A raucous crowd will pack White Hart Lane on Saturday when the north London derby takes on heightened importance. Tottenham host Arsenal with both clubs trailing surprise leaders Leicester City in one of the most unusual Premier League seasons.
Spurs enter the match three points short of Leicester, while Arsenal are just six points out of first place. Both Tottenham and Arsenal have spent recent seasons underachieving, and with traditional powerhouses Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool struggling to find top form, the opportunity is bright for the north London clubs to end their title droughts with a strong push in the final 10 matches of the season.
"It is one of the few derbies where the title is at stake. It is a big one, a very important one," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.
"Maybe our confidence has been a bit jaded, but it's like always in football. We do 98 percent of things right and we have to add the 2 percent of things that are down to maybe finding back our collective qualities, and even put more effort in."
Arsenal enter the crucial match without their No. 1 goalkeeper. Wenger confirmed that Petr Cech will miss up to a month after suffering a calf injury running up toward the penalty area in the final minute of the Gunners' shock 2-1 loss to Swansea City on Wednesday. David Ospina, who has done a more than serviceable job in rare starts this season, gets the nod this weekend.
Wenger won't have the services of stalwart center back Laurent Koscielny, who is also nursing a calf injury. Koscielny is expected to miss Tuesday's FA Cup match against Hull City. Gabriel will likely supplant the veteran French star.
Arsenal are also still without long-term absentees Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should be out for roughly eight weeks with a knee injury.
Mauricio Pochettino, who hopes for "full energy to win the game," doesn't have a full squad either. Clinton Njie and Jan Vertonghen remain sidelined with knee injuries. However, Dele Alli may get to start, and there's a slim chance star central midfielder Mousa Dembele will return after suffering a groin strain against Crystal Palace on Feb. 21.
Spurs have lost just one of their last seven Premier League matches against Arsenal at White Hart Lane. When the two clubs met in November at the Emirates Stadium, Harry Kane scored for Tottenham and full back Kieran Gibbs scored the equalizer in a 1-1 result.
Prediction: Both clubs should come out aggressive. Expect a fast-paced match with plenty of hard tackling and frenetic play. Kane will be the main player to watch after scoring twice in Tottenham's comeback win the last time the two clubs met at White Hart Lane. Alexis Sanchez has not looked like himself, but Arsenal should get a quality attacking effort from Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott.
Predicted Score: Tottenham 2-2 Arsenal