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Big derby at the Lane


This weekend brings a north London derby at White Hart Lane with much more than north London pride at stake. Any regulars here will know I am a big fan of AvB, the Spurs manager, who I believe had horrible treatment at Chelsea.

AvB has taken his time but he has galvanised Spurs to a point where they surely must finish in third position and qualify for the Champions League next season.

Spurs tactically have moved on from the start of the season: Gallas has been dropped and rightly so as the Frenchman, in his veteran years, cannot hold the high line that AvB so favours. In came Michael Dawson, who nearly left for QPR in the summer but now wears the captain's armband, and the young Steven Caulker at the heart of the defence.

Spurs have a lot of energy all over the pitch and in Gareth Bale they have the most in-form forward in the Premier League. When these sides met earlier in the season the sending-off of Emmanuel Adebayor decimated Spurs' game plan.

There is something fundamentally wrong at Arsenal and at the root of it all seems to be the manager's decision not to change his ways or methods. The cracks have been showing at Arsenal for the past four seasons but finishing in the Champions League each season covered the cracks.

Watching Bayern Munich's stroll through the Emirates the other night must have been soul destroying for some home fans. A comprehensive defeat at White Hart Lane and a finish outside the top four might just cause a proper revolt by the fans.

The main contest will be in the midfield where the home side will field Dembele, Parker, Lennon and Holtby, while Arsenal can call on Wilshere, Arteta, Ramsey and Carzola in varying formations. Jack Wilshere has performed admirably since his return.

However, in this game a lot will depend on what Podolski, Walcott and Giroud can do to the Spurs backline. For Spurs, if all else fail, just give it to Gareth Bale and he will produce. Or so it seems.

Meanwhile….

In midweek, Real Madrid went to the Camp Nou for a Copa del Rey semifinal second leg and absolutely battered Barcelona in a fashion not seen in the last five seasons or more. This followed Milan's comfortable 2-0 home win in the Champions League and it seems the end is here for the Catalan giants.

It was always going to happen. Success in football is cyclical and no team can stay at the top for very long. It is just not possible. There are obvious factors here: Pep Guardiola has departed, his assistant, who took over, Tito Villanova, has a medical condition that is far more important than ordinary football so, frankly, there is a team without a proper coach/manager.

The spine of the team is ageing - that natural order of life that does not need an invitation - Puyol and Xavi Hernandez specifically. Messi has played too much football and at a very high level for very long. Fatigue has to set in. I have always maintained that both Spain and Barca will be affected when these two players' powers start to wane. The team will still win La Liga.

Barca can still possibly win the Champions League. However, their fans have to realise that they cannot go on forever.

Twitter handle @CalvinEmeka


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