For all intents and purposes, there are only four teams left standing in the fight to capture the Premier League crown this year. Three of the four will qualify automatically for the Champions League next year, while the fourth will have to go through a home-and-home series with another team from across Europe just to get into the main portion of the competition.
If those were the only factors at hand on Saturday, Premier League fans would be in for a heck of a match. However, this isn't just any fixture on Saturday morning. This is the North London Derby. Arsenal and Tottenham absolutely despise each other, and the fact that they enter this week separated by just three points in the standings and right in the thick of the championship fight will make this arguably the fiercest match of the season in England.
By all rights, Arsenal is still considered the greater of these two teams, though the first 27 matches of the season don't necessarily tell that tale. Tottenham is second in the league in terms of goals per match, and it has the best goal differential in England's top tier at +28. The Gunners might have a stellar 7-3-4 record on the road this year and a +7 goal differential to go with it, but they're three points and 11 goals in differential back of the hated Spurs.
Of course, the argument could be made that Arsene Wenger has deserved a bit of luck this season on the injury front. Arsenal hasn't really had a full side all season long, and the injury list is still extensive. Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tomas Rosicky, Carl Jenkinson and Santiago Cazorla would all have been first-team selections for this match in all likelihood, and they certainly all would've been on the reserve list otherwise, but they're all hurt and won't make the short trip to White Hart Lane.
Tottenham meanwhile, has stayed relatively healthy, and the only major first-team concern is to Thomas Carroll. Carroll has a minor Achilles injury, and though he'll likely sit out against West Ham midweek, he expects to be in the Starting XI on Saturday in the biggest match of the season.
We're certainly concerned with the way Arsenal has played of late. The usually silent Petr Cech was very vocal after Sunday's shocking 3-2 loss at Manchester United, a match which the Gunners were on the back foot for basically the full 90 minutes. That's three straight bad results for Arsenal, and if not for a late show against Leicester City on Valentine's Day, we'd be talking about Wenger feeling some heat for losing out on a real opportunity to win a championship this year.
Meanwhile, things are really starting to come together for Tottenham. Harry Kane still isn't at his best from a scoring perspective, but he's still innovative and is getting plenty of help. Dele Alli has been in fantastic form out of the midfield, and Danny Rose's strike to beat Swansea City over the weekend could end up paying dividends here as well in a match which is a de facto pick 'em according to the oddsmakers.
These two teams have met twice this year, though the only meeting at White Hart Lane in the Capital One Cup wasn't all that important to either side since both played largely reserve teams.
Back at the Emirates though, these two teams played a gritty match which was deserving of a point a side as was the case. Harry Kane's goal on the half hour was cancelled out by Kieran Gibbs who slotted one home in the 77th. Arsenal was disappointed to only get a point from that duel, but all of the stats and all of the possession suggest a duel which was incredibly close.
Don't be surprised if Arsenal feels forced to go for it in this one. Especially if the midweek matches don't go well for these two, there could be a strong desire for the Gunners to go forward, as this is their best opportunity to erase that gap between these two teams once and for all with just 11 total fixtures left to play starting the week.
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