Never before has a London derby held as much weight, with second-placed Tottenham squaring off against third-placed Arsenal
By Lester J Wan
With just about ten matches left for Barclays Premier League teams to play, the tension felt by the clubs is palpable.
What new twist awaits in the plot? We take a look at the possibly title-determining North London derby this weekend, and two other key matches.
Tottenham Hotspur VS Arsenal, 5 Mar
Arsenal’s midfield maestro Mesut Oezil will try to catch up with Thierry Henry’s record of the most number of assists in a Premier League season. (Photo: Mitch Gunn / Shutterstock.com)
Will Spurs usurp the champions-elect, the Foxes of Leicester City? Will the Gunners have enough firepower to blaze a trail right to the end?
All this might be determined in one match: the North London derby this Saturday. Never before has a London derby held as much weight, with as much at stake.
Prior to the midweek match against West Ham — and apart from the blip in the match against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup on Feb 21 — Tottenham has been in good form for some time. However, this week will be a true test for Spurs in nerve, perseverance and will. After West Ham and this derby of derbies, Spurs face Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League on Mar 11 (and again on Mar 18).
Nevertheless, one can’t help but feel that manager Mauricio Pochettino’s priority lies in capturing the Premier League title, and making history by claiming Spurs’ first top-flight English league title in 55 years and first domestic trophy in eight years. They last won the League Cup (defeating Chelsea) in 2008.
Arsenal may be a strong team and has shown that it can put up a fight (as seen in the 3-2 loss to Manchester United last Sunday) but it is likely to go down in a blaze of glory to a more efficient Tottenham side that is in hot pursuit of the Premier League title.
Meanwhile, Mesut Oezil, Arsenal’s midfield maestro, is fast closing in on Thierry Henry’s record for the most number of assists in a Premier League season (at 20), and is likely to overtake him soon. But don’t take the spotlight off Danny Welbeck yet, as he may again turn up to score an important goal.
Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal
Watford VS Leicester City, 6 Mar
Late substitute Leonardo Ulloa popped up to score for Leicester against Norwich in the 89th minute last Saturday. Will he be a super-sub again? (Photo: Pal2iyawit / Shutterstock.com)
What does Leicester do when its top three scorers — Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Shinji Okazaki — fail to find the net? Enter Argentinian Leonardo Ulloa, who pops up to score in the 89th minute, last Saturday. Daniel Drinkwater and Andy King were also deputised as goalscorers in the midweek draw against West Brom.
While the Foxes had to slog against relegation-threatened Norwich and West Brom, it seems that the team is not short on firepower. This bodes well for Leicester, who’s still in the driver’s seat.
As for Watford, apart from decent FA Cup performances against lesser opposition, it has been struggling in the Premier League of late. It remains to be seen if its top stars, Troy Deeney and Nigerian Odion Ighalo, can find the net and help the Hornets ascend the table above 10th place. The Foxes should not be stung.
Watford 0-2 Leicester
West Bromwich Albion VS Manchester United, 7 Mar
Jesse Lingard is one of Manchester United’s hot young stars leading a mini-revival. (Photo: Pal2iyawit / Shutterstock.com)
Manchester City will most probably trounce bottom-dweller Aston Villa on Saturday, so city-rivals Manchester United will have to win to keep up in the chase for 4th place and qualification for European competition.
While United has had an unsteady season with its worst performance in a Premier League season so far, it has been having a good run of form across various competitions (FA Cup, Europa League and Premier League) more recently, and morale is high. The only question seems to be how many goals West Brom will concede.
United has shown that even without its top two scorers Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney (both out injured) it still has potent striking talent. Wunderkind Marcus Rashford has burst onto the scene and lit up the English game with four goals in two games. Can he make it six in three?
West Brom eked out a 3-2 win over Crystal Palace last Saturday and a midweek draw against Leicester, but will not relish facing two top-five teams in a week. The squad is likely to be spent after the midweek clash.
West Brom 0-3 Manchester Utd