The North London derby is one of the biggest in England, it is a stand-out fixture in the Premier League calendar which a lot Premiership fans await. However, this year’s edition would be different because it would also go a long way in determining where this year’s title tilts to. Arsenal can boast of a healthy record at White Hart Lane in recent times, winning on two of their last three visits; but recent form, renewed vigour and the belief that the title is within grasp could give Tottenham Hotspurs the day
While matches between the arch-rivals are always tense, highly-charged occasions, today’s game has added spice because both are heavily involved in the title race and both lost ground on leaders Leicester City on Wednesday.
Spurs have not been this high in the table this late in the season since 1985 which is why today’s game has more at stake for both teams than any since the 1991 FA Cup semifinal at Wembley which Spurs won 3-1.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino has seen his side responds well to defeats this season and will be hoping for the same reaction today when he also hopes to have Mousa Dembele back after injury and Dele Alli fully fit again.
“We need to be positive, why not?,” he told reporters after the defeat at Upton Park.The players are very disappointed and feel bad but the way we fought back tonight in the second half was fantastic, except we could not score.”
Both sides were dealt a big blow to their title ambitions midweek as Arsenal fell at home 2-1 to Swansea, while Tottenham spurned the opportunity to go top of the Premiership log, having lost to London rivals, West Ham on Wednesday. The Gunners however came out worse as they will be without two key players.
Arsenal will be without goalkeeper Petr Cech and centre-back Laurent Koscielny for today’s trip to Tottenham Hotspur, Wenger revealed after the 2-1 loss to Swansea City.
“Cech got a muscular problem at the end of the game. He will not play on Saturday. I have full faith in David Ospina. Koscielny has a calf problem as well,” Wenger said.
The double injury blow will have blackened Wenger’s mood yet further after a result that left Arsenal six points below Premier League leaders Leicester City in third place.
It was Arsenal’s third defeat in a row, after previous losses at the hands of Barcelona and Manchester United, and saw them booed off by their own fans at the Emirates Stadium.
“It is a very unlucky defeat because we created many chances and we were unlucky in our finishing,” said Wenger, whose side hit the woodwork three times. The two shots on target they had in the whole game were the two goals. It’s a very disappointing result and the players are very down. We have to respond to that.
“It looks a bit like a confidence issue. We have to focus on our job and come back, reminding ourselves that we have some quality as well. Analyse it well and bounce back. We have a big game in three days. At the moment I am more worried about our results than the title race. We just lost three games and that is always a very difficult moment for the team. At the moment we don’t dream, we are realistic. We must come back to what we do well and do the basics,” Wenger said.
Meanwhile, Harry Kane has fired a warning to Tottenham’s London rivals and declared that Mauricio Pochettino’s side “don’t fear anyone”.
Spurs are riding high in second place in the Premier League table and have lost just four games this season.
Such an impressive run of form has seen the north Londoners emerge as title contenders ahead of the crucial game against fellow capital sides, Arsenal.
Kane is determined to help his side maintain their momentum ahead of the title run-in.
The striker took to the field during Sunday’s victory over Swansea sporting a protective mask after suffering a broken nose in the FA Cup defeat to Crystal Palace.
Interestingly, former England international, Chris Waddle is tipping Tottenham Hotspur to beat Arsenal in the north London derby this afternoon.
Tottenham have won their last six Premier League games ahead of Wednesday night’s loss to West Ham United at Upton Park and are three points behind leaders Leicester City.
Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City remain sitting pretty at the Premier League summit after their closest rivals Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Manchester City remarkably all contrived to lose on Wednesday.
Leicester had dropped points in a 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday, but they remain in pole position after Spurs lost 1-0 at West Ham United, Arsenal crashed 2-1 at home to Swansea City and Liverpool claimed revenge for their League Cup final defeat by crushing City 3-0.
The results kept Leicester three points clear of second-place Tottenham, with Arsenal, booed off at the Emirates Stadium, three points further back and City now 10 points off the pace, albeit with a game in hand.
Manchester United are now level on points with City in fifth place, having played a game more, after Juan Mata’s 83rd-minute free-kick secured a 1-0 home win over Watford.
West Ham’s win over Tottenham, courtesy of Michail Antonio’s seventh-minute header, left them a point off the Champions League places.
Meanwhile, Manager Slaven Bilic has played down West Ham United’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League after Wednesday’s 1-0 Premier League win over London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Victory over Mauricio Pochettino’s men has put the Hammers, who are sixth in the table, a point behind fourth-placed Manchester City, who have a game in hand.
“This season it’s not realistic but there’s nothing wrong with dreaming about it or trying to achieve it,” Bilic told the club’s website.
“I hope we can aim for Champions League in the future, and long-term I don’t have a problem saying it should be part of the plan, what with moving to the new stadium and with all the revenue and the fans and the size of the club.”
West Ham travel to Goodison Park to take on 11th-placed Everton in the league today.