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Monday 18 December 2017

Bellerin aims to shoot down Spurs' title bid

Defender says Arsenal spirits high heading into derby clash

Hector Bellerin and Arsenal team-mate Alexis Sanchez will be aiming to put a dent in Tottenham's title hopes on Sunday
Hector Bellerin and Arsenal team-mate Alexis Sanchez will be aiming to put a dent in Tottenham's title hopes on Sunday
Christian Eriksen

Hector Bellerin is hopeful Arsenal's recent resurgence has come at just the right time for them to derail Tottenham's title challenge on Sunday.

The Gunners make the short trip to White Hart Lane for what could be the last time this weekend having reached the FA Cup final following victory over Manchester City last weekend.

Arsene Wenger and his side have come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks following a string of bad results which saw them drop out of the Premier League title picture and crash out of the Champions League.

But the win over City, followed up by a hard-fought 1-0 success over current champions Leicester on Wednesday night, has restored them to winning ways before the north London derby.

Arsenal were pushed all the way by the Foxes before Robert Huth's late own-goal sealed the three points which keep alive their slim hopes of a top-four finish.

Bellerin returned to the side against Leicester and wants to take the new-found confidence into a game Spurs need to win to keep the pressure on leaders Chelsea.

"There was good energy and good spirit and we've just got to keep it going into the weekend now," he said.

Spirit

"It's really important to get to those games with a good spirit and good mood in the dressing room and after these two last results, the team is in a great one and we've just got to keep it going.

"It was really important for us to get the win. The spirits were really high after the weekend, so we knew that we had to keep it up.

"Leicester is always tough. They're a team that defend really well, so it's always very hard to crack them. We had to wait until the last 10 minutes to do it but I think the team deserved the win. We had the most of the game."

Arsenal's victory over Leicester, however, was blighted somewhat by a knee injury sustained by Laurent Koscielny, who was forced to stay on for the final 10 minutes as Wenger had already used his three substitutes.

Koscielny will be assessed ahead of Sunday's clash but any absence would be particularly unwelcome, given Arsenal are already without Shkodran Mustafi in central defence.

"Koscielny has a knee problem but I don't know (how serious it is)," Wenger said. "I have to check."

Meanwhile, Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino stoked up the heat ahead of the north London derby by saying the days of Spurs being concerned about finishing higher than the Gunners are now behind them.

"That is no motivation, and no distraction," said the Tottenham boss.

"What happens at the end of the season, we will see. Our focus is trying to win. We are not thinking to be above Arsenal, our challenge is to reduce the gap with Chelsea and think of bigger things than only to be above Arsenal.

"One day to achieve big trophies, you must be mentally bigger. You must think about bigger dreams."

Spurs needed a late Christian Eriksen goal to sink Crystal Palace on Wednesday night, the Dane cracking home a 30-yard drive with 12 minutes remaining.

Tottenham had previously endured a tough few days, losing the FA Cup semi-final to the Blues on Saturday before Antonio Conte's side beat Southampton 4-2 to stay in control at the top.

"I think it was an important victory for us in a very tough game, a game against a team in good form," added Pochettino. "We showed great character and personality after a disappointing weekend."

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