Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur Preview
By CHRIS ALTRUDA
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - It appears "Le Professeur" still has some lessons to impart.
Arsene Wenger and Arsenal head to White Hart Lane for a titanic North London derby on Sunday versus Tottenham Hotspur as both teams continue their fight for a spot in Champions League.
While Wenger and the Gunners (13-8-6) have only a mathematical chance to win the Premier League - they trail Manchester United by 21 points with 11 matches remaining - withering criticism of the Frenchman reached a peak last month after his side was roundly beaten 3-1 at home on Feb. 19 by Bayern Munich in the first leg of their round of 16 match in the Champions League. This came on the heels of a shocking FA Cup home loss on Feb. 16 to Blackburn Rovers that has put Arsenal on the cusp of an eighth straight season without winning a trophy.
For all the hand-wringing following those defeats, though, Arsenal still have a good chance to book a return spot in Champions League next season. They have won three league matches on the bounce and are unbeaten in five (4-1-0) after defeating Aston Villa 2-1 on Feb. 23 on Santi Carzola's brace to claw within two points of Chelsea for the fourth and final Champions League spot and lurk four behind Spurs.
And Wenger has good reason to be confident. Arsenal have posted five shutouts and conceded a league-low 11 goals in 13 road matches, and the Gunners may be in Tottenham's collective heads after a second consecutive 5-2 thrashing of 10-man Spurs in the reverse fixture in November.
"Away from home we have been consistent and strong," Wenger told the team's official website. "We have a good defensive record away from home because we attack as well. The stats will help us to think we can do it again and rely on our strengths."
Carzola - fourth on the team with 11 goals - has scored seven of them on the road and also tallied in the November victory at Emirates. Theo Walcott has scored four goals in his last four matches versus Spurs.
Last season, Spurs staggered to the finish as they eventually frittered away a Champions League spot following Chelsea's run to the title, but Andre Villas-Boas' side has put themselves in a good position for the stretch run. The Lilywhites - also riding three straight wins while going unbeaten in their last 11 league matches - are third in the table, trailing Manchester City by five for second and two ahead of the Blues for fourth.
Gareth Bale continues to be Tottenham's talisman, netting the winner for the third consecutive match with his world-class injury-time strike from 25 metres in a 3-2 victory at West Ham United last Monday. Six of the Welsh winger's 15 league goals have given Spurs three points, and Bale is on a career-best four-match goal-scoring streak.
"It was a massive victory," Bale said. "We know what we are capable of. We have scored a lot of last-minute winners. We are confident that if we keep battling to the end we will score.
"I'm just enjoying my football. The most important thing is the team playing well. It is not about me, it's about the team."
Bale has four goals in nine lifetime matches versus Arsenal, but ex-Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor could also prove pivotal. He had given Spurs a lead in the 10th minute in November but was given a direct red card eight minutes later for a reckless challenge on Carzola that let the Gunners run rampant.
Arsenal have won 71 of the 169 all-time matches in the North London derby that dates back to 1909, including 27 victories in 83 total trips to White Hart Lane.
Updated March 1, 2013