Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal are set to resume their hostilities on Sunday in the 187th north London derby at the London Stadium.
The game has arrived at a crucial juncture in both the clubs’ seasons, and the result will have major ramifications in their quest to play European football next season.
Apart from local bragging rights being on the line, the north London derby is also going to be crucial in how Jose Mourinho and Mikel Arteta’s early reign at Tottenham and Arsenal respectively is perceived.
A run of positive results has helped Arteta to get his feet under the table at the Emirates and there are signs that Arsenal are making some tangible progress under the Spaniard.
However, Mourinho has been struggling to prove his detractors wrong at Tottenham.
His side have won just twice in their last eight Premier League games and their performance in the 0-0 draw at relegation zone dwellers Bournemouth has come under heavy criticism.
While Arteta is trying to prove that he has the makings of a great manager, the Portuguese is desperate to lay down the marker that he is still a force in the game.
However, the games are finally decided by the players on the pitch and both sides have footballers who can make a difference to the result of the game.
Let’s take a look at five players who could decide the fate of their respective teams at the London Stadium on Sunday.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
There is a reason Arsenal are trying desperately hard to convince Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to sign a new contract and avoid the possibility of selling him this summer.
The striker has been a talismanic figure upfront since he joined Arsenal from Dortmund in January 2018.
He has 64 goals in 103 appearances for the Gunners and has been chasing the Premier League Golden Boot this season with 20 league goals to his name at the moment.
The stats become more impressive when one realises how poor Arsenal have been over the last 18 months.
Aubameyang’s goals have been the reason behind the Gunners not falling into the bottom half of the Premier League this season.
The Gabon international is going to be a key player if Arsenal have to get a win on enemy territory on Sunday.
With Tottenham defenders Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen showing their age on the pitch, Aubameyang’s pace will come in handy against a slow Spurs defence.
Harry Kane (Tottenham)
The Tottenham captain has scored two goals since the Premier League resumed last month.
But Harry Kane has looked lacklustre in many of the games and there are suggestions that he is yet to completely return to full fitness from a thigh muscle injury early in the season.
Kane has also struggled with Jose Mourinho’s tactics at Tottenham. At their best under Mauricio Pochettino, the striker was part of a slick attacking force who overwhelmed opposition teams with their forward play.
Spurs have looked bereft of creativity in recent games and Kane has been little support from the midfield. Tottenham have not properly replaced Christian Eriksen, and Dele Alli has also struggled with injuries.
But for Tottenham to shake off their cobwebs against Arsenal, they need their captain to step up to the plate on Sunday.
If Kane can rekindle his old form, he is still one of the best strikers in the world and will be more than a handful for the Arsenal defence.
But he will also need the supporting acts to raise their game in the north London derby.
Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)
Bukayo Saka has been the toast of Arsenal fans this season, and there is real excitement about his breakthrough from the club’s academy.
His new contract has been widely celebrated and Arsenal believe that they have a real talent in their hands.
The 18-year-old scored his first Premier League goal in their 2-0 win over Wolves last Saturday and produced the beautiful cross from which Aubameyang scored in Arsenal’s 1-1 draw at Leicester City.
Saka’s ability to play in multiple positions has been a real plus for Arsenal but Arteta is likely to use him in the attack against Tottenham.
His pace is likely to pose a real threat to a Tottenham defence, who are not known for being quick.
Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham)
Tottenham signed the Argentine from Real Betis in January as the long-term replacement for Christian Eriksen. The midfielder has shown flashes of brilliance in some games and has been quite a spark for Tottenham in the middle of the park.
But Giovani Lo Celso has struggled for consistency like the rest of his team-mates.
He was particularly quiet against Bournemouth when Tottenham needed some creativity from the middle.
The Argentine is likely to start in the north London derby and Tottenham will hope for more from the 24-year-old.
Lo Celso need to start producing more consistently and will be given the responsibility of being the creative hub from the middle in the derby against Arsenal.
His performance will go a long way in deciding whether Tottenham can dominate the Gunners in midfield on Sunday.
David Luiz (Arsenal)
David Luiz’s catastrophic performance against Manchester City last month came under serious criticism and there were suggestions that he could be on his way out.
But since then he has signed a new deal and has started the last three league games.
Mikel Arteta has started using three at the back for the Gunners and Luiz has always looked more comfortable with that extra support in central defence. Arsenal have also looked more solid in defence in recent weeks.
The Arsenal boss has found a way to accommodate the senior defender in his team. But Luiz also has a mistake in him and that should worry Arteta.
He was sent off in big games against Chelsea and Manchester City this season and if he starts against Tottenham, Arsenal fans will bite their nails.
If the Brazilian does not make any major errors, it could go a long way in deciding the north London derby.