Saturday 5th March – 12:45 – White Hart Lane
It’s not often that a North London derby has so much at stake, but that will very much be the case when Arsenal visit Tottenham on Saturday lunchtime with both still in with a real shot at the title. The hosts, in second place three points Leicester, lost in the league for the first time since mid January when they fell to a 1-0 defeat to West Ham in midweek. However Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who face Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League on Thursday, remain my tip for the title. Arsenal also lost in midweek as they were beaten 2-1 by Swansea City. It means that the Gunners are now six points off top spot, so could a defeat to their title and local rivals all but end their dreams of lifting the league crown for the first time since 2004? They also face an FA Cup replay against Hull City on Tuesday, but you can be sure Arsene Wenger is putting much more emphasis on this crucial four mile trip across town.
- Midfielder Mousa Dembele is available after missing the last two games with a groin injury, whilst Dele Alli could start after he was only used as a substitute against West Ham because of a minor ankle problem.
- Clinton Njie and Jan Vertonghen are both long-term absentees with knee injuries.
- Pochettino may choose to rotate his full-backs again, with Kyle Walker and Danny Rose set to replace Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies.
- Petr Cech will miss his first league game of the season after suffering a groin injury as he went up for a corner against Swansea.
- David Ospina will come in to replace him, whilst Danny Welbeck may also earn a recall having only played 27 minutes on Wednesday night, with Olivier Giroud without a goal in 10 games.
- Laurent Koscielny (calf) has been ruled out, whilst Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Santi Cazorla (both knee), Jack Wilshere (ankle) and Tomas Rosicky (thigh) remain sidelined for the Gunners.
The Key Battle: Toby Alderweireld vs Danny Welbeck
Since Tottenham snatched Toby Alderweireld from under Southampton’s noses in the summer, the Belgian centre-back has proved crucial to Mauricio Pochettino’s side, starting in all 28 league games so far.
He has earned a huge amount of praise for his performances, which have helped Spurs concede the fewest amount of goals in the league (22). Furthermore, if Fantasy Football points are to be believed (trust me, they hold more value than you think), then Alderweireld has been the league’s best defender this season. It’s hard to disagree.
With Olivier Giroud not scoring in his last 10 games, Danny Welbeck may earn a recall to the starting line-up in order to boost Arsenal’s attacking flair.
The 25 year old has only recently returned to full fitness following a long spell on the sidelines due to a knee injury, but in three Premier League games he has scored twice, including the vital winning goal against fellow title challengers Leicester.
The same again against another rival and suggestions that Welbeck could make the plane for Euro 2016 will only continue to increase.
Tottenham Hotspur wins = 61 / Arsenal wins = 80 / Draws = 49
*According to www.11v11.com
Last Meeting: Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur (8th November 2015)
Substitute Kieran Gibbs rescued a point for Arsenal in a pulsating north London derby against Tottenham. Spurs dominated for long periods and took a deserved first-half lead when Harry Kane broke clear and slotted in. However, Arsenal slowly took control in the second half and equalised when Mesut Ozil provided a deep cross for Gibbs to bundle past Hugo Lloris. [Read the full BBC report]
Mauricio Pochettino: “We expect another tough game against Arsenal and we need full energy to win the game. I don’t feel the squad feels pressure. We have 10 games, a lot of points to play for.”
Arsene Wenger: “It is one of the few derbies where the title is at stake. It is a big one, a very important one. Maybe our confidence has been a bit jaded but it’s like always in football. We do 98% of things right and we have to add the 2% of things that are down to maybe finding back our collective qualities, and even put more effort in.”
The Referee – Michael Oliver
- Last Premier League game: Everton 0-1 West Bromwich Albion (13th February 2016) – 5 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Tottenham Hotspur game: Colchester United 1-4 Tottenham Hotspur (30th January 2016) – 0 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Arsenal game: Arsenal 0-0 Liverpool (24th August 2015) – 5 yellow cards, 0 red cards
2015-16 Record: Games = 27 / Yellow cards = 101 / Red cards = 6 / Penalties = 9
Infographic (courtesy of Sporticos)
All stats from Premier League only and correct up until 04/03/2016
Stat of the Match
Arsenal have taken an unrivalled 10 points from games against the current top four this season, while Spurs have earned eight.
Where Can I Watch It?
The game is being shown live on BT Sport 1 from 12pm, with kick-off 45 minutes later. The highlights will then be on BBC One’s Match of the Day on Saturday evening at 10:20pm.
My Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Arsenal
I sat on the fence with a for both games on that mammoth Super Sunday last month so thought I couldn’t do the same again. This game is really hard to call, but I think Tottenham at home will snatch the win 2-1 and effectively end their local rivals’ hopes of lifting the Premier League trophy in May. The Gunners could take the lead through Mesut Ozil, but Spurs will boost their own dreams of winning a first league title since 1961 with goals from Harry Kane and Kyle Walker.