Manchester City will be hoping to get back to winning ways after losing ground to Chelsea in their title quest but face a formidable Arsenal side who seem to be growing in confidence. The Citizens have failed to beat the Gunners in the last three encounters since their remarkable 6-3 win at the Etihad, with Arsenal holding them to a 1-1 draw at the Emirates before beating them 3-0 in the Community Shield, followed by another 2-2 draw this season. Both sides will be going all out for victory with Arsenal’s top four spot in jeopardy and City’s title slipping further into Jose Mourinho’s clutches.
To Win (90mins)
Manchester City 15/20
Manchester City fell two points behind leaders Chelsea at the top of the Premier League after a 1-1 draw at Everton last weekend. The champions were neck-and-neck with the Blues but a 2-0 victory over Newcastle saw Mourinho’s men pull out in front at the top of the table. Manuel Pellegrini knows that his side can’t afford anymore slip ups as they attempt to retain their Premier League title. The Citizens have proven difficult to beat at home having won seven of their ten matches played with two draws, suffering just one defeat to Stoke back in August with Mame Biram Diouf scoring the only goal of the game. The bad news for City is that they will be without their talisman, Yaya Toure who will be taking part in the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast. The Citizens have failed to win a Premier League game without Toure since April last year following last weekend’s draw with the Toffees. City have won nine of their last eleven league games and Toure was absent in the two matches that they failed to get the maximum points – the draw with Everton and the clash with Burnley last month when City threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2. There’s no doubting his importance to the side.
However, this season, City have more midfield options than in previous campaigns, with Fernando and Frank Lampard bringing further variety to Pellegrini’s squad. Lampard will be expected to take his place alongside Fernandinho in the double pivot role employed in City’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Lampard, who made his Manchester City debut against Arsenal in the reverse fixture, will be raring to go and build on his five goal tally. The champions will be boosted by the return of their leading goal scorer Sergio Aguero as well as skipper Vincent Kompany and forward Edin Dzeko. Aguero brings obvious qualities, given his position as the club’s most feared marksman. His tally of nineteen goals in 21 games this season has further underlined his credentials as arguably the finest pure striker in Europe. And with Eliaquim Mangala still looking nervy, despite the huge strides he’s made in recent weeks, Kompany’s return is certainly a timely one.
Arsenal moved up to fifth place on the Premier League table thanks to a 3-0 win over Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium last weekend and there were plenty of reasons for Arsene Wenger to smile. Mesut Ozil returned, Theo Walcott bagged some more minutes, Laurent Koscielny scored and Francis Coquelin is proving to be a quality player. The Gunners are certainly treading in the right direction and on the verge of cracking the top four and like Manchester City, cannot afford to drop any points with Tottenham breathing down their neck and Southampton refusing to go away. Mathieu Debuchy is set for another spell on the sidelines after being pushed into the advertising boards by Stoke’s Marko Arnautovic, damaging his shoulder, and this will come as a blow for Wenger, who could still be without Kieran Gibbs. Santi Cazorla has been outstanding in recent games for the Gunners, scoring four times with two assists in the past seven matches; a feat made all the more impressive by the different roles he has fulfilled. His incredibly fleet feet and quickness of mind have spurred many of Arsenal’s attacks this season and he’ll be a nuisance for Pellegrini’s side.
Aaron Ramsey is expected to return to the line-up after recovering from a hamstring injury with Tomas Rosicky the likely candidate to make way for the Welshman. Ramsey brings goals to this Arsenal team—picking up assists while arriving at the right moment to finish off attacking moves himself. The prospect of having both Ramsey and Ozil fit should make Arsenal a tough prospect. However, the man to watch will be Alexis Sanchez. What a player! The man seems superhuman, playing every minute of every game and outclassing everyone on the pitch with a dizzying array of tricks and shots, combined with a laudable will to win. The Gunners would no doubt be several places lower in the table without Alexis, and with him there’s every chance of victory here. The Chilean is not even a striker and has scored twelve goals this season with seven assists to his name. His impressive form looks everlasting and it’s no surprise why he’s been labelled the ‘Man of the Match Every Match’.
VERDICT: Arsenal 33/10
Manchester City come into the game favourites at 15/20 while Arsenal are valued at a massive 33/10. The Citizens have struggled without Toure on the pitch and with the return of Ozil and Ramsey, the Gunners should have more of the ball. Sanchez looks capable of tearing apart any defence and with Kompany not fully match fit, he could find it very difficult to keep up with the Chilean’s pace. Arsenal will be more than happy with a draw at the Etihad but with the pressure on the champions to keep up with Chelsea, the Gunners could latch on to some great counter attacking opportunities and end up with more than they bargained for. At 33/10, Arsenal are well worth a punt but if you really want to play it safe then take Arsenal on the Win/Draw at 9/10. I’ll be bold and back a straight win for the Gunners.