Arsenal’s players are in confident mood ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Tottenham despite knowing their local rivals would dearly love to derail the Gunners’ bid for the Premier League title.
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Spurs may have beaten Arsenal in the league for the first time in 11 years last season but Tottenham teams regularly head to Arsenal in high spirits and none has tasted victory there since 1993.
If Chelsea loses at Birmingham on Saturday, second-place Arsenal could go top of the standings with victory after quietly establishing itself as a credible contender with five wins from the past six matches.
After puncturing Tottenham’s early season optimism a year ago with a 3-0 win, Arsenal’s players are unconcerned about the prospect of taking on a side driven by in-form winger Gareth Bale.
"He’s doing very well at the moment, but don’t put pressure on him," Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna said. "He’s only 20, 21. He’ll learn a lot, he’ll improve a lot over the next few years.
"He’s in great form. But I will think about my own game."
Such an approach has served Arsenal well in recent years against a Tottenham side seven points and five places behind in the table.
Tottenham has never won in six visits to Emirates Stadium and its last win at Arsenal came at Highbury in 1993, when the Gunners rested its entire first team in preparation for the FA Cup final four days later.
Still, Harry Redknapp has narrowed the gulf in his two years as Tottenham manager, shrewdly strengthening the team to take it into the Champions League for the first time.
"They’re a great side and certainly they’ll be well up for it against us," Tottenham striker Peter Crouch said. "But we’ve got enough ability to go to the Emirates and get a result.
"We’ve got nothing to be scared of. I look around our dressing room and I think with the squad we’ve got on our day we’re capable of beating anyone."
But consistency is Tottenham’s big problem.
It beat Chelsea and Arsenal at White Hart Lane last season, but lost 3-0 away to both. It downed Inter Milan 3-1 this month but has lost in the Premier League to unheralded Bolton, Wigan and West Ham.
England striker Jermain Defoe could play some part for Tottenham after returning to training after more than two months out with torn ankle ligaments – which would be a big boost since leading scorer Rafael van der Vaart has yet to get a goal away from home.
Midfielder Tom Huddlestone is out for three months with an ankle problem and Spurs still have injuries in central defense.
Arsenal got a boost when Robin van Persie played the second half of the Netherlands’ 1-0 win over Turkey on Wednesday. The striker had played only 32 minutes as a substitute since an ankle injury in August.
Chelsea needs to bounce back from a 3-0 defeat to Sunderland that represented its worst setback at home since Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought the west London club in 2003.
But central defenders John Terry and Alex are both out again for the visit to Birmingham.
Any slip by Chelsea – or Arsenal – could allow Manchester United to strengthen its own position when it hosts Wigan in another of Saturday’s seven matches.
Third-place United is the only unbeaten side in the league and trails Chelsea by just three points.
Also Saturday, Blackpool hosts Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bolton hosts Newcastle, Liverpool hosts West Ham and West Bromwich Albion hosts Stoke.
Aston Villa is at Blackburn on Sunday, when Manchester City is at Fulham. Sunderland hosts Everton on Monday.