North London derbies are feisty affairs at the best of times but with Tottenham in the midst of a mini-slump and Arsenal – after winning in midweek – now just four points behind them, this one has an extra edge.
In terms of bragging rights, this one is the season’s decider, with the league game at the Emirates being won by the Gunners, while a few weeks later Spurs were victorious in a Carabao Cup game. So in that respect it’s all to play for, but more importantly it’s a win for Arsenal that would take them to within a point of their bitterest rivals as the season approaches crunch time.
For Spurs, the return to fitness of Harry Kane hasn’t had the desired effect and, ironically, after a month’s absence in which they coped admirably without him, since his return to the starting XI the Lilywhites have lost twice – both in disappointing circumstances.
TOP TIP! – Spurs & Arsenal to draw 2-2 @ +1200 / Aubameyang as anytime scorer @ +150
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At the weekend, an ill-tempered encounter at Turf Moor saw them lose 2-1 to Burnley and their manager Mauricio Pochettino hit with an FA charge for an end-of-game alteration with referee Mike Dean, while in midweek another London derby saw them go down 2-0 at Chelsea, following a listless performance and a bizarre own goal from Kieran Trippier.
What looked to be a challenge for the top spot has, in two games, turned into battle to hold on to third place, with their north London rivals waiting to pounce.
For Arsenal however, things have improved immeasurably, and three Premier league wins on the bounce, culminating in an emphatic 5-1 thumping of AFC Bournemouth in midweek, have raised the spirits at the Emirates after what has been a roller-coaster first season for Unai Emery.
While the previous two wins were also against modest opposition in Huddersfield and Southampton, form and momentum can never be ignored in the Premier League, and the Gunners will head to Wembley bursting full of belief and confidence.
We expect a typical London derby, one full of fire and brimstone, but there will be a lot of pressure on Spurs to both arrest this poor run of form and to consolidate their position in third rather than surrender more ground. So, Pochettino will stick with Kane in the hope that two games will have edged him closer to match fitness but will also look to use his squad with a Champions League away tie with Borussia Dortmund just around the corner.
Arsenal will approach this with much less baggage and will look to their in-form pairing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette to further unsettle Spurs’ shaky defence, and we think they will have some joy.
Spurs, as hard as they will try to shut it out, will have one eye on the Dortmund game and we can see Aubameyang, in particular, having a good afternoon in Wembley’s open spaces. Whether they have quite enough however to see off Spurs on their own (temporary) patch is another matter though, and so we are going for a bruising 2-2 +1200 with 188bet with Aubaneyang as anytime goalscorer +150 with 888sport.
TOP TIP! – Mane as first goalscorer @ +500 / Liverpool to win 2-1 @ +800
The midweek programme saw emphatic win for both Merseyside teams, with Liverpool’s mini-blip ending with a 5-0 hammering of Watford while the previous night the Toffees won 3-0 away at lowly Cardiff.
What won’t be lost on anyone on Merseyside though is that Everton will kick off against their biggest rivals a whopping 33 points behind – something that hasn’t gone down at all well in the blue half, especially as with new billionaire owners they were supposed to now be mixing it with the top six.
Instead, with manager Marco Silva – who the club went to great lengths to get on board – struggling to make his mark, they are languishing in midtable with no prospect of challenging for the Europa League places. One big win in Cardiff won’t disguise what a disappointing season it has been, and there is a feeling that their long-suffering supporters are owed a performance. So, what better way to deliver this than to throw a spanner in the works of the Reds’ title aspirations.
Liverpool will, of course, be aware of the banana-skin potential of this one, and only narrowly beat the Toffees in the reverse fixture courtesy of a last-minute fluke by Origi after a rick by Jordan Pickford, but in true local derby fashion we can see this being much tighter than the league table suggests.
For the visitors, the timely return to form of Sadio Mane is a major boost – he scored twice against Watford – and so too the return to the side of the influential Virgil van Dyck. So it really is difficult to see past an away win, even though it will likely be by just the odd goal.
We are going for Mane to continue his hot streak with the opening goal +500 with Bet365 but for Everton to make like difficult for Liverpool. We still think the Reds will edge it though, and we predict 2—1 +800 with Bet365.
TOP TIP! – Man City to win 3-1 @ +1100 / Aguero to score a hat-trick @ +800
After their midweek humbling at the Emirates, a visit by Manchester City is probably the last thing Eddie Howe’s men need right now but, like it not, it’s the title-chasing Citizens up next for the Cherries.
For City, their midweek game was of the low-key variety, and it took a second-half Sergio Aguero penalty to see off the challenge of a very spirited and stubborn West Ham, but it was enough to keep the pressure very much on leaders, Liverpool. And with this game at the Vitality Stadium kicking off 24 hours before the Merseyside derby, this also offers City the chance to go back to the top of the Premier League.
Given that the Reds were nine points clear at one point, the psychological impact of City again reaching the summit may be significant; another sub-plot to a game that Guardiola will see as key to their season.
With the Cherries still reeling from the thumping at the Emirates, we can see this being a very tricky afternoon for Howe’s men, especially if City are able to get their noses ahead early on, but in their favour is some pretty good home form.
For those who enjoy an outrageous gamble a 2-1 home win is on offer at an incredible +4000 , but the pragmatic punter will be more drawn to 3-1 City, on offer with Bet365 at +1100 . Consider also the prospect of an Aguero hat-trick +800 with BetVictor.
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