The second north London derby of the season will be played at White Hart Lane on Sunday, with everything to play for between Tottenham and Arsenal. The pair are locked in a battle with Chelsea, Everton and maybe even Liverpool in the race for a top-four finish. With the race for Champions League qualification as tight as ever, would a win for one of the sides effectively end the other’s chances?
If Tottenham win
Tottenham are third in the table ahead of the weekend’s game and certainly the form team of the two. With Gareth Bale in stunning form and Andre Villas-Boas seemingly getting the best out of his talented squad, Spurs look more than likely to get a place in the top four this season.
That said, Spurs were in a similar position this time last season, with the media even hailed the side as potential title challengers. A humbling 5-2 defeat at the Emirates in February ended all that, with Harry Redknapp’s side going on a spiral of bad form that cost them a place at Europe’s top table.
Even earlier this season Spurs went into the reverse fixture at the Emirates as the side on top, but a mental block overcame them and another 5-2 defeat was the result. If Tottenham are to win this game they have got to believe in themselves, take the game to their opponents and realise that they are just as good, and better, than Arsenal.
If Spurs were to win the game it would open up a seven-point gap between the sides, with ten games remaining. If Chelsea beat West Brom on Saturday, as you might assume they will, the Gunners would suddenly be five points adrift of fourth and have a lot of work to do.
If Arsenal win
Much has been made of Arsenal’s downturn in form; inconsistency throughout 2012-13 was compounded in the week from hell with home defeats to Blackburn in the FA Cup and Bayern Munich in the Champions League recently. However, a match-up against their old rivals, who they have predominantly had the better of in recent times, could be the answer to get them back on track.
Arsene Wenger will respect the quality of the Spurs side, but if the visitors can record a victory it will be a real bonus for the players and fans. Suddenly the Gunners have the chance of moving into the top four, and would only be one point behind Spurs. With a strong end of season run assuring a top-four place last season, victory at White Hart Lane could be the catalyst for a similar finale to this campaign.
Spurs on the other hand, despite all their talent and ability, always seem to have a vulnerability about them mentally. A defeat to Arsenal on Sunday would be hard to take, and teams of old may well have crumbled for the remainder of the season. If the unthinkable does happen for Tottenham, it will be a real measure of how far they have come to finish the campaign strongly.
In a derby match the game could go either way, and the atmosphere is sure to be electric at the weekend. A defeat for either side would not necessary be the end of their Champions League ambitions, but a win for either would be a real springboard towards a top-four finish.