Spurs ready to end 22 years of pain and finish above Arsenal
LONDON: For 22 years, there has been one certainty in the English Premier League: Arsenal finishing above Tottenham.
Arsenal fans have even coined a term to celebrate the point in the season when their team cannot be overtaken in the standings by Tottenham: St Totteringham's Day.
Even when Tottenham entered the final day of last season in second place behind Leicester, a loss to already-relegated Newcastle still allowed Arsenal to overhaul its north London neighbor.
That looks like it's about to change, and it could come as soon as Sunday. If Tottenham wins the derby, there will be no St. Totteringham's Day celebrations this year. The constant in Arsene Wenger's 21-year reign will have been eradicated, and Tottenham will have secured its first finish above Arsenal since 1995.
"It's not a motivation and it's not a distraction," Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said. "We know what that game means but we are not thinking about being above Arsenal."
Unlike Arsenal, for once Tottenham has greater ambitions: A first league title since 1961. It relies on Chelsea dropping points and Tottenham extending its first eight-game winning run in the league since its last title-winning season. With five games remaining, Chelsea is four points in front.
"Our challenge now is to reduce the gap again with Chelsea and to think bigger things than only to be above Arsenal," Pochettino said. "One day to achieve big trophies, your mentality must be bigger, thinking about big dreams."
Arsenal has won the league six times since Tottenham's last success. Now, though, the Gunners are in a scrap to make the top four and qualify for the Champions League after sinking to sixth place, 14 points behind second-place Tottenham.
Arsenal's financial supremacy over Tottenham — paying vastly bigger transfer fees and salaries — is no longer reflected on the field.
The three derbies since Tottenham's February 2015 success have been draws, and Pochettino's team looks to be the one more capable of killing off games — unlike so often in the history of the rivalry.
Dele Alli, whose dynamism and scent for goals has already guaranteed Tottenham's biggest point haul in the Premier League era, wasn't even born the last time Arsenal finished behind his team.
Wenger's 50th north London derby comes at a time of uncertainty and change. Wenger's contract expires at the end of the season, with no announcement yet about his future, and Tottenham is preparing to leave White Hart Lane for a new stadium on the same site.
It'll have a 61,000-capacity — 1,000 more seats than Arsenal's Emirates Stadium. But Tottenham hopes for more than symbolic victories over their neighbors in future.
Here' a look at some other games in the Premier League this weekend:
It has been 12 games since Chelsea kept a clean sheet, a spell that has seen a comfortable 10-point lead at the summit slashed to four.
Even though Chelsea overcame Southampton 4-2 on Tuesday, its defence was breached by Oriol Romeu and Ryan Bertrand — both former Stamford Bridge players.
Not the time to be facing another old boy at Everton on Sunday, particularly one as prolific as Romelu Lukaku. With 24 goals — four more than Tottenham striker Harry Kane — Lukaku is the league top scorer despite his Everton side being in seventh place.
There's even considerable transfer chatter about the 6-foot-3 (1.90-meter) forward returning to Chelsea, which he left in 2014 after failing to secure a regular place in the team.
Sunderland is clinging onto its Premier League status going into Saturday's game against Bournemouth.
The team is 12 points adrift with five games remaining.
Middlesbrough beat its northeast rival on Wednesday and is six points better off but on Sunday it hosts a Manchester City side trying to lock down a top-four finish.
Swansea's collapse in recent weeks has sent the south Wales side back into the bottom three. It travels to Manchester United on Sunday two points from safety.