Spurs vs. Arsenal finally gets rescheduled, and it’s a potential Champions League showdown

The Premier League has confirmed that the delayed north London derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal will be played next month after the original fixture was called off in January.

Arsenal got the game postponed shortly after the turn of the year their squad was severely depleted by multiple COVID-19 cases, preexisting injury concerns and the loss of several players to the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations, and the decision still had Spurs coach Antonio Conte agitated two months later.

It was announced Monday that the two local rivals will go head-to-head in an evening kick-off on Thursday, May 12, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in what will be each side’s third-to-last game of the season.

With Champions League qualification still on the line for both sides, Spurs will then play their penultimate Premier League fixture against Burnley just three days later on May 15, while Arsenal will likewise travel north to Newcastle United for theirs the following night.

The teams are level on points in the race for fourth place (though Arsenal have a game in hand), and while the result of no single fixture can truly be said to decide a team’s league fate, it stands to reason that a win in the late-season derby would see the victors seize a significant advantage over their foes.

There have been several examples in recent years of league titles and Champions League qualification almost hinging on a single game during the final weeks of the Premier League season.

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Dubbed “the £20 million match,” Chelsea welcomed Liverpool to Stamford Bridge for their final match of the 2002-03 Premier League season and a game they simply HAD to win.

With Roman Abramovich’s game-changing takeover not yet on the horizon, the Blues were buckling under the weight of substantial debts and knew that qualification for the next season’s Champions League would be their ticket out of the red. Chelsea needed just one point to secure their place in Europe while a win for Liverpool would see Gerard Houllier’s side muscle them aside and claim the continental spoils.

The fateful goal came after just 27 minutes, when Jesper Gronkjaer scored to seal a 2-1 win for Chelsea — a momentous strike that ultimately sparked a new era of success at Chelsea while also consigning Liverpool to a tilt at the UEFA Cup. It was also the Blues’ final competitive game before Abramovich bought the club, with qualification for the Champions League a pivotal factor in the Russian oligarch’s decision to invest in Stamford Bridge rather than elsewhere.

Manchester City 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur, 2010; Manchester City 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur, 2011

With the untold riches of European football up for grabs, City and Spurs traded blows at the tail end of consecutive seasons as the two sides scrambled to earn themselves a place in the Champions League.

In May 2010, a late Peter Crouch header was enough to seal a 1-0 victory for Spurs at the Etihad that subsequently saw them nudge City aside, finish fourth and go on to reach the quarterfinals in Europe the following season.

Then, almost exactly one year later, the two teams reconvened with both chasing the last of the four Champions League qualification places on offer. History repeated itself as Crouch steered home the only goal of the game. Unfortunately, this time the striker unwittingly diverted a cross into his own net to hand the victory to City, securing them a place at Europe’s top table while Spurs had to settle for a Europa League spot.

Even casual football fans will be well acquainted with how City’s historic 2011-12 Premier League season came to its giddy conclusion, but it’s also worth noting that the famous “AGUEROOOOO!” goal against Queens Park Rangers was teed up by a landmark win for City in the Manchester derby the previous month.

Both City and United were desperate to win the title; the former chasing their first top-flight championship in over four decades and the latter desperate to prevent their “noisy neighbours” from shifting the balance of power. Having trailed United by eight points just three weeks earlier, Vincent Kompany‘s header just before half-time earned a 1-0 win in a momentous Monday night derby that saw City end the day top of the table on goal difference with just two games remaining.

City’s vastly superior goal difference meant they went into the final day of the season knowing that a victory over relegation-threatened QPR would be enough for them to pip United to the title by the slimmest of margins. Roberto Mancini’s side had even embarked on a five-match winning streak beforehand to ensure their fate was in their own hands.

However, with four minutes of the entire campaign remaining, City were trailing 2-1 and things were getting frantic. Just to ramp up the pressure, the final whistle had already gone in United’s final-day victory over Sunderland, meaning that Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges had risen to the summit of the table as things stood. Then just as it looked like City’s arduous wait for a league title might tick over into a 45th year, two ridiculously dramatic late goals from Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero deep into stoppage time saw the pendulum swing back to the City of Manchester Stadium amid scenes of epic, chaotic celebration.

Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea, Premier League, 2014

Liverpool were in imperious form as the 2013-14 Premier League season neared its conclusion with Brendan Rodgers’ side powering to an 11-game winning streak before Chelsea came to town in April 2014. Top of the table with two weeks of the season remaining, things looked on course for the Reds to claim their first-ever Premier League title. A victory over Jose Mourinho’s side, who were still in with a shout of defending their title, at Anfield and they would have had one hand on the trophy.

However, Liverpool fans watched on in horror as club captain Steven Gerrard was the man to let things slip, and Chelsea scored two breakaway goals in first- and second-half injury time to earn a smash-and-grab 2-0 win.

Liverpool then began to capitulate, drawing their next game against Crystal Palace while title rivals Manchester City won their final five games of the campaign to surge up from third place to pilfer the championship, having topped the table for just 14 days all season.

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