North London derby lowdown: Dilemmas, priorities, predictions

Ahead of a vital north London derby on Super Sunday, live on Sky Sports Premier League, the Pitch to Post Preview show provides a detailed lowdown.

After both sides earned healthy first-leg leads on Thursday in the Europa League last 16 – Arsenal won 3-1 at Olympiakos while Spurs beat Dinamo Zagreb 2-0 at home – attention now turns to the Premier League and the race for European spots.

Spurs have won their last three in the Premier League, and sit five points off fourth with a game in hand, while Arsenal are seven points further behind in 10th place, seemingly prioritising a Europa League victory that would in-turn give them Champions League football next season.

Peter Smith was joined by football writers Ron Walker and Ben Grounds to run through all the big talking points ahead of Super Sunday.

Who needs the win more? What are the selection dilemmas? And predictions, please!

Sunday 14th March 4:00pm

Kick off 4:30pm

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Keeping Bale fresh is key

Gareth Bale celebrates his goal


Jose Mourinho says he would like Gareth Bale to play every minute of every match for Tottenham but admits he must manage the 31-year-old’s workload

Sky Sports’ Ben Grounds on the Pitch to Post podcast:

“This form is very much what Spurs fans were hoping for when Bale came back. It’s taken a bit longer than fans expected to get back up to speed, but that shows you just how difficult it was at Real Madrid for him, not just to rediscover his form, but that confidence.

“You saw it on Thursday night, he came off the bench for the last 20 minutes and there was a real arrogance and swagger to his performance.

“Jose’s looking to manage his minutes in this run of form he’s been in. He’s finished 90 minutes just once this season, so Jose is being cautious, but we’re definitely seeing signs of the old Gareth Bale.”

To hear more, download the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Review podcast on your provider

Where do Spurs’ priorities lie?

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We take a look back at some of the most memorable north London derby goals

Sky Sports’ Ben Grounds on the Pitch to Post podcast:

“It’s quite difficult to know where the priority lies for Tottenham – they’re still very much in a shout of finishing in the top four – this resurgence means it’s very much not just Europa League or bust this season.

“If they win their game in hand in the Premier League, they’d be two points behind Chelsea, so it’s very much a case of battling on multiple fronts. They look formidable at the moment.

“Jose made seven changes on Thursday and there is real confidence in this group, there is strength in depth across many areas of the pitch.

“Jose decided not to play (Pierre-Emile) Hojbjerg in the midfield, which some Spurs fans may see as a risk going into a big game, but what we saw was from those seven changes, players like (Erik) Lamela, (Serge) Aurier and Ben Davies looked really hungry.

“If you were to ask which of the two teams this is more important for in a league perspective, you’ve got to say Spurs are very much still within a chance of finishing in the top four.”

To hear more, download the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Review podcast on your provider

Arsenal’s Europa win showed character


Mikel Arteta says he was pleased with Arsenal’s performance against in their win against Olympiakos but is frustrated with how his team concede goals

Sky Sports’ Ron Walker on the Pitch to Post podcast:

“The win showed a bit of backbone, which you could accuse Arsenal of lacking at times this season. They gave away such a cheap goal against Burnley at the weekend, and they did exactly the same at Olympiakos.

“But this time they had Gabriel popping up with a header from a corner, and then (Mohamed) Elneny of all people striding forward to score with a heck of a strike.

“Tactics aside, it takes character, even in an empty stadium at Olympiakos, to turn that momentum around and dig out a win with three away goals to put one foot in the quarter-finals. That Arsenal side could have crumbled, so in terms of character, Mikel Arteta will be very pleased.”

More of the same from Spurs?

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FREE MATCH HIGHLIGHTS: How Spurs beat Arsenal back in December

December’s return fixture saw a classic Jose Mourinho show at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, allowing Arsenal 70 per cent possession but hitting them on the break to earn a 2-0 win in front of 2,000 lucky fans. Will it be more of the same on Sunday?

