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Nov 16, 2012

Arsenal, Spurs warn 'antisocial' fans

Arsenal and Tottenham have issued a joint statement warning supporters that antisocial behavior during Sunday's north London derby will not be tolerated.

Tottenham travels to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday with a one-point advantage over Arsenal for one of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures in the domestic calendar.

The meeting between the bitter rivals always tends to be a heated affair on the pitch and in the stands. Last year, things boiled over at White Hart Lane when some Arsenal fans directed abuse at Emmanuel Adebayor, while a section of the Tottenham support also chanted offensive songs at Arsene Wenger.

"Both clubs are actively encouraging all fans to focus on getting behind their team and enjoying what promises to be a great match on Saturday," a statement published on the Arsenal and Spurs websites read. "A north London derby is always a special occasion and we hope Saturday's match will be remembered for both the action on the pitch, as well as the positive support for both teams off it."

Tottenham also warned its fans that offensive banners will be confiscated upon entry to the stadium.

Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas is confident his team can end 18 years of hurt by finishing above bitter rival Arsenal in the Premier League this season.

Villas-Boas said he believes Tottenham has what it takes to shift the balance of power and finish above the Gunners for the first time since 1994-95. Arsenal has since won seven major trophies and reached a Champions League final, while Tottenham has struggled to keep pace.

"We have to (finish above Arsenal)," Villas-Boas told a news conference. "It is possible to bridge the gap. We are looking at trying to shorten the gap and not letting it grow. To play for fourth spot is difficult bearing in mind the competition you have to overcome. It's possible to bridge it.

"Arsenal has won trophies in recent times and they have qualified for the Champions League more often. That is where we want to be in the future. We're getting nearer."

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger admitted Tottenham had closed the gap between the teams in recent years.

"For some time, we were winning championships and Tottenham were not in the top four at all, so of course they have got closer in recent years, but fortunately we managed always to get above," said Wenger. "Tottenham have a good side every year and they are a team who are now fighting with us."

The last time the sides met at Emirates Stadium, in February, Spurs raced into a 2-0 lead before Arsenal battled back and ran out 5-2 winners, a result that was the catalyst for a fine end to the season which saw the Gunners finish third.

The Spurs eventually would end up fourth and miss out on Champions League football after Chelsea won the European Cup.

"Every London derby is important. We dropped some points recently and we want to come back in a more consistent way of results. That is why it is a good opportunity to do that tomorrow," Wenger said.

Tottenham playmaker Mousa Dembele will miss the derby with a hip injury. Aaron Lennon has recovered from a hamstring injury, and Jermain Defoe and Kyle Walker, who also had hamstring complaints, should be fit to play.

Villas-Boas will decide Friday whether to stick with Adebayor or recall Defoe up top.

Arsenal will assess the fitness of several first-team players before the match, including striker Olivier Giroud (hamstring/calf) and winger Theo Walcott (buttock muscle).

Midfielder Mikel Arteta (hip) is another causing concern, along with fullback Bacary Sagna (leg), but goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is close to a comeback from his ankle problem and could be included in the team for the first time since September. Midfielder Jack Wilshere will be available again after suspension.

Spurs defender Steven Caulker is licking his lips at the prospect of beating Arsenal in a Tottenham shirt for the first time tomorrow. Caulker made his debut against the Gunners in a League Cup clash two years ago. The experience proved to be an unhappy one as Arsenal ran out 4-1 winners over an experimental Tottenham side.

"It will be very surreal knowing that in the space of two years I will be playing them again in a Tottenham shirt in a league game," Caulker told Spurs TV Online. "That's what I have always wanted to do. Last year I beat Arsenal 3-2 when I was at Swansea. That was obviously a great moment and I hope we can do the same at the weekend."

Information from Press Association was used in this report.

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