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Premier League: North London Derby Preview

Arsenal will make a short journey across the city to face Tottenham Hotspur in the North London derby on Thursday. The clash between the arch-rivals is set to be one of the defining moments of the Premier League season as both teams fight for a Champions League spot, with Arsenal leading the race by a four-point margin. A win at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium would all but seal their fourth-place finish, while a loss would likely prolong the tension in both dressing rooms.

Here’s our preview of Thursday’s Premier League fixture between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur: 

 

ARSENAL

Three straight losses to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton in April threatened to derail Arsenal’s campaign, with the Gunners staring at another season without European action. But since then, Mikel Arteta’s men have made a remarkable comeback, with wins over Chelsea, Manchester United and West Ham United to put themselves firmly in contention for the fourth Champions League spot. A 2-1 victory over Leeds United last weekend means that the Gunners are now four points ahead of Tottenham in the table.

A victory on Thursday would seal a Champions League finish for the Gunners for the first time since 2015-16. A loss would not be the end of the world either, with Arsenal facing Newcastle United and Everton to close the season – both fixtures where they have the upper hand. Entry to the Champions League would also allow Arsenal to attract high-profile signings during the transfer window – something the club desperately needs to challenge the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool.

The main selection headache for Mikel Arteta ahead of the fixture is Benjamin White’s availability. The defender has missed the last two games with a tight hamstring, but Arteta would be keen for him to take the field on Thursday as he forms an integral part of the Gunners’ defence. Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney will remain on the sidelines. Arsenal are likely to adopt a back-three to suit the needs of the game similar to their tactics in Chelsea, with Takehiro Tomiyasu and Gabriel joining White at the back. 

 

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

The appointment of Antonio Conte has brought a fresh lease of life for the Spurs, who have risen from ninth in the table to compete for a European spot in the span of four months. Like Arsenal, Tottenham dropped valuable points in April that hurt their Champions League chances – a loss to Brighton and a draw against Brentford, both fixtures which the Lilywhites should have dominated comfortably. A 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday would boost their spirits as they gear up for the North London derby.

Antonio Conte must ensure that Arsenal do not get away with a win on Thursday, as that would effectively end their top-four pursuit. Tottenham have kept just two clean sheets since the start of April, and their defensive record at home is even worse. The club is clearly dependent on scoring goals, with the duo of Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min doing much of the work. While Spurs will find it hard to contain Arsenal’s attacks, they certainly have the tactics to catch the Gunners by surprise in counter-attacks.

Similar to Arsenal, Tottenham are likely to adopt a 3-4-3 lineup with Harry Kane, Dejan Kulusevski and Son Heung-Min leading the attack. Ben Davies has put up his best performance of the season in the game against Liverpool, and Mikel Arteta will count on him once again to lead the club at the back. There are no fresh injury concerns in Arsenal’s camp, with Sergio Reguilon, Japhet Tanganga, Oliver Skipp and Matt Doherty all missing out for Thursday’s fixture as well.

 

HEAD TO HEAD

The North London derby is considered to be one of the fiercest rivalries in the Premier League, with fans of both clubs considering the other side to be their main rivals. Arsenal and Tottenham have faced off in 204 games across all competitions, with the Gunners holding the upper hand with 84 wins. The Lilywhites have won 66 fixtures, with 54 games ending in a draw.

Arsenal won the reverse fixture 3-1 in September at the Emirates Stadium, with Emile Smith Rowe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka scoring for the hosts in the first half before Son Heung-Min scored for Tottenham in the second half. Spurs will enter the match with confidence as they remain unbeaten at home in the last seven North London derby games – a record they last achieved only in the 60s.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT

Both teams have a lot to play for on Thursday, with the fourth Champions League spot still up for grabs. The burden of the historic rivalry between the clubs is likely to increase stress among players, and both sides could adopt a more conservative approach to the game rather than take risks. While Arsenal are better placed mentally owing to their form, Tottenham will count on the support of their fans to boost their morale.

Expect the game to end in a tightly contested draw with goals from both sides.

Arsenal Predicted XI: Aaron Ramsdale, Benjamin White, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Gabriel, Rob Holding, Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny, Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, Eddie Nketiah.

Tottenham Hotspurs Predicted XI:  Hugo Lloris, Cristian Romero, Eric Dier, Ben Davies, Emerson, Rodrigo Bentancur, Pierre-Emerick Hojbjerg, Ryan Sessegnon, Dejan Kulusevski, Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min.

When: Friday, 13th May, 12:15 AM IST

Where: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London.

Where to Watch: All Premier League fixtures will be featured on Disney+ Hotstar. Select matches will be telecasted live on Star Sports and Star Sports Select Channels.

 

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