LONDON, United Kingdom, Nov 5 – Buoyed by the return of Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur will look to arrest their current slump and improve their dismal record at the Emirates Stadium in Sunday’s derby against Arsenal.
Though they remain the last unbeaten team in the Premier League, Tottenham have gone six games without victory in all competitions since their stunning 2-0 defeat of Manchester City a month ago.
Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen left them in third place in their Champions League group and manager Mauricio Pochettino concedes preparation for the 179th North London derby has not been ideal.
“It’s true that we are not in a positive situation,” said the Argentine, whose side are fifth in the table ahead of the weekend’s fixtures, three points below second-place Arsenal.
“In the six games after Manchester City we have struggled to win games — four draws and two defeats. We are very conscious about that. We need to work hard and try more than before.
“We are in a difficult moment, but in football you always need to be ready to change the dynamic and we have a very good opportunity on Sunday to go to the Emirates and try to win the game.”
Pochettino is yet to lose a league game against Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, winning one and drawing three of their four encounters, although he did taste defeat against him in last season’s League Cup.
Spurs have won just once at Arsenal since May 1993 — a 3-2 success in November 2010 — but will draw encouragement from Kane’s return to fitness after seven weeks out with an ankle ligament injury.
The 23-year-old England striker has scored four goals in his three league games against Arsenal and although he is understandably short of match fitness, Pochettino says he could start.
In Kane’s absence, Spurs have scored only three goals in their last six games and have not scored from open play in the last five.
Midfielder Mousa Dembele faces a late fitness test on a foot problem, but centre-back Toby Alderweireld (leg) and winger Erik Lamela (hip) are definitely out and Moussa Sissoko is suspended.
– Giroud among the goals –
Arsenal go into the game carrying momentum, Wenger’s side having won 10 of their last 11 matches in all competitions.
They came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at Ludogorets Razgrad in the Champions League on Tuesday, when Mesut Ozil’s sumptuous 87th-minute winner took Arsenal into the last 16 for the 17th season running.
Spurs have not finished above Arsenal since 1995, having been pipped to second place behind Leicester City by their rivals on last season’s final day.
But Wenger was reluctant to entertain suggestions his side have any kind of mental hold over their foes from the other end of the Seven Sisters Road.
“At the moment I’m more focused on the fact that this is more than a derby,” said the Arsenal manager, whose team trail leaders Manchester City on goal difference.
“It’s an important game for us because it’s a big home game and we have an opportunity to show that we have an interesting role to play in this Premier League, and that we can win these kinds of games too.”
Winger Theo Walcott is expected to overcome a hamstring problem to start, while midfielder Granit Xhaka returns after a three-game domestic ban.
But Wenger has doubts over Santi Cazorla (Achilles), Nacho Monreal (muscular), Hector Bellerin (knock) and Kieran Gibbs (shoulder).
Olivier Giroud, meanwhile, is putting pressure on Alexis Sanchez for the lone striker’s role, having scored three times in his last two appearances.
There has been just one 0-0 draw in the last 43 meetings between the teams and the omens for goals are good.
The last time Arsenal and Tottenham met at midday was in November 2004, when an 81st-minute Robert Pires strike was enough to give Wenger’s men a dizzying 5-4 victory at White Hart Lane.