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Ed Chamberlin blogs on the North London derby and looks ahead to Cheltenham

Features - Ed Chamberlin Posted 28th February 2013 view comments

What a performance that was from Gareth Bale on the Monday Night Football.

His second goal wasn't just a brilliant strike but it was another crucial goal for Tottenham - only Robin van Persie has won more points for his team this season - and must have had punters jumping out of their chairs around the country, just as we were in the MNF studio. I imagine Sky Bet enjoyed it a lot less...

Gareth Bale: expected to rise to the occasion against Arsenal

Gareth Bale: expected to rise to the occasion against Arsenal

Bale is bound to feature heavily in our build up to the North London derby on Super Sunday - Tottenham (5/4) v Arsenal (2/1) - and what a game it promises to be. With Champions League football at stake, it's hard to put a price on the importance of the match.

A win for Spurs would take them seven points clear of Arsenal and within touching distance of a top-four finish. The Gunners can not afford to lose.

It's bound to be tight and most interesting is that eight of the last 12 meetings at White Hart Lane have been drawn. I can see the draw at 5/2 with Skybet being very popular.

Ed Chamberlin
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Tottenham have not finished above Arsenal for 17 seasons, since Gerry Francis' side finished seventh in 1994-95, five places and 11 points above Stewart Houston's Gunners.

Arsenal have finished above Tottenham in every season under Arsene Wenger - finishing an average of 22 points ahead of their rivals - but that gap has narrowed dramatically over the last few years and was only one point last season.

Spurs go in to the game in great form, unbeaten in their last 11 Premier League games (W7, D4), having taken 25 points from the last 33 available. Arsenal have won three Premier League games in a row, lost just one of the last seven on the road and, surprisingly, have the best away defence in the Premier League having conceded only 11 goals.

It's in the knockout competitions where Arsenal have had their problems. It's bound to be tight and it is most interesting that eight of the last 12 meetings at White Hart Lane have been drawn. I can see the stalemate at 5/2 with Sky Bet being very popular.

There's usually goals as well. This fixture has seen the joint most goals in Premier League history (121) along with Everton v Man Utd. Arsenal have scored 71 goals to Tottenham's 50. Hard to imagine there won't be goals again on Sunday. Over 2.5 goals is trading at 4/6 and 2-2 looks tempting at 11/1.

Gareth Bale has got the bookmakers running for cover and is a 9/2 chance with Sky Bet to score the first goal of the game and 5/4 to score at any time.

As Sam Allardyce explained on the show on Monday night, he poses so many problems for the opposing manager. They have to guess where he will play.

How do you stop him? Does Arsene Wenger have the full-backs and holding midfielders capable of stopping him? All key questions in an intriguing game.

Gary Neville explained on the show how his biggest concern for Arsenal is on the counter-attack. They were vulnerable on the counter-attack against Aston Villa so imagine the damage Bale and co could do...

It promises to be a fascinating afternoon. We'll be live from 1pm on Sky Sports 1HD and Sky 3D.

Counting down

I keep being asked at various football grounds what my best bet for the Cheltenham Festival is. Alex Hammond in the Charity race on Day Three is often my reply! However, if they send Sizing Europe to the Ryanair Chase, that will be my main investment of the week.

Un Atout and The New One remain my only ante-post investments so far but as soon as Sky Bet go non-runner money back on the Ryanair, I will be backing Sizing Europe.

This horse has been sensational around Cheltenham over the years. Three wins at the track include an Arkle and a Champion Chase and could easily have been more.

I think he would have retained his title last year if they had to jump the final fence. I also think he would have won the 2008 Champion Hurdle if his back had not gone wrong at the bottom of the hill. I remember backing the horse all that winter to win the Champion Hurdle and watching the race with Sky Bet's Dale Tempest on the grass in front of the stands. I was thinking the mortgage was about to be paid off as he cruised to the front coming down the hill with Andrew McNamara motionless.

That race was a choker but he has produced so many great days since then and he's looked far from finished and as good as ever this season. If he's not the best jumper in training, then he's certainly the best jumper around Cheltenham. His round of jumping in the 2011 Champion Chase was poetry in motion.

I love backing Cheltenham specialists at the Festival and, what's more, the drying weather looks like producing Sizing Europe's ideal ground too. With the possibility that the rivals I see as his biggest dangers, Cue Card and First Lieutenant, go for the Champion Chase and Gold Cup, Sky Bet's 5/1 is worth taking once they go non-runner no bet.

Talking of the Gold Cup I remain very keen on the chance of another old friend who did us a great turn in the RSA last year, Bobs Worth. I'm hearing positive reports from Seven Barrows and will be backing him on the day and in-running as I think he'll out-battle any challenger up the hill. There's no point backing Bobs Worth at around 3/1 now as I think he'll go off bigger on the day and I can even see the Irish steaming in and sending Sir Des Champs off favourite.

Comments (1)

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Jayjay Thwaites says...

Wenger wont even accomadate Bale, he honestly believes that the players we have are better than Bale...... If we let him play, which we will, then he will destroy our defence, now he plays centrally its almost impossible to stop him with a strong spine, let alone ours. If it was me I would play Coquelin and Diaby and have them holding and allow Jack, Theo and Santi to support Giroud. It wont happen we will get over run and at 3-0 we will have a 50/50 appeal for a penalty that will get turned down and Wenger will blame the eventual 4-0 defeat on the ref "mark my words"

Posted 11:46 28th February 2013

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