Both Arsenal and Spurs have stumbled their way through the Premier League season so far, mixing solid performances with inept displays which leaves them trailing Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, Meaning once again the North London Derby may serve as a Champions League place play-off.
That of course downplays the history of the fixture, and what should be a thrilling game of attacking football, but both managers know that this season the results in Emirates and White Hart Lane will be crucial for the fourth spot.
Andre Villas-Boas said this week that Tottenham ‘have to’ finish above their neighbours if they are to expect Champions League football next year while Arsene Wenger says that a result against Spurs will be a big boost for the Gunners.
“The results in the derbies can have a big influence on the Champions League qualifying spot,” he said. “They are always a team who are fighting with us now and what’s important in the end is consistency.”
“My chairman knows how much that game means to me and everybody at the club. I’ve played these derbies for 16 years now so at least I understand the important of it.”
Last season Spurs came into this fixture in fine form and took a 2-0 before being dismantled by Wenger’s men from the 40th minute and losing 5-2 – with Villas-Boas already under pressure from the fans, he can’t afford anything like that level of performance from his players.
But so far his Spurs side have yet to click, and depend wholly on the spark of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon for creativity.
Arsenal meanwhile have an array of attacking options who can make the difference, Santi Cazorla has been a thorn in the side of every team he has faces and Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott offer a number of options in attack.
Again though, Arsenal’s defence has prevented them from seeing out games in which they are the better team and it is them who have been surrrendiering two goal leads recently against Fulham and Schalke.
If Bale can find the form that made him the envy of Europe last season, it will be a long afternoon for the Arsenal back four.
Arsenal are without Gervinho, Kieran Gibbs, Abou Diaby, and Tomas Rosicky but more importantly for the Gunners is the fact that Mikel Arteta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey, Wojciech Szczesny and Theo Walcott all faced fitness tests in training on Friday.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Moussa Dembélé, Scott Parker and Younes Kaboul all miss out while Kyle Walker is unlikely to recover from his hamstring injury in time. Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe are both carrying hamstring injuries which may keep them out.
Ones to watch
The Spaniard has been receiving most of the plaudits since arriving at Arsenal and against the stifled midfield pair of Tom Huddlestone and Sandro he could make himself even a firmer crowd favourite at the Emirates.
With Spurs yet to look coherent under AVB, an in form Bale is their best chance of creating chances and with Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen in the Arsenal full back spots he may have a big say in the outcome of this game.
Both sides have gifted opposition goals so far this season, so uwith tensions and passions high it is unlikely to be a game of defensive solidity and a two or three goal a piece draw could be on the cards.