Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur – Sunday 26th February – Emirates Stadium (15:30)
Much has been said about the sinking ship at Arsenal following humiliating back-to-back losses to AC Milan (4-0) in the Champions League and then Sunderland (2-0) in the fifth round of the FA Cup last week and fellow Londoners and fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur would love nothing more than to torpedo the Gunners’ vessel.
The London clubs face-off against each other this weekend and for the first time in many seasons the pair are ahead of fellow Londoners Chelsea on the log standings. Spurs currently lie in third position with 53 points whilst the home team are a position further back, but ten points adrift of their rivals. Whilst Spurs look well on course to achieve Champions League status next season, the Gunners have a massive fight on their hands to maintain that fourth spot as all of Chelsea, Newcastle and Liverpool are hot on their heels.
The Gunners’ supporters have seen it all before in the past few seasons as their team fade badly towards the end of the season. Of course, it has been six seasons since Arsenal have won any silverware. Arsenal picked up a few injuries over the weekend but have some long-term absentees returning to the frame with the likes of Abou Diaby, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson. I feel that playing their arch-rivals Tottenham is motivation on its own and I am expecting a big performance from the Gunners.
Tottenham Hotspur was disappointing in their last match as they failed to brush aside lower league opposition in Stevenage Borough. Spurs could only muster a 0-0 draw which is hardly the form that they would have wanted to bring into a match of this magnitude. Manager Harry Redknapp blamed the poor performance on the pitch and in fact called it a disaster as it was filled with pot holes. He further added that his team couldn’t play their usual flowing football due to the condition of the pitch.
However, Redknapp had no complaints about going back to White Hart Lane for the second leg as they chase their first FA Cup glory since 1991. Tottenham have really come on in leaps and bounds this season as they are launching a full go at challenging for the title and lay 7 points adrift of log leaders Manchester City and just 5 behind Manchester United. New signing Louis Saha has taken little time to find his feet as he has already opened his account with two well taken goals against Newcastle. However, a big blow for Spurs is the possible loss of his strike partner Emmanuel Adebayor as he suffered a knee injury in training last Friday. Inspirational midfielder Luka Modric and attacking left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto are also doubts for this tie due to injury. Harry Redknapp will still be confident as his star left-winger Gareth Bale and in-form hardworking holding midfielder Scott Parker are definite starters and will be looking to heap more misery on their London rivals.
Spurs will be looking to do the double on the Gunners after beating them 2-1 at White Hart Lane earlier on in the season. There is plenty at stake for both teams and I expect a really passionate English affair but the teams may just cancel each other out.