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Will North London derby thrill again?

chris_dring

Tottenham make a short hop across London to play Arsenal Saturday in the standout fixture


Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp will hope to record his club’s first win at Arsenal in a decade.AFP

AFTER Sunday’s euphoric Kop celebrations when Liverpool tore up the formbook to prove passion and resolve can triumph, may we expect the same tension and drama to be matched this weekend? The last time Spurs visited the Emirates, a thrilling 4-4 score line saw the rise of a new Tottenham era under Redknapp, and the vulnerability of a majestic Arsenal laid out for everyone to see. We can only hope for a repeat this weekend as the North London derby takes centre stage.

Often derby matches lack real quality, as the rivalry boils over into a frenetic game, depriving the players of the time and space in which they need to entertain. However, this shouldn’t be the case in the early kick off Saturday. Arsene Wenger’s team play with such style and finesse that they are easily the most pleasant on the eye out of all the teams in the Premiership. Tottenham, wounded by last week’s shock home defeat to Stoke, don’t have the capacity to park the bus at the Emirates Stadium, and will have to go on the offensive.

Both sides like to play the ball on the ground, and expect an open and fluid encounter. Spurs, missing the suspended Defoe and the crocked Modric, will most likely come up short.

At home, the Gunners use their expansive turf to the full, pulling their opponents apart with quick neat passing. Fabregas will conduct from the heart of an Arsenal midfield brimming with talent. Arsharvin, Rosicky, or the fit again Nasri all have the ammunition to shoot down Tottenham.

The only danger for the Gunners could be if Spurs through Lennon hit them with real pace on the counter attack. Crouch could be a handful, but for me, Van Persie is likely to be the match winner as Arsenal should monopolise possession and control the game.

Chelsea might be sitting pretty at the summit of the Premier League, but they’ve lost their last two away games and Ancelotti will be determined not to make it a hat-trick as they travel to Bolton. Megson’s team will have taken heart from the triumph over Everton last Sunday and this game should be a physical game from two powerful sides.

A shock isn’t out of the question, but man for man, Chelsea seems head and shoulders above the Wanderers. Lampard has regained his shooting boots and with Drogba on fire, you’d be a brave man to bet against the Blues.

Ferguson yet again complained about the match officials after Man United was beaten by Liverpool. He should be more concerned with his central midfield. Scholes looked past his prime along side Carrick as they were tormented by Lucas and Mascherano.

At home to Blackburn Saturday, normal business should resume. Rooney hasn’t continued his strong start to the season and, along with the rest of the Red Devils, they should want to put the disappointment of Anfield behind them. Blackburn realistically have nothing for United to fear and the dread of another Sir Alex ear bashing should spur on the home side towards an easy three points.

With the doom and gloom temporarily lifted around Anfield, can Liverpool put a run together and defy the critics who have written them off as title contenders? There was no doubting that they deserved to beat United last Sunday, but raising your game against the champions is a lot different than a trip to London to face Fulham.

Hodgson has a great football brain and he’ll turn his Fulham side into Spartan warriors for Benitez’s arrival. This game should be tight and chances will be at a premium. Torres proved against United that he only needs one chance and if Gerrard can return, Liverpool will certainly be favourites.

However, I’m still not convinced by Liverpool with Fulham notoriously tough to beat at home, so Benitez may have to settle for a point.

The remaining games see clubs squaring off in closely matched encounters. Everton v Aston Villa could go either way. Portsmouth, now banned from any transfer activity, must take three points at home to Wigan as they look to climb the table.

Zola must have been proud last Sunday as his side came from two goals down to get a draw against Arsenal, but without a win since the opening day of the season, he won’t fancy a trip up north to Sunderland. Steve Bruce’s side looks menacing going forward and should have too much for the hammers.

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