Sunday’s north London derby will not only be about local bragging rights but could have massive implications for the destination of Champions League places come the end of the season. Tottenham go into the fixture at White Hart Lane with a four-point lead over Arsenal and with the opportunity to take a massive step toward finishing above their rivals in the league standings for the first time in 18 years.
Spurs have had many near misses in that time, none more so than last season. This time last year Tottehnham went into the fixture with Arsenal with a 10 point lead in the league standings, but despite taking a 2-0 lead, Arsenal fought back both in the match and in the table to win the game 5-2 and claim the last Champions League spot.
Arsenal also won 5-2 in the reverse fixture earlier this season, but Tottenham defender Michael Dawson believes that his side is now better equipped.
"I guess we feel we owe them one for what happened at the Emirates this season,” he said, according to Tottenham’s official website. “We were well in the game until Ade [Emmanuel Adebayor] was sent off, but that's football. We've moved on from that game now, we're stronger, playing well and looking ahead to the match."We go into the game in confident mood, and you have to be for a game like this."We've 11 cup finals now to try and get as many points on the board as we can—starting now."
Both sides come into the match in good form in the league. For all their travails in falling to Blackburn in the FA Cup and a resounding home defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Arsenal have been fairly consistent of late in the Premier League. Manager Arsene Wenger is fully aware that his team needs to keep that form going if they are to secure a place in the top four.
“In the last 12 games, we’ve won eight, drawn two and lost two,” he said, according to Arsenal’s official website. “We have got 26 points out of 36. Our record in the Premier League is quite good.
“What we want to do [is maintain that] in the last 11 games. I said after the Chelsea game that we cannot drop points.
“We go into every single match like it is a must-win game and we will have exactly the same approach [for the rest of the season].”
Wenger will be without full-backs Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs through injury, although Abou Diaby should be available after a calf problem.
Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe is fit again after an ankle injury and is likely to be among the substitutes. Clint Dempsey joins Younes Kaboul, Sandro and Tom Huddlestone on the sidelines.
D: Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto
M: Parker, Dembele
Lennon, Holtby, Bale
D: Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal
M: Wilshere, Arteta
Walcott, Cazorla, Podolski
Betting Odds: Tottenham are favorites to get the victory at home. Paddy Power has Spurs at 13/10 to get the victory, with Arsenal priced at 21/10. A draw is available at 12/5.
Prediction: Tottenham are unbeaten in 11 games in the league and of late their form has been scintillating, led by the extraordinary recent performances of Gareth Bale. Much will depend on Arsenal’s ability to deal with the Welshman and there will be a big responsibility, not only on Carl Jenkinson, but also on Arsenal’s center to provide support.
Arsenal have dug out crucial wins in recent weeks in the league despite the constant scrutiny on the club’s direction. But Sunday’s clash is arguably the biggest of their season so far, with failure to qualify for the Champions League sure to being unprecedented examination of Wenger’s position.
Tottenham look stronger mentally and tactically under Andre Villas-Boas and are unlikely to crack under the pressure as so often in the past. But Bale has been carrying the side perhaps too much of late and Arsenal could secure a point in what could be yet another high-scoring London derby.
Tottenham 2-2 Arsenal
Where to watch: the Barclays Premier League match will kick-off at 11 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a delayed online stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.