White Hart Lane, London
April 21, 2011; 12:15 A.M. IST – Live on ESPN
One of the most fascinating local derbies in the world takes place on 20th April at White Hart Lane. Spurs have not lost at home since last August, whereas the Gunners are unbeaten on the road in 2011. These EPL performances give us a clear picture where these two sides stand, when two north London powerhouses takes on each other. The reverse fixture produced one of the most enjoyable nights in one half of North London, as a spirited Spurs side came from two goals down at half time to achieve a 2-3 win away at Emirates.
Last time when Arsenal visited the Lane, Spurs was in similar kind of situation. The Lilywhites were fighting for a spot in Champions league, with similar kinds of tough matches stacked up one after the other. Their heroic run in the Champion’s league was ended at the hands of Spanish giants Real Madrid last week, similar to what happened in last season’s FA cup semi finals against Portsmouth. Spurs showed in their recent outings that they are back to their free flowing attacking best following a slump in March. Last year, they overcame their barriers starting with a memorable win against their capital rivals, which in-turn gave them confidence for the remaining battles. Can they repeat their heroics again?
Arsenal on the other hand suffer from low confidence after a dramatic last few minutes against Liverpool. The title is looking a distant dream for them, Chelsea are right on their toes, and a defeat will put their season in jeopardy. A double loss to their North London neighbours will be the tipping point for many gooners. They are confident about their team’s chances, as Arsenal hold the upper hand against Spurs in recent history, coupled with their away record, which is best in EPL this season.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The team news is very promising for Spurs, as their regulars are back in action after a break, and they have options available on bench as well. Gomes on his day can be in god mode, and at the same time he will make some howlers as well. Corluka’s ankle is still susceptible after that horrific tackle inflicted by former gunner Flamini. He is expected to start at RB if he is fit, otherwise Kaboul will fill in that position. Gallas, Dawson and Assou-Ekotto are automatic choice in the team sheet. The return to fitness and form of Huddlestone is a huge boost, as he adds another dimension to the Spurs midfield; it will be little bit unfair on Sandro, who has deputized well in his absence. It will be toss-up between the two, and it remains to be seen whether Harry opts for Sandro, in order to nullify Fabregas’ presence. PFA award winner Bale and Lennon causes havoc in opposition defenses with their pace and trickery; the former will be eager to prove his critics wrong once again in this high octane clash. Modric had a wonderful season so far, and he has been instrumental in threading the spurs magic all over Europe along with top goalscorer Van Der Vaart. These two have created chance after chance while combining well with the wingers, and it remains to be seen whether Spurs’ strikers will convert those chances or not. Peter Crouch will replace Pavlychenko in the starting line-up after his European suspension. He had taken the fans support after a brilliant display against Stoke, and he will be trying to build upon that performance.
Probable starting Line-up: Gomes, Corluka, Gallas, Dawson, Asou-Ekotto, Lennon, Huddlestone, Modric, Bale, Van DerVaart, Crouch
Szczesny, Djourou and Song played in the weekend’s draw against Liverpool, and are expected to start in the North London Derby. The main area of concern is the RB slot; even though Sagna remains doubtful for the trip, it remains to be seen whether he will be able to play his part at WHL, otherwise Eboue will continue to fill in for him. He has done enough damage to Arsenal’s title hopes already, and a torrid time awaits him at WHL against a Spurs side which loves to attack through wings. The Djourou-Koscielny combo will play, as Vermalean is no way near to fitness. Clichy will complete the back four. Song is all set to replace Diaby in the supporting role to provide much needed steel for Wilshere and Fabregas. Nasri will start from left flank, and there will be a toss-up between Arshavin and Walcott for the other flank; Walcott’s pace and better defensive capabilities, when compared to Arshavin’s, is expected to give him the nod. Van Persie is the club’s torch bearer in front of the post and he is all set to start, limiting Bendtner and Chamakh to bench roles. Bendtner is not that effective in the wing role, and he is not at all suited there. The one similarity both teams’ have shown is that they are experts at blowing chances.
Probable starting Line-up: Szczesny, Eboue, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Fabregas, Nasri, Walcott, Van Persie
TheHardTackle’s PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Gareth Bale (Tottenham)
PFA player of the year Winner Bale has been one of the most sought after player in Europe, and he has shown his all round capabilities time and again. Usually teams tend to double upon him to nullify the threat, and yet he is able to get the better of them with his surging runs and end product which is second to none.
Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal)
The youngster has stepped up his plate this season and has been impressive. He is expected to be a sensation in the future, and the game will provide him with one of the difficult tests of his career. As the Spurs game play includes dangerous crosses from wings, pull backs and scorching long rangers, he needs to put up a wall to block the raids.
Tottenham Hotspurs 2 – 1 Arsenal
A win for Spurs will take them level on points with Citeh, and they will be fighting tooth and neck to taste Champion’s League football again. Arsenal on the other hand come with a low morale, which will be a huge factor considering the importance of this fixture.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST
– Joseph George