Tottenham relish favourites tag against Arsenal

One of the most fiercely contested Premier League fixtures of the season will take on even more importance than usual on Sunday when Arsenal play Tottenham Hotspur in the 150th North London league derby at Emirates Stadium.

Victory for Spurs, who won 3-2 there last season after trailing 2-0 at half-time, would move Harry Redknapp's side 13 points clear of their arch-rivals and keep them on the coat-tails of leaders Manchester City and Manchester United with 12 matches to play.

City should keep up their title challenge with a 13th successive home league win of the season when they play 17th-placed Blackburn Rovers on Saturday while United travel to Norwich City for a Sunday lunchtime kick-off.

City, with Argentine Carlos Tevez back in town after his unauthorised trip back home, lead the table with 60 points from 25 matches, followed by United on 58, Spurs on 53 and Arsenal on 43, level with troubled Chelsea who are at home to relegation-threatened Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.

BRAGGING RIGHTS

For most of the last 20 years Arsenal have been the dominant force with Spurs travelling to play them more in hope than expectation.

But now Spurs start as favourites and a win would give them their first league double over Arsenal since 1992/93.

Arsenal, beaten 4-0 at AC Milan in the Champions League and 2-0 at Sunderland in the FA Cup in their last two matches, are facing a seventh successive season without a trophy.

Coach Arsene Wenger's future has been the topic of much speculation after an erratic season which has left them battling with Chelsea, Newcastle United and Liverpool for fourth place and another shot at the Champions League, their natural footballing habitat for the last 16 seasons.

Spurs have more to play for than just local bragging rights.

A victory would not only keep their title hopes alive but would also send a clear message they are beginning to accumulate the mental steel that for so long was at the very core of Arsenal's DNA.

However, no-one in the blue half of North London will under-estimate Arsenal knowing that victory would pull them out of the doldrums and give the Gunners renewed hope they can catch Spurs and finish higher than them again as they have done every season since 1996.

Spurs striker Jermain Defoe told LBC Radio on Wednesday he was confident Spurs can repeat their 2-1 win over Arsenal at White Hart Lane.

"It's going to be a difficult game but I'm confident, obviously, with the way we're playing," he said. "We've got a really strong squad now and everyone's playing well.

"Everyone's firing and team spirit is fantastic which I think is always important if you want to try to achieve something.

"You can't write Arsenal off. In football it's always the next game, you can change it in the next one. Playing against us, it'll be a different Arsenal from what people have seen over the last few weeks."

Former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor missed Spurs' FA Cup draw at Stevenage after twisting his knee in training but is expected to be fit for what promises to be a hostile return to his old club.