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  • Tottenham v Arsenal preview

Nothing on the line - except everything - for Arsenal

ESPN staff
March 1, 2013
Gareth Bale had a stellar February, can he carry his unbelievable form into March? © PA Photos
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This North London derby is nicely poised with both sides' seasons potentially hinging on the outcome, not to mention a certain French manager's job.

Tottenham went up to third with their victory over West Ham on Tuesday night and sit four points ahead of Arsenal and two above Chelsea. The Gunners are in as much turmoil as has been known under Arsene Wenger as their seven-year trophy drought will almost certainly stretch to an eighth by the end of this season, actually make that by the end of March.

For the Gunners, 2012/13 is no longer about trophies, it is about the future - even if the fans must be sick of hearing it. Despite some former players' opinions, Wenger needs to be very much a part of that but a nasty North London derby result would be a further dart for his detractors to throw at him.

With both sides seeking the war chest of Champions League qualification, the stakes will be high at White Hart Lane but undoubtedly so will the quality of football.

Form

Tottenham are on an 11-game unbeaten streak in the Premier League with their 3-2 victory at Upton Park highlighting their resilience as they came back from 2-1 down in the second half.

On top of that Spurs have only lost one of their last seven league games at the Lane against Arsenal, so if muscle memory were affected by surroundings then Andre Villas-Boas' men will be gliding past their opponents on Sunday.

That might be a far-fetched notion but the importance of being at home should not be underestimated in this fixture.

The last two derbies have been won handsomely by Arsenal, by a scoreline of 5-2 on each occasion, yet both were played at Emirates Stadium.

Team news

The man Arsene Wenger would most likely have asked to mark Gareth Bale is Bacary Sagna, yet he out of the tie with a knee injury, so too is fellow full-back Kieran Gibbs meaning Nacho Monreal will continue at left-back.

Midfielder Abou Diaby has a calf strain and his chances of making the tie were rated by Wenger as 50-50 on Thursday.

For Spurs, Clint Dempsey is a week away from a return to action due to a calf complaint and Jermain Defoe is still out with a foot injury. Tom Huddlestone is also on the treatment table with a knee injury.

Head-to-head battles

  • Gareth Bale v Santi Cazorla

    The free-scoring midfielders will have a big say in the outcome of this game

  • Scott Parker v Mikel Arteta

    Counter-attacks yield goals and these two will battle to provide those breakouts

  • Emmanuel Adebayor v Olivier Giroud

    The strikers' brief is simple; don't mess up if handed a golden opportunity

One to watch

In the history of no-brainers this one must be pushing for top spot. Gareth Bale was the talk of world football in February and word may reach far-flung parts of the cosmos by the end of March.

This past week the Welshman has had to bat away comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi after turning in stunning performance after stunning performance, and that's before you even start talking about his goals.

Of Spurs' last ten goals, he has scored eight and most of them were goal-of-the-season candidates. For the sake of balance, and in case you missed them as well, we would like to state that there are ten other team-mates alongside Bale in Tottenham's team.

Key battle

"It's getting to the stage where he [Bale] is almost unplayable," said Norwich manager Chris Hughton this week. With that in mind we are not sure whether there can be a key battle between Bale and anyone else. It's more just two players playing near each other wearing different coloured shirts.

Yet Santi Cazorla is no bad player himself and has quietly, compared to Bale, been going about his business for the Gunners. The 28-year-old Spaniard has scored all his team's past three goals and his Premier League tally stands at 11 goals in 27 matches, unusually for an Arsenal player he even, on occasion, scores with his head.

Prediction and bet

A 4-4 draw, as happened in 2008, is priced at 150/1 and might be worth a punt as this game has goals in it. You are spoilt for choice in terms of picking goalscorers but choosing Bale to net at anytime is at evens and still looks like a sure-fire way to double your money.

Lewis Holtby showed his ability from distance when he cracked the post against Lyon and is a 3/1 option at anytime. We think, being sensible, Spurs will be held to a 2-2 draw and that carries odds of 10/1 with bet365.

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