City and Arsenal in search of a win as they play catch-up in title race

Manchester City host Arsenal in the Premier League at the Etihad Stadium this afternoon (4.00pm kick-off UK time).

The hosts go into the match today in fourth place in the Premier League table.

They are one place and one point behind Arsenal in the table.

The Gunners are ahead of third placed Liverpool in the table on goal difference.

The problem for the chasing pack is that the leaders Chelsea in rowing parlance now have clear water at the top of the table.

Chelsea equalled a club record as they beat Crystal Palace 1-0 yesterday at Selhurst Park to secure their 11th successive Premier League win and move nine points clear at the top of the table.

So the pressure is on both City and Arsenal to secure a win today. Liverpool play Everton at Goodison Park tomorrow night in the first Merseyside derby of the season.

Manchester City got their Premier League campaign back on the winning track, with a 2-0 win over Watford on Wednesday.

It was their first win in five league games at home (D3, L1). It was also the first time they had scored more than one goal during that run.

City have not been lower than third in the table on Christmas Day since 2009-10, when they were sixth.

If they keep the Gunners goalless today they will record consecutive Premier League clean sheets for the first time since March 2016,

Petr Cech has failed to keep a clean sheet in his last seven Premier League appearances; he has never gone eight successive games without a clean sheet in the competition.

Arsenal go into today’s contest on the back of their first defeat since the opening weekend of the season.

The 2-1 loss against Everton at Goodison Park on Tuesday ended a run of 15 matches unbeaten for the Gunners and was a first away defeat of the season.

Arsenal haven’t lost consecutive Premier League away games since April 2014 (0-6 vs Chelsea, 0-3 vs Everton).

Head-to-Head

The last six Premier League meetings between these two sides have produced 24 goals – four per game, on average.

Arsenal are unbeaten in their last six games with Manchester City in all competitions (W3 D3 L0).

City’s last victory in this fixture was 6-3 at home in December 2013.

Only Chelsea (7) have won more Premier League games away at the Etihad Stadium than Arsenal (6).

Manchester City have been given eight red cards in the Premier League against Arsenal; more than they have against any other opponent.

Arsenal are the only Premier League side not to be losing at half-time in the Premier League this season (winning seven times, drawing nine times).

In the overall head-to-head between the clubs City have won 49, drawn 44 and lost 96 times to the Gunners in all time meetings.

Key Men

Kevin De Bruyne has provided a league-high eight assists this season. However, he has failed to score in his last 10 league appearances, his longest goal drought in the Premier League.

Alexis Sanchez has had a hand in 27 goals in his last 27 Premier League appearances for Arsenal (19 goals, 8 assists).

Sanchez has scored 41 goals in 81 Premier League appearances for Arsenal. The only players to reach 41 goals quicker for the club in the competition were Thierry Henry (74 apps) and Ian Wright (77 apps).

Olivier Giroud has scored in four successive appearances against Manchester City in all competitions.

The Managers

Arsene Wenger has won just two of his previous eight competitive meetings with Pep Guardiola (W2 D2 L4), all in the Champions League. Away from home, his record versus the Spaniard is W0 D1 L3.

Pep Guardiola

“We are conceding a lot of goals, said Guardiola.

And I think that is because the football is more unpredictable here,” said the City boss.

[The ball] spends more time in the air than the floor, and in the air the ball is not controlled, always I tried to control the game through the ball, away from your goal, and here it is more difficult to do that. I have to adapt that. In some times of the game you have to be more simple.

That unpredictable game here in England, that makes it so fascinating for the fans, because you never know what will happen. It’s always there’s a last chance for one team, which makes it so beautiful, but to try to control it is a bit more difficult and we will need more time.

‘Will I be a success? I don’t know. After six months we have made some good things, some not so good things. And sometimes in the moment, the precise moment, wow, we’ve missed our chance. For instance if Kevin De Bruyne scores the second against Chelsea, we don’t lose the game.”

On facing Arsenal, Guardiola added.

“When they are not be able to pick up the ball they will be back, wait at the back, and then use the amazingly huge counter attack with [Theo] Walcott, [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain.

With [Olivier] Giroud it will be tough to win the second ball, if we are lazy they are going to play, play, play in the right moment and they could punish us.”

Arsene Wenger

“I feel we had quite a good game [at Everton] but were not repaid, said Wenger.

Maybe we did not manage to transform our chances into goals, but the attitude was there. We want to go into the next game to respond straight away with a positive result.

The key to big games against Manchester City is to defend well together and not be timid every time you get the ball

We have to have a go and try to attack, because that’s part of our philosophy. Overall that’s what you have to do but you have not to forget as well that City’s team is very strong going forward, maybe even more now with Pep Guardiola, so we certainly have to focus on defending well.

What you want from the top-level games is that it responds to the level of expectation quality-wise. I hope that both teams achieve that. I think it will happen because I’m a positive man and I always expect big games to be something special. I expect a special performance and for it to be special for people who love football.”

Team News

Manchester City

Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero are suspended.

Ilkay Gundogan is likely to be out for several months after suffering knee ligament damage against Watford.

Vincent Kompany (knee) remains out.

Fabian Delph is not yet back to full match fitness after a groin operation.

Provisional squad: Bravo, Caballero, Zabaleta, Sagna, Stones, Otamendi, Adarabioyo, Kolarov, Clichy, Toure, Fernando, Garcia, De Bruyne, Navas, Sterling, Silva, Sane, Iheanacho, Nolito.

Arsenal

Aaron Ramsey and Shkodran Mustafi remain out with hamstring injuries. Danny Welbeck and Per Mertesacker (both knee) and Santi Cazorla (achilles) have been long-term absentees.

Provisional squad: Cech, Ospina, Martinez, Bellerin, Jenkinson, Holding, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs, Monreal, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Coquelin, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Walcott, Reine-Adelaide, Iwobi, Sanchez, Akpom, Giroud.

Match officials

Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistants: G Beswick, A Nunn
Fourth official: R Madley

Prediction

A 2-2 draw to leave both sides frustrated and playing catch-up behind Chelsea

 

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