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Monday, 19 November, 2018

Goals may be hard to come by in tense north London derby

Spurs boast the best defence in the league

Tottenham have won their last seven Premier League matches
1 of 1

Premier League
Sky Sports 1, 4.30pm Sunday

There will a lot more than local pride at stake when bitter rivals Tottenham and Arsenal face off in the last north London derby at White Hart Lane and the enormity of the occasion may be reflected on the pitch by a tense, low-scoring game.

Spurs have won seven league games on the bounce and are odds-on to make it eight against a side they have beaten just once in the last nine meetings.

But it is hard to argue against the logic of those prices as Mauricio Pochettino's side are 14 points superior and determined to maintain their pursuit of leaders Chelsea.

The outcome of Chelsea's clash at Everton in the early afternoon kick-off is likely to have a bearing on the mood around the ground and, possibly, in the home dressing room.

If Spurs are to catch the Blues it seems vital that they narrow the gap this weekend.

The rest of Chelsea's fixtures appear fairly benign with a trip to West Brom looking like the only potential pitfall.

Spurs must try not to look too far ahead and do their best to keep applying the pressure.

They showed commendable mental strength on Wednesday night to overcome a confident and obdurate Crystal Palace.

Christian Eriksen got most of the plaudits for his match-winning strike but the big improvement was in defence, where Spurs did a fine job to minimise the threats of dangerous Eagles front three Andros Townsend, Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha.

It was the first time in nine matches that Palace had failed to score and a reminder of the defensive strength of a Spurs side who have conceded the fewest league goals this season.

Spurs have shipped just eight goals in their 17 home league matches - including shutouts against Manchester City and Chelsea - and are capable of shackling an Arsenal side who have been reining in their attacking instincts.

Since going to three at the back, Arsenal have conceded just two goals in three matches but have looked less of a threat in attack.

They lost the shot count 13 to 12 in the 2-1 victory at Middlesbrough and needed a fortuitous own goal from Robert Huth to seal a 1-0 victory over Leicester on Wednesday.

Their best performance in the new setup was last Sunday's 2-1 extra-time success over Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-finals but Arsenal took a long time to get into their stride and were ultra-cautious in a goalless opening half.

Right wing-back Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has benefited most from the change of system and should be re-energised after being left out against Leicester.

But some of Arsenal's other players are still getting used to three at the back and it will be fascinating to see how they cope with a Spurs side who have played the same system very effectively for a large portion of the season.

Spurs have more players suited to 3-4-2-1 but one of their key midfield cogs - Mousa Dembele - is an injury doubt.

The home side's chances will be improved if Dembele is passed fit but a close game looks likely all the same.

Five of the last seven league matches between Spurs and Arsenal have featured less than three goals and the low-scoring trend may continue.

Under 2.5 goals
1pt 8-5 Betfair

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Team news
Mousa Dembele (ankle) is a doubt and Danny Rose (knee) is not quite ready. Harry Winks (ankle) and Erik Lamela (hip) are out long-term.

Laurent Koscielny (knee) is a doubt and Shkodran Mustafi (knee) is out. Santi Cazorla (ankle) is a long-term absentee.

Key stat
Six of Tottenham's eight league matches against the top six have featured fewer than three goals.

Since going to three at the back, Arsenal have conceded just two goals in three matches but have looked less of a threat in attack
E.W. Terms
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