An ascendent Tottenham Hotspur will hope to end a strong couple of weeks with a Premier League victory over local rivals Arsenal in the North London derby at Wembley on Saturday (12:30 GMT, live on BT Sport).
Spurs twice battled back to secure a 2-2 draw away to Liverpool last weekend in a match full of incident and controversy. Victor Wanyama and Harry Kane scored as Liverpool’s early and late go-ahead goals were equalised by a stunning strike and a calm penalty respectively.
It was the performance of the officials that dominated the post-match discourse but that somewhat masked just how impressive Spurs were during the second half. They dominated possession and territory, and moved the ball incisively to put the Liverpool defence under pressure and eventually create the openings they needed to get a point.
It was the second match in a trio of fixtures that always looked crucial to Tottenham’s hopes of seriously competing for a top-four place. The win over Manchester United in the first of them was an excellent start, the point at Anfield a good one, while victory on Saturday would make for a near-perfect return. With just a point separating them from the top four, and Chelsea struggling for form ahead of them, Spurs are still very much in the race.
Arsenal got a good result of their own against Merseyside opposition last weekend, thrashing Everton 5-1 at the Emirates. Three goals inside the opening 20 minutes sent them on their way to a dominant victory in which Aaron Ramsey scored a hat-trick and their two debut starters made an immediate impact. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored his first goal in Arsenal colours, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan provided three assists in an impressive display.
It was a strong performance and one that hinted at the attacking possibilities provided by the new signings. Slick interchanges abounded, while the threat of Aubameyang’s searing pace in behind helped open up more space for those behind him to work in. But it is also worth noting that the opponents were Everton, a team Arsenal had earlier thrashed 5-2 away from home, and that Wenger’s side have been strong at the Emirates all season.
It is on their travels that Arsenal have struggled, picking up just 13 points from 13 matches. That is eight points less than any of the other top six sides and a record that is also bettered by those of Burnley, Leicester and Watford. Unsurprisingly, they have not enjoyed good results away to fellow top-four contenders, with comprehensive defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City at least given some relief by a solid draw away at Chelsea.
It is that record that has contributed to Arsenal’s current standing of sixth in the Premier League, four points shy of Spurs and five away from the top four. As they stand, those gaps are far from insurmountable; defeat this weekend would, though, make a top-four finish highly unlikely.
The Gunners have had the advantage of a full week of rest and preparation in the build-up to the derby, although Spurs were able to leave out the majority of their regular starters in their comfortable 2-0 victory over Newport County on Wednesday in the replay of their FA Cup fourth round tie. The game also saw a welcome return for defender Toby Alderweireld.
With Juventus to come on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 encounter, there is a possibility that Mauricio Pochettino will again seek to rotate his starting XI this weekend. While it is unlikely a key attacking player such as Kane – who has scored at home to Arsenal in each of the last three seasons – or Christian Eriksen will be left out, there could be changes in midfield and in the full-back positions.
Even so, Spurs should still have the edge over their neighbours. They have defeated Arsenal on home soil in two of the last three seasons, are a more coherent and balanced side and come into the match steeled by a pair of strong performances against other top-four challengers. A home win therefore appears the most likely outcome.
Our Preview’s Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal Betting Tips Verdict
The Spurs v Arsenal betting tips for this match preview, at the pick of the odds from the top rated UK online bookmakers, are: