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Friday night’s Premier League offering is a London derby that could have huge ramifications for the title race with Tottenham Hotspur making their first trip to West Ham’s London Stadium.
The Hammers are all but safe now and have little to play for in their remaining games, whilst Pochettino’s Spurs are looking to build on last weekend’s convincing victory over Arsenal by cutting Chelsea’s lead at the top to just one point.
With that in mind it will clearly be a raucous atmosphere on Friday evening as West Ham would love nothing more than to end their fierce rivals’ title charge.
A victory and in all likelihood a draw would do that with Tottenham still needing the Blues to slip up twice even if they win all of their remaining matches.
Slaven Bilic’s side have flattered to deceive this season and have enjoyed very little success but what is clear is that the talent within that team is enough to cause the visitors problems.
Derby matches are very difficult to predict even if the form table suggests that Spurs should be comfortable winners. Harry Kane’s performances of late have been exceptional and he will be looking to continue his phenomenal run of 19 goals in 26 London derby matches.
Unfortunately for the hosts they will be without their talisman for the campaign, Michail Antonio, who is set to miss the remainder of the campaign with a hamstring injury. Andy Carroll is also struggling for fitness, but will be given every possible opportunity before kick-off to be ready to play.
Contrasting fortunes this season
The rivalry between the two teams is clear to see and we can look back to Mauricio Pochettino’s first competitive game in charge of the North London club and look how the clubs have gone in opposite directions.
Sam Allardyce’s West Ham dominated Spurs on the opening day of the 2014/15 season and were unfortunate to lose 1-0 to an injury time Eric Dier goal.
Spurs have hardly looked back since then and have secured Champions League qualification in two of the three seasons the Argentine has been in charge.
West Ham however enjoyed huge success last term under Bilic, but have dropped off this season with the move to the London Stadium seen by supporters as a significant reason why European football is now a distant memory.
The big performances which gave character to Upton Park simply haven’t been reproduced at the club’s new home and there would be no better opportunity for the Irons to turn up than on Friday evening.
Their supporters need something to shout about after a year which has seen them slip down the table, have one of the worst home records in the Premier League and lose Dimitri Payet to Marseille after having made him the club’s highest ever paid player.
Motivation will not be a problem and it will be a case of whether or not Tottenham will be surprised by their opponents.
Historically the White Hart Lane club have been renowned for negative results in pressure situations, but under the former Espanyol coach this has been consigned to the history books.
Tottenham Hotspur are an efficient machine now, even more so in the 12 months since they saw Leicester City secure the title ahead of them and subsequently slipped to a third place finish on the final day of the season.
It is almost impossible to envisage such a scenario playing out again and they will be ready for whatever West Ham throw at them.
This is what makes it such an intriguing contest, unlike the majority of late season fixtures in England’s top-flight. Both teams will be giving it everything and the hosts will be spurred on by dislike towards their opponents.
It is no exaggeration that the home support would see stopping Tottenham winning the league as the best moment of their campaign, even if it means a brief suspension of understanding that it has in fact handed the crown to another of their London rivals, Chelsea.
As such we can expect a match that will be the perfect advert for English football; both teams will be going for the victory and have significant quality to put on a show.
For one reason or another, this could well turn out to be a classic played under the lights.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4
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