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Arsenal vs Tottenham: Kelly Smith hopes Emirates’ first WSL north London derby can break crowd record | Football News


Arsenal Women legend Kelly Smith hopes Saturday’s historic north London derby at the Emirates can break the Women’s Super League record attendance held by rivals Tottenham Women.

The Emirates hosts its first WSL north London derby this weekend as league leaders Arsenal take on Champions League-chasing Spurs.

The first north London derby in WSL history was held at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in November 2019 and attracted a league-record attendance of 38,262 as Arsenal won 2-0.

Smith, who won five FA Cups with Arsenal, is attending Saturday’s match with her family and is hoping for an Arsenal victory both on and off the pitch.

Asked whether the Gunners can set a new WSL attendance record this weekend, she exclusively told Sky Sports: “Yeah, it would be great to hold that record and would be great for the game.

“I was at that match in 2019 and part of that crowd, and just to see that amount of people there supporting the women’s game was fantastic.

A general view of the action during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on November 17, 2019 in London, United Kingdom.
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The WSL attendance record of 38,262 was set in November 2019 by Spurs when they hosted Arsenal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

“It’s encouraging people to get out and buy tickets, and to go and support this fantastic occasion in the women’s game.

“The Arsenal players look at this match as being really tasty and they want to get one over on their rivals, and being an Arsenal fan, I hope they do that.

“It’s always been like an old rivalry in the men’s game, but it’s kind of a new rivalry that we’re trying to big up to be something special in the coming years.

“We want it to be talked about as a big north London derby. I’ve played a part of it a couple of times and it’s a special occasion.

Arsenal's Kelly Smith holds the trophy and celebrates after winning the SSE Women's FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, London.
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Kelly Smith won five FA Cups with Arsenal

“For the Arsenal and Spurs players to be playing at the Emirates, an iconic stadium, this is what the game needs and deserves, playing in these big stadiums with big crowds.

“It draws a lot of attention to the games and let’s hope to get as many people there as possible.

“I can’t wait for it. I’m going be there with my family, cheering them on and hopefully Arsenal can do it and keep themselves in the title race.”

‘Arsenal can count on Emirates experience’

Saturday’s match will be the second consecutive game at the Emirates for Arsenal, having hosted Wolfsburg there on Wednesday in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

Jonas Eidevall’s side also beat WSL title rivals Chelsea at the Emirates in September and Smith believes their positive experience at the stadium will give them an edge over Spurs.

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“I know the girls really love playing there,” the 43-year-old said. “They’ve got a game there against Wolfsburg, so it’s kind of a warm-up fixture for the game on Saturday.

“It is a big game on Saturday for both teams – playing in that iconic stadium is going to be massive for them.

“It’s all about how you deal with your emotions. I think Arsenal probably got more big game experience playing there.

“They’ve played there a few times over the last few years so they know the changing rooms, they know the size of the pitch and the stadium, and that preps you well for when you play games like that.

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“There are a few nerves, because in recent history Arsenal have been the better team and expected to win on these occasions. So that’s added pressure going into these games, especially being at the Emirates with the home support.

“I think Arsenal have got the key players with experience to handle the big occasions and they enjoy playing in these games.

“Tottenham don’t have that as much; they’ve had it playing at their home stadium in 2019, but it will be a new occasion for them, but they’re going to be up for it.”

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‘Tottenham are drawing closer to Arsenal’

Arsenal are yet to lose to Spurs in the WSL since Tottenham’s promotion to the division in May 2019.

But in November’s reverse fixture at The Hive, Arsenal needed a Vivianne Miedema stoppage-time equaliser to rescue a 1-1 draw as Spurs took their first-ever WSL point against the Gunners following five straight defeats against them.

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Highlights of the Women’s Super League match between Tottenham and Arsenal

“This is probably the best Tottenham team that I’ve seen in a long time,” admitted Smith. “I think Tottenham are drawing closer to Arsenal.

“It should be a real tough battle. I don’t think Arsenal are going to go into this game and think it’s already won, they have to earn the right to perform and play to win on the day.

“The last fixture was a 1-1 draw, so it just goes to show you how close Spurs are getting to the top teams.

“I’ve been really impressed with how Spurs have developed the last few seasons with the support that they’ve got from the men’s side.

“I think Rehanne Skinner (Spurs boss) has done a fantastic job, making a real go of it. I don’t think anybody expected them to be fourth or fifth for the majority of the season.

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“I think in previous years this fixture hasn’t really meant too much because Tottenham have only been in this this league for a few seasons.

“But they’ve put a lot of money into the programme and they’re getting closer now to the top teams, so it’s going to be a brilliant game.”

Who will win: Arsenal or Tottenham?

Following the postponement of Chelsea’s match against Tottenham on Wednesday, Arsenal can go five points clear of the champions with a victory on Saturday.

Meanwhile, a win for fifth-placed Spurs would see them move a point behind third-placed Manchester United, who occupy the final Champions League position.

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Highlights of the Women’s Super League match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Arsenal

So what is Smith’s prediction for the first WSL north London derby to be hosted at the Emirates?

“Both teams have to be looking to win on Saturday,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a bit of a cagey affair to begin with.

“The pressure is on Arsenal to keep winning, keep in the hunt for the title race, but I think if Arsenal get an early goal the belief will grow in them and they will win the game.

“I think Leah Williamson will be key for them if she’s fit. She gives them a different added dimension at the back with her passing range and her leadership.

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Highlights of the Women’s Super League match between Tottenham and Man City

“In the draw earlier this season, it was backs against the wall a little bit for Arsenal and you could see them pushing and trying to get that equaliser and finally they did in added time, so they know how to come from behind.

“But I just think Arsenal at the minute, and in the form that they’re in, will just edge it on the day.

“I think it will be one or two nil to Arsenal. I don’t think they will concede, especially if Leah Williamson and Rafaelle Souza are the partnership.

“Hopefully it’s going to be a cracker and all the fans will get behind the teams and make it an occasion to remember.”

The North London Derby at Emirates Stadium, between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur takes place on Saturday 26 March, at 2.15pm.

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