Gary Neville is backing Tottenham to beat Arsenal and believes the north London derby will be extra-spicy after the Gunners had the match postponed in controversial circumstances earlier this year – a decision he did not agree with.
Mikel Arteta’s side can wrap up fourth spot – and Champions League football – on Thursday night if they win their away trip to face Spurs, with Arsenal currently four points clear of their rivals.
The two teams had been due to face off in January but the match was postponed despite the Gunners only having one Covid case, with a combination of outgoing loans, injuries and Afcon participation leaving Arteta with a heavily depleted squad.
There was plenty of criticism over the postponement – not least from Spurs and manager Antonio Conte – and Neville feels the long-overdue derby will be particularly hostile as a result, while he believes Tottenham will have the edge in the contest.
Speaking on the Gary Neville Podcast, he said: ‘I think it will be a really tasty game on Thursday night, not just because of the fact it’s a north London derby and they’re playing for Champions League places.
‘But the way in which this game was called off earlier in the year – even I wasn’t too happy with that!
‘I wasn’t comfortable with it, I was doing the game, I was coming down on the Saturday and I just felt that it… wasn’t great.
‘So there will be a little bit of needle, there is anyway so we don’t need to talk that up. Look, it’s Arsenal’s to lose but Tottenham on Thursday night, that will be hard for Arsenal. If they come out of there with a draw or a victory they’ll have done very well with the feeling that will be in that stadium against them.
‘It’s a big game, I’m looking forward to it. I fancy Tottenham on Thursday night. I thought they were brilliant at Anfield, I thought it was a really good performance because Liverpool are one of the very, very best.’
Praising Tottenham’s display against Liverpool, Neville continued: ‘Tottenham had to withstand a lot of pressure defensively, they did well defensively, but Harry Kane and Son Heung-min – that ground to counter-attack on is the toughest to counter-attack on. I believe there’s less space there than there is [at the Etihad]. There just is.
‘I know they’ve done well [at the Etihad] but Anfield is so tight and Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate are so quick and so strong that you think to yourself: how do Kane and Son do it against them? But they did. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant, I thought they were outstanding.
‘They’re a joy anyway, they’ve been outstanding for a number of seasons now, but that’s the toughest away game that you have to play I think, Anfield, and it’s the toughest game to counter-attack in because the space is so little it feels like in the centre of midfield where Kane was picking it up and having to break.
‘But Tottenham connected through Kane into those wide players, he held it up enough, he moved away and rolled people just to get the pass away or turned and got that pass away, and he does it absolutely wonderfully. Conte can do that as a coach, he has it in him that sort of warrior mentality.’
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