The English Premier League returns with a cracker on cards when Tottenham Hotspur visit the Emirates stadium to face Arsenal in Saturday's early kick-off for a highly anticipated London derby.
After a surprise loss to Newcastle a fortnight back, Arsenal have bounced back impressively with two hard fought away victories at Wolves and Everton. Marouane Chamakh's brace gave them 2-0 win at the Molineux, while they survived a late rally by Everton at Goodison Park to win 2-1 last week. In that fixture, it required a fighting spirit to claim victory and manager Arsene Wenger will be proud of the way his team held on to Sagna's opener and Fabregas' second, despite Cahill's goal for Everton late in the second half.
The Gunners will be encouraged by the fact that Spurs haven't won at The Emirates while records show only one Spurs victory in 18 Premier League against Arsenal. This victory came way back in May 1993, when Spurs won 3-1. Another incentive for Arsenal is that a win against Spurs this Saturday will propel them to the top of the table for the first time this season, though how long they last there will depend on the outcome of Chelsea's visit to Birmingham later.
The teams have already met this season when in September, Arsenal won 4-1 against Spurs in extra time in the Carling Cup. That coupled with Samir Nasri's impressive form will have the Emirates hopeful of the bragging rights till the next time these two meet.
Tottenham have had an unpredictable season so far, claiming splendid victories against the likes of European champions Inter, while losing to Bolton within a matter of days. However, they ended the run of four Premier League games without a victory when they won against Blackburn 4-2 last week.
Spurs center-back William Gallas will want to show his former club what they are missing after he was released by Arsenal during the summer saying his claims for a new deal were extravagant. Having said that, Spurs's real threat will be a certain Gareth Bale, whose performance this season has perked up interest around Europe.
Manager Harry Redknapp seems to have decided that attack is the best form of defense, as shown by his line-up against Blackburn last week when he fielded two out-and-out strikers - Crouch and Pavlyuchenko, who were supported by a heavily attack minded midfield - Rafael van der Vaart, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Jermaine Jenas. However, if he does field a similar line-up against Arsenal, he will have to be wary of their counter-attacking threat, specially the quartet of Nasri, Arshavin, Fabregas and Chamakh.
Team News -
Arsenal will welcome back Laurent Koscielny after his two-game ban. But Jack Wilshere is a doubt after pulling a muscle in his back during the game against Everton. Tomas Rosicky is also a doubt with a hamstring problem. Almunia (elbow), Diaby (ankle), Frimpong (knee), Ramsey (broken leg/fitness), Vermaelen (Achilles) are all out injured.
Tottenham will be hopeful that Aaron Lennon can recover from a hamstring problem while Jermain Defoe trained during the week and could win a place on the bench. Dawson (knee & ankle), Huddlestone & Keane (ankle), Dos Santos, King and Woodgate (groin), O'Hara (back) are all out injured.
A win for Arsenal could see them top the table for the first time this season, even if for a brief period. A loss though could see Manchester United move up to second and push the Gunners down to third.
Spurs are seventh in the table, level on points with fifth placed Bolton on 19. A win could see them break into the top five while a loss can drop them all the way down to tenth (depending on other results).
This fixture has traditionally been a goal-filled affair, with 25 goals being scored in the last six meetings between these two clubs, including classic 4-4 draw at the Emirates in 2008. Both teams have a wealth of attacking talents. This makes the defensive performance vital. Arsenal will welcome Laurent Koscielny while Spurs will miss their first choice center-back pairing of King and Dawson. Arsenal though will have to watch out for Gareth Bale's bursting runs down the left and the outcome of the match will depend on how they stop the young Welshman. A classic is on the cards and a 3-2 win for Arsenal looks likely.