North London derbies are always high-intensity affairs. But, the upcoming Thursday night meeting between neighbours Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur will be even more consequential, given the season-defining stakes involved.
A win would ensure Arsenal’s return to the Champions League for the first time in the post-Arsene Wenger era.
Meanwhile, a victory for Tottenham will bring the Lilywhites within a point of the top four.
The fixture was originally scheduled to take place in January.
But, Arsenal successfully appealed for a postponement, much to the resentment of Tottenham, citing player unavailability because of injuries, covid, and AFCON commitments.
Three and a half months later, the Gunners are finally travelling to enemy territory.
Spurs looking good
While the hosts might think they had a better chance of beating their North London rivals in January because of their depleted squad, Tottenham’s form has actually improved under new manager Antonio Conte after the winter transfer window has closed.
Before a slump in April, Spurs emerged as top four favourites putting together some excellent performances in February and March.
Dejan Kulusevski became an instant hit coming from Juventus.
The Swede’s addition polished up a Tottenham attack that already featured two lethal attackers in Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son.
After dropping points at Anfield last weekend, Tottenham moved further away from the top four.
But the spirited display Tottenham produced against a quadruple chasing Liverpool’s side will certainly give Antonio Conte hope of claiming the maximum points against Arsenal.
Son handed the Londoners a lead at Liverpool, but the home side restored parity through Luis Diaz.
Despite their best efforts, neither team managed to nick the winner.
No new names have appeared on the injury list for Tottenham ahead of the derby.
Japhet Tanganga, Sergio Reguilon, Oliver Skipp, and Matt Doherty will be out of contention once again as they work their way back from their respective fitness issues.
Arsenal in a good place
Arsenal have had their own ups and downs this season as well.
After the opening three matches, they had zero points on the board.
But, Mikel Arteta has overseen a fantastic resurgence at Arsenal that see the Gunners in a comfortable position to finish in the top four for the first time since 2017.
Arsenal picked up a crucial 2-1 win over Leeds a day after Spurs’ 1-1 draw with Liverpool to expand their lead over their Thursday night hosts to four points.
After scoring two goals in ten minutes, it seemed like it was going to be an easy afternoon for the Londoners. But Leeds struck back with a man down and gave the home side a run for their money in the second half.
But Arsenal held on to the lead and secured a four point cushion going into the Tottenham game.
Even if they lose the match, they will be a point ahead with two matches left to play.
Ben White has sat out the last two matches with a hamstring problem.
But sources indicate he will be ready in time to travel with the squad.
Arsenal don’t need to win this game.
Yes, a win will guarantee them Champions League football next season. But, a draw can also help their cause significantly.
If the teams share the spoils, they will still be four points apart.
If Arsenal manage to win any one of their remaining two games, they will go through.
Also, we have seen that Spurs are at their best when they get to play counter attacking football, but they struggle against low blocks.
So, we expect Mikel Arteta to go for a conservative approach and shut down shop at the Tottenham Stadium.
Our North London Derby prediction is a goalless draw.