2nd March 2013
This is a perfect opportunity for Tottenham to prove they have become the main force in North London and at the same time virtually secure a top 4 finish. Arsenal’s Champions League hopes were revived thanks to three successive Premier League victories, but it is at White Hart Lane that the Gunners need to show they are serious top 4 contenders.
It’s been several years now that Spurs have been challenging their arch rivals for North London supremacy, but they have yet to finish a league campaign above Arsenal. After coming short by just one point last term, they now have an excellent chance to finally make things right. Tottenham go into this match four points clear of their next opponents and they have only one man to thank for it. Even with Jermain Defoe sidelined through injury and Emmanuel Adebayor a mere spectator in recent games, Spurs somehow managed to keep their results respectable, with Gareth Bale’s magnificent form the main reason. The Welshman has clearly profited from being allowed to roam the field, and this has seen him score a total of eight goals in last six matches. He is already earning comparisons with superstars Messi and Ronaldo, and a match-winning performance in the North London derby would be a perfect way to affirm his new status. Andre Villas-Boas may not need a proven goalscorer when Bale is in the side, but he was certainly happy to see Jermain Defoe resume full training after recovering from injury. The diminutive striker is set to start on the bench though, with Clint Dempsey, Tom Huddlestone, Younes Kaboul and Sandro out injured.
As much as Arsenal have failed to play to their potential over the last seven or eight years, the Gunners never missed out on a top 4 finish in the Premier League during that period. Champions League qualification appears to be the only way for Arsene Wenger’s side to somewhat make amends for all the disappointments, which makes this match extremely important for the still number one side in North London. As things stand, Arsenal have a better chance of catching Chelsea than Tottenham, but a good result at White Hart Lane is a must if they are to keep their top 4 hopes alive. The Gunners may have won their last three league fixtures, recording narrow wins over Stoke, Sunderland and Villa, but FA Cup and Champions League defeats to Blackburn and Bayern Munich respectively certainly had a negative effect on the players’ confidence. Arsene Wenger is hoping Abou Diaby will recover in time to face Tottenham, but Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs are definitely out.
North London derbies are always difficult to predict, but with both sides having won their last three league games, we should see an entertaining encounter at White Hart Lane. Tottenham may be slight favourites at the moment, but my advice is to bet on over 2.5 goals rather than backing any of the two sides to win.
Verdict: Over 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 7/10