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    Arsenal to face in-form Tottenham and Bale in north London derby

    London: Stopping Tottenham winger Gareth Bale has proved beyond most Premier League defenses this season, so there's little hope Arsenal's suspect back four will be up to the job in Sunday's crucial north London derby. By scoring eight goals in his past six matches, Bale is inviting comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as he almost single-handedly looks to lead third-place Tottenham into the Champions League next season.

    Next in his sights are Arsenal, who are currently just outside the top four and facing a real fight to qualify for Europe's top competition for the 16th straight season. Fans, opposing managers and even teammates have been left in awe of Bale, who is the favorite to be named the 2013 Player of the Year by his Premier League peers later this year.

    "Words can't really describe how well he's playing at the moment," Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker said after Bale's latest match-winning performance in which he scored twice in Spurs' 3-2 win at West Ham on Monday. Arsenal have managed to stay in contention for the Champions League positions despite being in the midst of one of its worst seasons in manager Arsene Wenger's 17-year reign. Provided the team fails to turn around a 3-1 first-leg deficit in its Champions League last-16 match at Bayern Munich, Arsenal will have gone eight years without silverware.

    Their creaky defense has been under particular scrutiny, with captain Thomas Vermaelen's form having dipped and fellow center backs Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny failing to impress. With France right back Bacary Sagna ruled out by Wenger on Thursday because of a knee injury, Bale has a great chance at White Hart Lane to improve on his 19 goals already this season - 15 of which have come in the league.

    "I think anybody would love to be mentioned alongside the best in the world," Bale said in an interview with British magazine Sport, which will be published on Friday. "It's flattering, but I don't really look too much into it. I don't get the newspapers or read too many reports, so I don't really know how much hype there is. Obviously my friends tell me things, but I just treat every day as normal and focus on my job."

    Will Arsenal be able to stay at number 3 in EPL?