout the evening then it will be a real plus point on his CV.

Wilson Palacios v Darren Fletcher

The two midfielders have arguably been their teams' most important players so far this season. While Defoe and Rooney have hogged the headlines with their scoring exploits, the more understated Palacios and Fletcher have made crucial contributions in the centre of midfield.

But while their media profile may be lower than that of their team-mates, there is nothing low-key about their thunderous displays in the middle of the park. Fletcher was United's enforcer in the win over Arsenal, angering Arsene Wenger in the process, and can once again be relied upon to hassle and harry a Tottenham side deprived of the passing talents of Modric.

Palacios will be tasked with a similar aim as he attempts to disrupt United's tempo and stem the flow of balls to Rooney and former Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov. The midfield general that wins this war of attrition could guarantee a strategic victory for their side.

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