Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal never need any additional motivation to perform well in the North London Derby, but the tension for Saturday’s edition at White Hart Lane is as high as it has been in years.
With the two sides sitting second and third in the table behind Leicester City, getting points from this match mean more than just bragging rights.
How to watch: 7:45 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Man in the middle: Michael Oliver will be the referee, and that may not be great news for the Gunners. Arsenal is winless (four draws, two losses) in the last six matches during which Oliver has been in charge.
Injury watch: Spurs come into this match pretty healthy as Mousa Dembele and Dele Alli should both be available. The same, however, can’t be said for Arsenal. Keeper Petr Cech will miss the match (and several more after) with a calf injury, as will defender Laurent Koscielny. Add those names to the ones already missing, and you get selection woes for Arsene Wenger.
History, ancient and recent: This will be the 183rd edition of the North London Derby. Arsenal leads the overall series with 78 wins to Spurs’ 55. There have also been 49 draws. In the last five meetings across all competitions, there have been two draws, two Arsenal wins and a Spurs’ triumph.
Kane is able: Tottenham’s Harry Kane has scored three goals in two league matches against Arsenal and has 13 goals in 17 Premier League London derbies.
They said it, part one: “I never understood that. You want to do well because you want to win for yourself and you want to feel that you have given absolutely everything to win. After that, you do not choose who else wins it. Sport is about the guys that deserve it, win it. It’s not the identity that is important. What is important is that you give absolutely your best to be on top of everybody else.” — Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, on whether or not it will be worse for his team if Spurs win the title
They said it, part two: “It’s difficult to know if Arsenal have players with the experience to win the title. Look at what happened to them in their losses against Manchester United and Swansea — and we were able to beat Manchester City away. You never know, football is not an ordinary business. Everything can happen.” — Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, on why his side isn’t too young to win the the EPL title
Analysis: These are two sides headed in opposite directions. Spurs, despite their recent stumble against West Ham, have been playing well of late to stay within touching distance of the Foxes at the top of the table. Arsenal, on the other hand, has dropped three straight matches in all competitions and will have to hope David Ospina can perform somewhere near Cech’s level between the sticks in a massive game.
Spurs have never finished above Arsenal in the table in Wenger’s tenure, but a loss on Saturday would make that scenario very likely this season. There will still be nine league matches to go after this one, but this derby sort of feels like Arsenal’s last stand in the title race. Spurs are the favorites to win at home, and with Alexis Sanchez misfiring and Cech missing in action, I’m not going to argue.
Prediction: Spurs 2, Arsenal 1