This is going to be a vital weekend for the title race as two of the main competitors come head-to-head at the Etihad Stadium. Neither side can afford to this this match, as Chelsea look formidable at the moment. Arsenal were seen as the main challengers to the Blues until they slipped up during the week against Everton. They need to avoid defeat this weekend. Meanwhile, Manchester City have lost two of their last three matches and another defeat will raise more doubts about Pep Guardiola’s approach.
After a great start to life in England, Pep Guardiola had struggled before the victory over Watford, but those three points could provide his side with the momentum to get back into the title race. They are seven points behind Chelsea, but they have some excellent players and they will only get better as they get more used to Guardiola’s style of play. It is a project at City and the toughest one that Guardiola has taken on in his career, therefore patience is required.
Arsenal haven’t had a serious title challenge in years and they will be hoping that this year is different. They have one of the best first elevens in the league and in Alexis Sanchez, they have a player that can produce a match-winning moment out of nothing. There are still concerns about squad depth as they are over-reliant on a handful of players, as was clear against Everton as they struggled defensively without Shkodran Mustafi. However, they should be confident heading into this weekend as they have an attack that should cause City a lot of problems.
Manchester City have lost two of their last three matches and aren’t full of confidence ahead of the match against Arsenal. They did manage to keep their first clean sheet in six leagues, which should give their defence a boost as they come up against the second best attack in the league. Although they did lose to Chelsea a few weeks ago, they were the better team for long periods of the game and were unlucky to not get something from the game. They need to learn from their mistakes and win this weekend against one of their other title rivals.
The visitors have been excellent in the league this season with their defeat against Everton being their first since the opening day. Interestingly, both of Arsenal’s losses have come against clubs from Merseyside. They have been difficult to beat this season, while they possess one of the most dangerous attacks in the league. The Gunners have scored 12 goals in their last four Premier League matches and will be confident of scoring a few more on Sunday.
I expect Fernando to come in for the injured Ilkay Gundogan. This is an area that Arsenal can exploit, as Fernando isn’t as good as either Fernandinho or Gundogan in that role. Kelechi Iheanacho could be given the opportunity to start after being an unused substitute in the week.
After an impressive cameo in the week, I expect Alex Iwobi to come into the Arsenal team in place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. That is the only change that I think Arsene Wenger will make this weekend.
Manchester City Arsenal
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Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho will be serving the third match of their suspensions. Vincent Kompany and Ikay Gundogan will both miss out through injury, but Fabian Delph is closing in on a first team return after a hip problem.
Per Mertesacker is back in full training, but he is unlikely to be brought back in for such a big game. Yaya Sanogo and Aaron Ramsey are close to full fitness. However, Danny Welbeck, Chuba Akpom, Santi Cazorla, Mathieu Debuchy and Shkodran Mustafi will all miss out.
This is an impossible match to call as neither have shown themselves to be reliable this season. Arsenal were until their defeat against Everton, but without Mustafi, they look a worse side. There will almost certainly be goals in this match, but it is difficult to call a winner. For that reason, I’m going to predict a draw. However, I expect lots of entertainment for the neutral.
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