Sunday, January 20, 2008

Tottenham vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

Arsenal travel to White Heart Lane this Tuesday to face Tottenham in the return leg of the Carling Cup semifinals. The Gunners have faced their London rivals three times this season, resulting in two wins in the Premier League and a 1-1 draw in the first leg of this fixture.

The Gunners will be high on confidence after emphatically defeating Fulham 3-0 on the weekend. However, Arsene Wenger will be missing Kolo Toure, Alex Song, and Emmanuel Eboue on African Cup of Nations duty, while Johan Djourou and Robin van Persie are out with injuries. Philippe Senderos is also out after taking a blow to the nose against Fulham. The lack of central defenders means that Wenger will resort to risking players from the first-team in a League Cup clash.

Tottenham will be hoping they can finally overcome a 21 match winless streak against their arch-rivals, although injuries to Gareth Bale, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Darren Bent, Younes Kaboul, Ricardo Rocha, and Anthony Gardner may restrict their chances against the Premier League leaders.

As usual, Lukasz Fabianski is likely to start in goal for the Gunners. However, Wenger is likely to play some first-teamers in the defense.

"The players who were on the bench at Fulham will play," he said. "But I will have to play one or two who played on Saturday because we are short in numbers."

With Senderos out, Wenger will have to play William Gallas in the heart of defense, alongside either Gilberto, or Justin Hoyte. If Hoyte partners Gallas in the center, then Bacary Sagna and Armand Traore are likely to complete the defensive lineup.

In the midfield Abou Diaby, Neves Denilson, Gilberto and Theo Walcott should all keep their place from the first leg of the match.

Nicklas Bendtner will probably be partnered with the on form Eduardo in van Persie's absence, and Wenger might keep Emmanuel Adebayor on the bench as an option in case the going gets tough.

It will be tough for a young Arsenal team distracted by the FA Cup, the Champions League, and the Premier League to defeat Tottenham's first-team squad, but we have the talent and the ability to come through to the finals as we did last year. I predict a 2-1 win for the Gunners, with extra time a distinct possibility.