North London awaits as Arsenal take on Spurs in the derby

Arsenal v Tottenham, Premier League, October 31, 2009

Arsenal 4/7; Draw 14/5; Tottenham 5/1

Spurs make the short trip across North London to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday lunch time with last year’s incredible 4-4 draw still fresh in the memory. One of the all time Premier League games, which took place 367 days prior to this one, was notable for David Bentley’s stunning opening goal and incredibly the former Arsenal player could yet again take center stage.

(Relive that epic North London derby match here.)

Bentley (11/2 to score) has played just five minutes of Premier League football this season but thanks to Aaron Lennon’s injury and his fine performance in the 2-0 victory over Everton in the Carling Cup on Tuesday, he should start on the right wing for Spurs.

Much will depend on the likes of Bentley, Peter Crouch (15/2 to score first), Robbie Keane and Niko Kranjcar. With Jermain Defoe (suspended), Luka Modric and Aaron Lennon (both injured) out, Spurs lack pace going forward and this may be crucial as they look to stretch the Gunners defence. (Arsenal are 5/6 to keep a clean sheet.)

Tottenham should though be relatively tight at the back as Jonathan Woodgate and Ledley King could line up together for the first time this season in the centre of defence. Behind them Heurelho Gomes appears to be regaining the form he showed whilst at PSV Eindhoven and in front Wilson Palacios is crucial in these types of matches where his physical play can make the difference. (Spurs are 4/1 to keep a clean sheet.)

Harry Redknapp’s side will be battling history as well as a fired-up Arsenal side on Saturday. Tottenham have not beaten Arsenal in 19 of their last league matches home and away and have failed to clinch a victory over their local rivals at either Highbury or the Emirates since May 1993 – in a game where George Graham rested the majority of his first team in preparation for an upcoming FA Cup final.

Arsenal should also be buoyed following the performance of their youngsters in the 2-1 Carling Cup win over Liverpool on Wednesday night. Whilst Wenger is unlikely to play any of the kids who impressed, the first choice players will know they have to be on their toes to hold on to their places in the side.

One would also imagine that if the Gunners do take the lead they will hold on to it. Not only because of conceding two late on in this fixture last season but after letting advantages slip at both AZ Alkmaar and West Ham in recent games.

Arsene Wenger’s main selection dilemma will be over who to start in goal. Vito Mannone appears to have lost his position after his mistake for West Ham’s first goal last Sunday, Manuel Almunia is out of favour and Lukasz Fabianski is now out with a thigh injury - so its a straight battle between the Itralian and the Spaniard.

Just like the youngsters in midweek, we can expect Arsenal to dominate the ball and produce some eye catching football. Andrey Arshavin (9/1 to score a brace), playing his first derby match, could well be the match winner if he can exploit the defensive deficiencies of Vedran Corluka down the Spurs right.

Whilst another 4-4 draw seems unlikely, there should be goals and chances but they could well come from unlikely sources. Thomas Vermaelen (9/1 to score & Arsenal win) and William Gallas (7/1 to score) have scored nine goals between them and someone will have to chip in for Emmanuel Adebayor who was a serial goal scorer in this fixture before his move to Eastlands. Jermaine Jenas (6/1 to score) has also scored on both his last two visits to the Emirates.

Robbie Keane (8/1 to score first) stoked up the fire ahead of this clash by claiming Spurs have a stronger bench than Arsenal and with the two teams currently separated by goal difference there should be no shortage of passion. It is however difficult to see Spurs improving their recent woeful record against their great rivals.

101gg predicts: Arsenal 2 – Tottenham 1 (13/2)

Arsenal 4/7; Draw 14/5; Tottenham 5/1

Full match odds here.