Arsenal vs. Tottenham
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Kick off: 5pm
North London enemies, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, renew hostilities at the Emirates on Sunday (today) as both sides look to maintain their rip-roaring Premier League form.
With the Gunners boasting a five-match winning streak and Spurs unbeaten since the first day of the season, this weekend’s derby has the ingredients to conjure up something very special.
Demoralising Champions League defeats aside, things are good for Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger’s men sit level with Manchester City at the summit of the Premier League, having won their last five games by an aggregate score of 16-3.
Indeed, things are good on the domestic front but whether or not they can sustain their title bid this time remains to be seen.
Arsenal are no strangers to leading the table.
In 2013-14, they sat top for 128 days, but eventually finished fourth, seven points behind eventual champions City.
Wenger intimated that injuries scuppered his side’s title hopes that season, and with 10 of the Gunners’ current squad on the treatment table, there are fears of history repeating itself.
For the moment, though, few can doubt that they are serious contenders.
Draped in gold, Arsenal beat Swansea City 3-0 in South Wales last week to strengthen suggestions that they can be first past the post come May.
It was not the scoreline which was impressive – it was the way they won.
If the hallmark of prospective champions is playing poorly and still grinding out victories, then Wenger can cross that quality off the checklist.
They were demolished in a first half which saw Swansea scupper a number of clear-cut chances.
After the break, Arsenal – and, in particular, Mesut Ozil – came to the fore as goals from Olivier Giroud, Laurent Koscielny and Joel Campbell sealed all three points.
They were dressed in gold and navy but it could have been black and white.
It was a robbery of sorts; an immensely flattering victory which papered over the cracks, but their defensive problems were brutally exposed at Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
Wenger called it an “extremely poor” defensive effort.
He was being kind.
Bayern cruised to a 5-1 win at the Allianz Arena, scoring three first-half goals to leave Arsenal teetering on the brink of a group-stage exit.
Two weeks previous, Arsenal had beaten Pep Guardiola’s side 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium.
They will need to summon the same courage on Sunday to get past a Spurs side without a defeat in 10 league outings.
Hours after Arsenal’s humiliation at the Allianz Arena, Tottenham Hotspur’s official Twitter account aimed a dig at their North London rivals by tweeting: “Good morning @FCBayernEN.”
Spurs’ social media team are certainly up for today’s clash and, if recent results are anything to go by, the playing staff should be too.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino was quick to play down the notion of fifth-placed Tottenham – who sit five points behind City and Arsenal – mounting a title challenge, but the truth is that on this form, anything is possible for the Argentine’s troops.
The Lilywhites have not lost since a 1-0 defeat at Manchester United on the opening day of the campaign – a loss which came about due to Kyle Walker’s own goal.
Since then, Pochettino’s side have drawn five and won five.
Arguably their most significant win came in September when they welcomed in-form Manchester City to White Hart Lane and sent them packing with an emphatic 4-1 defeat, with Harry Kane netting his first of the season that day.
It was a victory which reminded the Premier League of how good Spurs can be; not dissimilar to the 5-3 win over champions elect, Chelsea, in January.
On their day, Tottenham are very good, but a hectic schedule has given rise to suggestions that Sunday will not be their day.
The trip to the Emirates comes three days after Spurs – who also played on Monday in beating Aston Villa 3-1 – welcomed Anderlecht to the Lane in Europa League duty on Thursday.
It gives Arsenal an extra day’s recovery period, having played on Wednesday, but Pochettino has already warned his side that their busy period is not a valid excuse.
Should they win, though, the 43-year-old would find it increasingly harder to justify claims that his troops are not in the title race, as the league table says otherwise.
Arsenal possible starting lineup: Cech, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ozil, Sanchez, Campbell, Giroud.
Tottenham possible starting lineup: Lloris, Walker, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Rose, Alli, Dier, Dembele, Eriksen, Lamela, Kane.