Roberto Mancini’s side were easily beaten by the Blues at Stamford Bridge on Monday after Gael Clichy’s sending off mid-way through the second half left them a man down against Andre Villas-Boas’ men. The defeat brought to an end City’s 14 match unbeaten record that had seen them soar to the Premier League summit and establish a seven-point lead over rivals United. However one win in their last three has seen the Red Devils cut that advantage down to only two points heading into the hectic festive period. Mancini will be expecting an immediate response from his crop of world-class players as they strive to wrestle the title away from their noisy neighbours. It’s been a tough couple of weeks for the Italian as he watched his players exit their debut Champions League campaign at the group stage and saw several of his key defenders succumb to injury. The suspension of Clichy for the visit of his former club Arsenal will be another massive blow and it’s likely Mancini will sacrifice his new attacking system in favour of his old defensive methods to ensure victory against the Gunners. However with players like Sergio Agüero, David Silva and Mario Balotelli leading the attack don’t expect City to sit back and allow their opponents to come at them.
That would certainly be a naïve move considering Arsene Wenger’s side are in red hot form at the moment winning seven of their last eight to put themselves within touching distance of the top four. The goals of Robin Van Persie have been a key factor in their renaissance over the last couple of months and the Dutchman’s stunning winner against Everton last week was his 34th in 2011. There has been talk that City are planning a move for Van Persie in the upcoming transfer window and they’ll be able to get ringside seats to check out exactly why they are considering him as a potential signing. However whilst the Gunners skipper has hogged the headlines for much of the season credit must go to the likes of Alex Song, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta who have formed a devastating partnership that will eager to pit their wits against the class in City’s midfield. One concern that Wenger might have is that over his defence with injuries to key players meaning the likes of Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou are playing out of position at full back meaning they could be exploited at ease. The Frenchman will have to get his back four tight and on their game if they are to win for the 10th time in the Premier League in the blue half of Manchester.
Manchester City – 1st
Last Five: Lost 2-1 v Chelsea (A), Won 5-1 v Norwich (H), Drew 1-1 v Liverpool (A), Won 3-1 v Newcastle (H), Won 3-2 v QPR (A),Won
Potential Starting X11: 25. J. Hart 5. P. Zabaleta 4. V. Kompany 6. J. Lescott 28. K. Toure 18. G. Barry 42. Y. Toure 21. D. Silva 7. J. Milner 16. S. Aguero 45. M. Balotelli
Injury News: Mancini will be without definers Micah Richards and Aleksandar Kolarov for the visit of Arsenal whilst Owen Hargreaves also remains out.
Key Player: Sergio Aguero
Despite ending up on the losing side on Monday night City’s mercurial Argentinian still shone in the defeat to Chelsea. Aguero was a constant threat to the Blues back four with his pace and skill making him difficult to manage. He’ll be looking to take out his frustrations on an Arsenal back four that has had it’s critics this season and ensure his side remains top of the table.
Match Fact: City have an awful home record against Arsenal winning only four times at the Etihad Stadium during the Premier League era.
Arsenal – 5th
Last Five: Won 1-0 v Everton (H), Won 4-0 v Wigan (A), Drew 1-1 v Fulham (H), Won 2-1 v Norwich (A), Won 3-0 v West Brom (H)
Potential Starting X11: 13. W. Szczesny 6. L. Koscielny 4. P. Mertesacker 5. T. Vermaelen 20. J. Djourou 17. A. Song 14. T. Walcott 8. M. Arteta 16. A. Ramsey 27. Gervinho 10. R. Van Persie [C]*
Injury News: Left back Andre Santos joins the long list of players currently in the treatment room with the Brazilian out with a sprained ankle
Key Player: Robin Van Persie
Another wonder goal from Van Persie last week won the game for Arsenal and put the striker within sight of Alan Shearers record of 36 goals in a calendar year. The Dutchman has been unbelievable for the Gunners in 2011 and will be looking to continue his fine form against City on Sunday and fire his side towards the top four.
Match Fact: Arsenal enjoy their trips to the blue half of Manchester winning nine and drawing one of the 14 top flight encounters at the Etihad Stadium.
Last Time at the Etihad Stadium
Premier League 24 October 2010
Manchester City 0-3 Arsenal
Nasri (20) Song (66) Bendtner (88)
City will be spoiling after their defeat against Chelsea on Monday and know their position at the top of the Premier League is under threat. Mancini’s men will be determined to get back on the winning trail after losing their unbeaten record and put a halt to Arsenal’s hopes of breaking into the top four. The Gunners have been in superb form this season but winning in the blue half of Manchester will be their toughest challenge of the season to date.