Arsenal and Tottenham are eager to prove themselves as genuine challengers to Manchester City and a convincing victory for either side in the North London derby would go a long way to establishing their title credentials.
Mikel Arteta’s Gunners go into this clash having enjoyed a near-perfect start to 2022-23, winning six of their first seven Premier League matches to proudly sit at the top of the table.
But as they look down at the 19 clubs below them, Arsenal will see Antonio Conte’s Tottenham just a point and two places behind and Arteta will know that defeat this weekend could undo the momentum that is building.
A home loss in the North London derby would come as a shock given Arsenal’s dominance in this fixture but, for all their good work this season, there is still a lingering suggestion that the Gunners are more flat-track bullies than serious title contenders.
Their defeat to Manchester United extended a poor run of results against the top teams and Arteta could do with a statement victory to show that his team means business — and what better time to do so than in a North London derby.
Arteta has several players returning from injury and will hope that left-backs Kieran Tierney and Oleksandr Zinchenko will both be back in contention this weekend.
Midfielder Thomas Partey returned home early from international duty with a knee problem and is rated 50/50 to feature, but fellow midfielders Mohamed Elneny and Emile Smith Rowe are ruled out.
Cedric Soares is set to again miss out but youngster Reiss Nelson could return to fight for a place on the bench.
Conte has concerns over three key players, with goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, defender Ben Davies and forward Dejan Kulusevski all struggling with injuries and requiring late fitness tests.
Attacker Lucas Moura is closing in on a return following his Achilles injury but is again likely to miss out.
Despite topping the Premier League standings and impressing against weaker top-flight opponents, Arsenal still have plenty to prove against the top teams.
True, they beat out-of-form pair Manchester United and Chelsea at the back end of 2021-22, but Arteta’s men have lost the other six meetings against big-six opposition over the past 12 months.
Arsenal were beaten 2-1 at home by Manchester City, lost 4-0 and 2-0 to Liverpool, suffered a 3-0 thrashing at Tottenham and lost 3-2 and 3-1 in two trips to Old Trafford.
This weekend will be one of their tougher tests as while Tottenham have not always been at their fluent best, they remain extremely hard to beat, losing only one of their last 18 Premier League games.
However, Gunners fans will be buoyed by their league record when hosting Tottenham, winning 17 and losing just two of 30 home North London derbies during the Premier League era with 11 draws.
Both teams are collecting points at an impressive rate this season but there should be a couple of caveats to their results.
When Arsenal click they look majestic, battering the likes of Bournemouth, Brentford and Leicester with eye-catching performances.
However, it must be a concern that struggling pair Leicester and Aston Villa as well as Fulham have all found the net at the Emirates, and the naive nature of Arsenal’s defeat at Old Trafford will also have been a worry.
Arteta’s men dominated long periods of the match against an under-par Manchester United side but were undone by a handful of direct counter-attacks — Tottenham’s speciality — and the Arsenal manager’s substitutions served only to make his side more vulnerable.
But nor is Tottenham’s unbeaten record as impressive as it first looks, with five of Spurs’ seven league games coming against teams currently in the bottom seven.
And the laboured nature of their draw at West Ham and poor start against bottom-of-the-table Leicester shows that Conte’s team is still far from the finished article.
However, their ability to get something from trips to London rivals Chelsea and West Ham will be seen as a positive, even if the performances were less than sparkling.
Tottenham lost both of those fixtures last season and the mental fortitude on show this term suggests Conte is transforming Spurs into a side who are able dig in under pressure — that level of resilience could help them gain a point in a match that Arsenal are likely to dominate.