13th December 2013
Manchester City may have missed an excellent opportunity to close the gap behind leaders Arsenal as they failed to hold on to a lead against Southampton, but they will have an even better one this Saturday as they host the Gunners at Etihad. And it is Arsene Wenger’s side that face an uphill task here with their opponents having won every single home game this season.
The fact is Manchester City haven’t performed to expectations this season, but with their title rivals also dropping points on regular basis, the Citizens are not that far away from the top. The six-point gap behind Arsenal can be cut down to three after this match and the reality is Manuel Pellegrini’s side have got plenty of reason for optimism at the moment. Their away form may not be good enough for a team vying for the Premiership title, but, on the other hand, the Citizens look unstoppable at home. It is not that they have won all seven home fixtures in the league, but they recorded comfortable triumphs even against the likes of United, Everton and Tottenham, which is enough to suggest Arsenal will have their work cut out for them as well. The midweek victory over Bayern Munich may have proved to be in vain as the Citizens missed out on the first place in their Champions League group, but the result acted as a huge confidence boost, especially as Manuel Pellegrini used the game to rest his key men. Meanwhile, David Silva marked his return into action with a goal, meaning the hosts are unlikely to be too concerned by the absences of Matija Nastasic and Micah Richards.
Arsenal have clearly been the most consistent of all title contenders this term, and that has seen them open up a five-point lead at the top. However, team’s latest performances are enough to suggest their form is on a downtrend, and that is something that Manchester City will be looking to exploit. Considering how other top sides have fared at Etihad, it is clear that the Gunners will have to play a perfect game if they are to get something from this match, and I seriously doubt that is possible at this moment in time. First of all, the Gunners will be shaken by under-par performances against Everton and Napoli, even if they did not cost them dearly, while tired legs are also going to be the problem, with this game coming less than 72 hours after the difficult encounter at Stadio San Paolo. Taking also into account that Wenger only managed to rest three of his starters in Naples, unlike his Manchester City counterpart, it is clear that Arsenal’s fitness levels will be far from perfect on Saturday. On top of that, Bacary Sagna is likely to be sorely missed as Carl Jenkinson has been known to struggle in high-profile matches in the past. Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshire are set to be recalled, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Yaya Sanogo remain sidelined.
Midweek victory over mighty Bayern Munich should give Manchester City just the boost they need to extend their magnificent home run, with their opponents not exactly in the best shape at the moment. Arsenal are not on top of their game at the moment and everything suggests the title race will become much more interesting after the match at Etihad.
Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 4/5
Bookmaker: William Hill