In many years passed, the North London Derby has merely been a regular Premier League game with some extra pride on the line. Over the last five years or so, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal haven't really been competing for the same thing. Arsenal is usually firmly in Champions League places, while we're fighting of fourth or something less. This season, this would be one of the biggest fixtures of the year even if Arsenal were our second favorite team. The top three look fairly set, while Arsenal sold Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in the summer. We're playing for the same thing.
We all know what happened last time we were in this situation. Food poisoning! Yes, we once missed out on the Champions League because of food poisoning. Just felt like reminding everyone!
Arsenal are not only without the players they sold, but also a number of injured players. Johan Djourou and Thomas Vermaelen are out, while Laurent Koscielny will have to pass a late fitness test to make the 18. This likely leaves Alex Song in the center of defense and Emmanuel Frimpong as a defensive midfielder. Jack Wilshere is out, but at least the alternative isn't bad. Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey will start. Out wide, Theo Walcott faces a late fitness test while Gervinho is out. Injuries everywhere.
Meanwhile, all of Spurs' stars are healthy, save for Michael Dawson. Aaron Lennon and Danny Rose returned to the team in the Europa League, while Steven Pienaar is expected to come back shortly. Should Harry Redknapp magically become Sir Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho, he'll have all kinds of tactical options to set up his team however he likes.
More than likely, Aaron Lennon is not going to start this game after starting in the Europa League. Either Luka Modric or Rafael van der Vaart is going to start on the right. Don't like it? Well...sucks for you! It's more or less a foregone conclusion. I actually like it, and I'll have another post discussing why.
For the first time in my time supporting Tottenham, we are very much the favorites in this fixture. That doesn't mean that it will be a shock if Arsenal wins, but we are actually the better team. At home, with Arsenal's sales and all of their injuries, we are the better team. I've never been able to say that in my time supporting this club, and now I can. It feels awesome.
But, it won't feel awesome unless they play like it. They have to go out and play like they know they're good enough and like they know it's a derby. And not just a derby, but a derby against our primary rivals in the table. This. Is. Fking. Huge.
I will be loud and obnoxious tomorrow morning. I will get pissed when we screw up and I will drop c-bombs in reference to Arsenal players. Not because I hate Arsenal, but because we can't afford to drop all three points in this fixture. We should win, and a draw is an absolute necessity. We can't screw this up, and - once again - for the first time EVER, I feel like we won't.
This basic preview is the first of a bunch of stuff going up today. If you're a regular 'round these parts, check the front page a couple more times today. If you're not, DO THE EXACT SAME THING. Oh, and join the site! The game thread tomorrow should be incredible.