Tottenham Hotspur take on Arsenal in a crunch north London derby at Wembley this weekend.
The hosts will be aiming to move seven points clear of their fierce rivals without Dele Alli and potentially Eric Dier, who are set to miss out with a hamstring injury and tonsillitis respectively. Jan Vertonghen, however, is faces a fitness test in his potential return from a hip problem.
Arsenal could move to within just point of Spurs, and their chances will be boosted if the injuries Laurent Koscielny and Sead Kolasinic suffered against Bournemouth in midweek aren’t serious enough to rule the duo out. Stephan Lichtsteiner could also return from a minor back issue.
With the team news in mind, we’ve had a look at how the sides might line up. Here are a few predictions from some of Britain’s media outlets.
1. Spurs go with three at the back, Lacazette and Aubameyang start
In our preview of the derby, we’ve tipped Mauricio Pochettino to revert to a back three, but perhaps only if Vertonghen is available after missing Wednesday’s defeat at Chelsea with a hip injury.
Doing so will free up the full-backs and put more emphasis on attacking down the flanks rather than defending. Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies both struggled at Stamford Bridge, particularly the former, so Serge Aurier and Danny Rose are likely to come into the side.
Pochettino will need to drop an attacker to make way Vertonghen, and it will probably be Erik Lamela, who showed more fight than Tottenham’s other attacking midfielders against Chelsea but is generally of less importance than Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min.
Despite Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette forming a sporadically effective partnership this season, Arsenal have sometimes prospered from leaving one of the strikers out.
That said, both Aubamayeng, who started, and Lacazette, who came off the bench, were on the scoresheet against Bournemouth on Wednesday, and Unai Emery will be tempted to begin with two up front to take advantage of their confidence.
Mesut Ozil opened the scoring in Arsenal’s midweek rout and should start a rare away game against a top six rival. The Gunners would be wise to adopt a narrow approach, something Burnley were successful with against Spurs last weekend, and so Emery might go with a 4-2-2-2 of sorts. Alternatively, Aubameyang could play on the left, cutting inside to join Lacazette when necessary.
2. Iwobi starts, Lacazette on the bench
Football.London believe Emery will switch from the back three he used against Bournemouth to a back four with three attacking midfielders in a 4-2-3-1.
They predict Alex Iwobi will come into the team, playing alongside Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, both of whom were on the scoresheet in midweek. That means there will only be room for one striker; Football.London think Aubameyang will get the nod ahead of Lacazette.
It’s certainly a difficult choice for Emery. Both strikers were on the scoresheet in the reverse fixture, which Arsenal won 4-2 at the Emirates. Starting just one striker may allow Tottenham to easily get past the first line of the press, but starting two could make the Gunners more open further back.
Football.London’s predicted Arsenal XI: Leno; Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Torreira; Iwobi, Ozil, Mkhitaryan; Aubameyang.
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3. Lucas in for Lamela
i News takes a different approach for Spurs, suggesting Pochettino will stick with all but one of the players who started against Chelsea on Wednesday.
The unlucky man to miss out is said to be Lamela, who will be replaced by Lucas Moura. In some ways, it makes sense. Son was isolated on the left at times against Chelsea because Lamela was playing centrally. With Lucas coming in and potentially playing out wide, Son will be able to join Harry Kane up front.
That said, Lucas perhaps hasn’t done enough in his recent substitute appearances to convince Pochettino he is worthy of a starting spot. If Tottenham do go with a 4-2-3-1, Lamela might get the nod again as a result of his work ethic.
i News’ predicted Spurs XI: Lloris; Trippier, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Davies; Sissoko, Winks; Lucas, Eriksen, Son; Kane.
4. Arsenal match Spurs’ 3-4-3, Ozil dropped
The London Evening Standard pictures both managers adopting a 3-4-3 formation of sorts, which isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.
As mentioned above, Vertonghen’s expected return will make it simple for Pochettino to make the tweak, while Arsenal had success with three at the back against Bournemouth. Emery’s choice of formation will depend on how willing he is to take risks against a Spurs side desperate for a result.
The Evening Standard’s is the only predicted XI we’ve surveyed that doesn’t include Ozil. Emery has left him out of away trips to Arsenal’s top six rivals in the past, but his display in midweek may have earned him a starting berth here.
Evening Standard’s predicted Spurs XI: Lloris; Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen; Aurier, Winks, Sissoko, Rose; Eriksen; Son, Kane.
Evening Standard’s predicted Arsenal XI: Leno; Sokratis, Koscielny, Mustafi; Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Torreira, Kolasinac; Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang; Lacazette.