Tottenham Hotspur - Arsenal Preview: Will Pochettino's men come good for the biggest North-London Derby in years?

Spurs aiming to crush Arsenal’s league ambitions, knowing a win will put them six points ahead of their arch-rivals and briefly on the Premier League perch.

Tottenham Hotspur - Arsenal Preview: Will Pochettino's men come good for the biggest North-London Derby in years?
(photo: vavel)

In what is being billed as the biggest and most important North London Derby since Tottenham Hotspur's 1991 FA Cup semi-final victory at Wembley, they head into the game against Arsenal battling to keep the pace with leaders Leicester City.

The North London rivals both failed to capitalise on a Leicester draw in midweek, losing to West Ham and Swansea City respectively. However, Spurs' superior goal difference over their title rivals means that a win over the Gunners would see them sit at the league summit, at least until the evening when Leicester travel to Watford.

With Spurs riding a wave over recent weeks, Wednesday night’s defeat at Upton Park stalled a run of form that had seen them win their six previous league games. Though Arsenal have suffered three straight losses in all competitions, winning only two of their previous eight in the league, the form book will be thrown out the of window ahead of this special derby.

Cech got injured against Swansea on Wednesday (photo: getty)
Cech got injured against Swansea on Wednesday (photo: getty)

Team News

Spurs head-coach Mauricio Pochettino looks set to shuffle the pack, with regular Premier League full-backs Kyle Walker and Danny Rose replacing Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies. Moussa Dembele has been out for a fortnight with a groin injury and could replace Ryan Mason in midfield, alongside teenager Dele Alli, the youngster appearing as a substitute against the Hammers.

Jan Vertonghen remains side-lined, meaning his Belgian counterpart Toby Alderwereld will once again be partnered at the back by Kevin Wimmer, the Austrian impressing in recent weeks.

Petr Cech is the most high profile Arsenal absentee. The goalkeeper is set to spend four weeks on the side-lines after damaging his calf sprinting back from a corner in the loss to Swansea. David Ospina will replace him in goal. Like Cech, centre-back Laurent Koscielny is also suffering with a calf issue and will miss the trip to White Hart Lane

The managers

Keen to bounce back after the defeat to West Ham, Mauricio Pochettino told Spurs TV, “It’s true we had some difficulties but we’ll improve from that and we’ll be ready for tomorrow.”

An advocate of trusting his players, the head-coach added, “We don’t need to speak too much. The players know what it means.”

After almost two decades in charge of the Gunners, Arsene Wenger recognises the importance of this North London Derby, telling reporters at his pre-match press-conference, “It is hard to predict what will happen tomorrow. It is one of the few derbies where the title is at stake.”

Derby day trivia

Spurs have lost just once in their last seven Premier League home games against Arsenal. All four of their wins have been via 2-1 scorelines.

It has been almost 21 years and precisely 7600 days since Tottenham last finished above their strongest rivals in the league. A win would put them six points clear with nine games to go.

Since the Premier League began in 1992, the White Hart Lane club have spent just 33 days at the top of league. In stark contrast, current leaders Leicester have spent almost 70 days at the top this season alone.

North London pride at stake

Whilst Tottenham have not been this high in the top division at this stage since 1985, a win would once again boost supporter’s dreams of a first league title since 1961. And though a win would also serve as a belated birthday present to Mauricio Pochettino – the Argentine turning 44 on Wednesday night – the cool coach, who remains coy on the subject of the title, will urge both the team and the fans to believe. There is a growing sense that the winds are changing in North London, and a victory over Arsenal could provide the catalyst that sparks Spurs’ final pursuit, in what has been a special season so far for the Lilywhites.