/ 21 January 2008

Gallas expects Spurs to crack again

William Gallas believes the fear factor can help Arsenal reach the League Cup final and extend their long unbeaten run against Tottenham on Tuesday.

Gallas’s side travel to White Hart Lane for the League Cup semifinal second leg with the tie delicately poised at 1-1.

But while Tottenham feel they are slight favourites on home turf, Gunners captain Gallas knows history suggests Arsene Wenger’s men will be the ones who end up celebrating a trip to Wembley.

Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 21 matches against their north London rivals — a run stretching way back to 1999. It is a dispiriting statistic for Spurs but an inspiring one for Gallas and company.

Even though they were outplayed by Juande Ramos’s side for long spells in the first leg at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal were lucky to escape with a draw thanks to Theo Walcott’s late strike.

Gallas is convinced the memory of that blown opportunity and so many years of failure against Arsenal will weigh heavily on Spurs as they try to finally end the barren run.

”For Spurs the Emirates game will feel like a defeat. They played well and it was a big chance for them. They could have made it 2-0 but they didn’t and we got the draw,” Gallas said.

”I’m sure we will be stronger for the return game, they will know that too.

”They know it will be difficult to beat us, even if they are at home.”

With Kolo Toure, Johan Djourou and Alexandre Song all unavailable on Tuesday, Gallas is set to make his first appearance in the League Cup this season.

Wenger traditionally uses the competition to blood his most promising youngsters but the absence of so many senior defenders may force him to turn to Gallas.

The France centre-back is ready for the challenge.

”The tie is level at 1-1 and still open. It’s up to us to win the game there. If I’m needed then of course I am always ready to play,” he said.

”We wanted to get the win, of course we did, but the way the game turned out means that psychologically we have a slight advantage when we go there.

”I know the boys are really determined to reach the final and I’m sure we can.”

The significance of helping the club to their first cup final since 2002 will be motivation enough for Ramos’s players but the chance to do it against Arsenal, who beat them at the same stage last season, gives extra spice to the occasion.

Ramos gave a clear indication of the game’s importance by resting Dimitar Berbatov, Steed Malbranque and Ledley King for Saturday’s Premier League win over Sunderland.

The Spaniard has a formidable record in knock-out competitions after winning the Uefa Cup twice with Sevilla as well as the Spanish Cup.

But he knows he needs a full-strength side to beat Arsenal, regardless of who Wenger decides to play.

Tottenham’s best hope of victory could rest with Robbie Keane. The Republic of Ireland striker only played for 15 minutes against Sunderland but that was still enough to claim his 100th goal for the club.

”It was a great achievement for him, for Tottenham and the whole Spurs family,” Ramos said. ”It’s great for Robbie and I’m very happy for him because this achievement is not easy to reach.” — Sapa-AFP