What a game:
- the last derby at Highbury,
- Tottenham are looking for their 50th win over their neighbours,
- they want to keep Champions League qualification within their own hands,
- they are eager for three points to increase their lead to seven points,
- they need a point to be certain of European football next year and to maintain their four point lead over Arsenal
- they want to end their seeming inability to win against the top teams
- they want to win at Highbury for the first time since 1993 (3-1 win).
Spurs have had a much better season where injuries have been concerned but they have struck at a most inopportune time and taken out key players. King is out and now Jenas is also injured. There are still doubts over Gardner, Mido, Lennon and Tainio.
Against United, Spurs gave a good team performance but made individual mistakes and United used all their experience and punished them. Unfortunately, against the top teams this season, Spurs have committed a number of these errors and they have proved costly. Mistakes cost goals in both games against United, against Arsenal at White Hart Lane and at Stamford Bridge. Mistakes against lower teams can be recovered and Spurs have made other teams pay for their blunders but Spurs have made a high proportion of errors in these crucial games. This is an area where Spurs must improve. In a season which has shown vast improvement, they have competed against the top teams but as yet have not been able to produce a win against United, Chelsea, Liverpool or Arsenal. To achieve that would show that they are stepping up into the top flight.
Martin Jol will presumably keep the same back four with Davenport to play alongside Dawson. Dawson was outstanding on Monday against United, being fully committed and involved in everything while Davenport was very assured beside him. Lee will want to put right his mistake from Monday and showed his professionalism by getting on with the game and contributing in the second half. If Tainio is fit, he will play on the left and probably Davids will play in the centre with Carrick. Murphy hasn't yet shown what he can do and Lennon will continue on the right with Keane and Defoe starting. Mido, if he is fit,will be useful as a sub to come on late in the game. The rumours of his problems appear to have been sorted for the moment and jol is quoted as saying that he expects himmto sign a contract soon. With the inuries, Jol has few options available and whoever is selected must be totally committed, prepared to give his all, make no individual errors and take whatever scoring opportunities come their way.
This year Spurs have come away with plaudits for effort and commitment but few points. Now is the time for a player or players to step forward, take responsibility and show that they can perform at the highest level when the stakes are greatest. If they do and Spurs win, or even draw, the final North London derby at Highbury, they will become a Spurs 'Legend.'
Spurs' end of season is in their own hands. A positive result keeps it in their control but a defeat puts Arsenal in the driving seat. Arsenal have been talking about resting players for next week's European game. They are convinced they will win the Champions League and so this game is not as important but they do want to win this game. Before the past two games at White Hart Lane, Arsenal's results were disappointing but they raised their game and made sure they didn't lose - it will be the same tomorrow.
Spurs have not had the best of luck against Arsenal in the recent past, perhaps it will change tomorrow but whatever happens the players will need to raise their game and be prepared to fight and battle throughout the match to compete, restrict Arsenal and play their own game. No early lapses are essential so that Arsenal aren't given a lift - wear them down and than strike.
It will be an enthralling game, I can't see it remaining scoreless but this the 'THE' Cup Final I talked about a few weeks ago - it's virtually a matter of 'winner takes all', so high are the stakes. Spurs have come through the recent games with improved form and have achieved results where previously they would have failed, other results have gone in their favour and teams around have slipped back so now is the time for Spurs to take matters into their own hands, take control of their own destiny and a win would certainly do that.
The team and Martin Jol have achieved a great deal this year and deserve credit for the amazing progress - a good result tomorrow would confirm that all that has been done has been worthwhile.
It's been an incredible season - can it continue to the Champions League? Tomorrow will go a long way to giving us an answer.
A win puts Spurs in control for the final two games, a draw keeps them four points ahead of arsenal who have a game in hand while the unthinkable, a defeat hands the initiative to Arsenal. It is balanced on a knife edge -whoever holds their nerve and takes their chances will prevail.
Come On You Spurs!