Arsenal v Tottenham – 07/08 Carling Cup Semifinal Preview

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If you think you’ve seen it before, indeed you have. For the second year in a row, Tottenham and Arsenal face off in the Carling Cup semifinals, with the winner going up against Chelsea or Everton in February’s final at Wembley. The first leg will be contested at the Emirates Stadium on January 8th, with the second leg being played at White Hart Lane on January 22.

It’ll be the third and fourth times that the sides have faced each other this season, as they’ve already had their two meetings in the Premiership, with Arsenal winning by 3-1 and 2-1 counts.

The two North London rivals met in the semifinals of the Carling Cup last year, and there was very little separating the sides.

While Arsenal fielded mostly second-teamers, Martin Jol’s side featured a lineup full of regulars, but it wouldn’t be enough to see through them to the final, as for the umpteenth time in recent memory, late goals by the Gunners meant doom and gloom for Spurs.

Tottenham were 2-0 up early in the first leg at White Hart Lane, but Julio Baptista, whose own goal made it 2-0, went from goat to savior with a second-half brace.

In the second leg, Arsene Wenger inserted Adebayor, Senderos, and Kolo Toure into the starting lineup, going up against another full-strength Tottenham side. And, after Adebayor’s 77th minute goal, it looked like Arsenal were on through to the final, but Mido’s 85th minute equalizer sent the tie to extra time. In extra time, Arsenal would prevail with a goal from Jeremie Aliadiere and an own goal by Pascal Chimbonda.

Given how closely the two sides usually play, you can expect much of the same this time as well, though the competition certainly has a larger priority to Tottenham than it does to Arsenal, looking at the big picture.

With Tottenham’s likely route to Europe going through the cup competitions (Carling, FA, UEFA), Juande Ramos isn’t taking the Carling Cup lightly, as he’s put out a nearly full-strength lineup in each of Spurs’ first three Carling Cup ties.

With Arsenal’s focus on continue their championship march in the Premiership and making a run in the Champions League, the likes of Fabregas and others might, at best, be on the substitutes’ list for the two legs, at best. As for who’ll be in Arsene’s starting XI, he’ll continue to follow the same pattern of trying to get his reserves/youngsters a good run-out, and it’s a good bet to say that the strike partnership will consist of Nicklas Bendtner and Eduardo Da Silva.

Bendtner, who scored the winner in Arsenal’s 2-1 victory over Tottenham on Saturday, has started all three Carling Cup matches, and found the net in the 2-0 third-round victory over Newcastle. Eduardo has started up front with him in the three ties, and has picked up a brace in the last two matches, including in Wednesday’s 3-2 win at Blackburn, where he produced the winner in the 104th minute.

Even though Arsenal will likely be fielding a team full of subs (very talented subs at that), Tottenham would surely love nothing more than to defeat Arsenal one way or another, given the losing streak that dates back to 1999 and the agonizing way that several of those defeats have taken place.

As usual, Tottenham should have a chance to win it, but whether or not they actually do it will come down to if they can stand firm for the full 180, or longer.

And there’s a good possibility that it will be longer than 180. This is Arsenal’s third straight appearance in the Carling Cup semis, and the last two have come down to extra time, with Wigan prevailing in 2006, and as mentioned above, the Gunners prevailing over Spurs last season.

Arsenal will be looking to make their seventh Carling Cup final, in hopes of winning their third title and first in 15 years, whereas Tottenham will be looking to make their sixth final (three titles – the last being 1998/99, their last trophy).

We know there’ll be at least one London club in the final, but will we have another all-London final? I’ll have my forecast on that possibility in my upcoming preview of the other semifinal, which pits cup-holders Chelsea against Everton.

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  1. iqnadirshah 25 December, 2007
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