Sky Sports’ Ben Grounds on the Pitch to Post podcast:

“I think the big difference to that first game is the resurgence of Gareth Bale, and how that has slightly changed the role of (Harry) Kane from earlier in the season.

“You’re now seeing more from Bale, who is occupying the opposition more, allowing Kane to be more of a predator and getting on the end of a few more balls.

“I still think Spurs will go for their preferred formation of 4-2-3-1 and I think Aurier will come in at right-back instead of Matt Doherty. I imagine it will be Hojbjerg and (Tanguy) Ndombele in the midfield.

Harry Kane scored twice for Tottenham in their 2-0 Europa League win over Dinamo Zagreb


Harry Kane should be available for Tottenham on Sunday

“I’ve been really impressed with Lucas Moura in this recent run of form, having gone under the radar with the form of Kane and Bale. (Heung-Min) Son has had to be very selfless in this run of form, providing more chances for team-mates, in fact nobody in the Premier League has provided more chances or assists than Son in the last three Premier League games.

“You’ve got this formidable front three, and Moura picking the ball up in spaces behind, so there’s a really nice balance to the team.

“I’m not sure if it will be a change of approach from December, but the confidence that comes from victory means Spurs should be concentrating on themselves and not on Arsenal.”

To hear more, download the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Review podcast on your provider

Arsenal selection dilemmas: Defence key


This weekend’s north London derby is a bigger game for Tottenham ‘league-wise’ but a win is more important to Arsenal in terms of bragging rights, says David Seaman

Sky Sports’ Ron Walker on the Pitch to Post podcast:

“Thomas Partey was withdrawn after an hour on Thursday, but possibly more to keep him fit for Sunday. How much of an influence can he have at cutting off the supply at source?

“The big selection is in that back line – do they change shape? Do they go to a back three? How do they keep out that Spurs front three? That should be at the front of Arteta’s mind.”

Depth vital if Spurs are to fight on all fronts

Sky Sports’ Ben Grounds on the Pitch to Post podcast:

“With all the talk about Dele Alli and Gareth Bale earlier this season, maybe a less fashionable talking point surrounded who the best centre-back partnership was for Spurs.

“At the start of the season, we saw a lot of Eric Dier used there; he adapted his game , but he has recently come out of the team, and Davinson Sanchez, who was linked with a move away in January, has put together a nice partnership alongside Toby Alderweireld. He hadn’t been playing between October and December, but said it was never his intention to leave Spurs, and that he wanted to knuckle down.

“We’ve seen that a lot with Tottenham this season, players who have been out in the cold, being made to focus on improving upon their game.

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Tottenham meet Arsenal in a crunch group stage clash at the London Masters 2009

“As we speak, it’s Sanchez and Alderweireld who own the shirts, and it’s up to Dier to force his way back into the fold.

“But this was Spurs’ 45th game in all competitions, and if Spurs would have to play another 18 games this season if they are to get to the Europa League final. So at the moment, it’s Sanchez and Alderweireld, but Jose will have to use the whole of his squad if they want that elusive piece of silverware.”

To hear more, download the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Review podcast on your provider

Predictions please!

Ron Walker:

“I think it’s a must-not-lose for Mourinho. A draw, given we are running out of games this season, isn’t a fantastic result. Both sides have a goal in then, but I can’t see either side keeping a clean sheet. So I’ll go for 1-1.”

Ben Grounds:

“This is the Premier League fixture that has the most cases of both sides scoring. I’m expecting some goals, and having beaten Burnley, Fulham and Crystal Palace, I think this is an opportunity for Spurs to beat someone of a slightly higher calibre, in a more high-profile environment. And for Gareth Bale, scoring in north London derby would really signal he is back to his best, and that Spurs are a force to be reckoned with in the run-in.

“We’ve seen so many away wins this season, and I think Spurs just have a little bit too much for Arsenal at the moment.”


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