Manchester City vs Arsenal Preview

English Premier League | Sunday 8 May | Etihad Stadium | 17:00




With Leicester crowned the new champions of England, we will turn our attention to the race for an automatic Champions League position. 

The Citizens are three points off the Gunners after falling to a disappointing 4-2 defeat at Southampton last weekend, but a win against Arsenal will slingshot them above their opponents on goal-difference. 

With just eight points separating third-placed Arsenal and sixth-placed West Ham, the race for the top four is far from over. 

This encounter has all the prospects of a humdinger, but just which team possess the guts and determination to claim the all important victory and take one step closer to an automatic place in Europe’s most prestigious club competition?

To Win (90mins)
Man City 14/10
Draw 5/2
Arsenal 18/10

Manchester City

Manchester City went crashing out of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday after Gareth Bale's deflected strike off Fernando was enough to give Real Madrid a 1-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu.

City's hopes of qualifying for the Champions League remain in the balance as a brilliant Sadio Mane hat-trick secured Southampton an easy win last weekend. 

Manuel Pellegrini questioned his team's "motivation" after the 4-2 defeat at St Mary's and would have been disappointed with his side's lacklustre performance against Madrid. 

City remain fourth - three points behind third-placed Arsenal and four ahead of fifth-placed cross-town rivals Manchester United. 

The Citizens had been in fine form before their shock defeat to Southampton, having taken 13 points from 15 in their previous five games - a run which included emphatic victories over Bournemouth, Chelsea and Stoke. 

Pellegrini must now ensure the heavy defeat on the south coast does not derail their progress. 

It was no surprise that the Chilean had freshened up his team - with five changes from the team who thumped Stoke 4-0, and eight from the side who drew against Real Madrid. 

Man City will field their strongest team here, and a much improved performance is expected. 

It was evident that City were missing midfield maestro David Silva against Madrid as Yaya Toure looked like a passenger while Kevin De Bruyne was unnoticeable. 

Pellegrini will still be without the Spanish playmaker who has a hamstring injury, but he will demand a better display from his players. 

Sergio Aguero is without a doubt their most dangerous player, and despite being plagued by injury time and time again this campaign, the Argentine has still scored an impressive 23 goals, just two behind top scorer Harry Kane. 

De Bruyne and Samir Nasri will offer the Sky Blues a creative spark going forward, with their trickery and change of pace making them difficult to mark. 

Raheem Sterling and Jesus Navas are two of Man City’s more quicker players. Both have sublime speed, and love getting down the flanks to deliver those dangerous deliveries. 

Sterling has been quiet this term as he has struggled to find form, but Navas has proved doubters wrong and has proved a key component to his team. 

Man City must come back strong against Arsenal  - and with the Gunners taking on Aston Villa at home on the last day of the season, the Sky Blues must go for all three points here. 



Arsenal

And then there's Arsenal. 

The Gunners were 1-0 victors over Norwich last Saturday night, but their performance was far from convincing. 

They will still be confident of remaining in the top four despite United and West Ham's games in hand, but their stuttering form suggests it's no guarantee, especially if they lose here. 

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger had to endure calls for his departure as his side beat a Norwich team whose Premier League future looks increasingly bleak. 

Fans protested inside and outside Emirates Stadium, voicing frustration at their team's failure to mount a title challenge in recent years. 

Signs of a counterprotest popped up in the stadium with some chants of "There's Only One Arsene Wenger", a factually accurate standard as you'll ever find. 

I'm not sure what Gooners are thinking to accomplish, as previous fan protests have largely done little to provide anything but media narrative. 

But back to the business - Arsenal are unbeaten in eight Premier League matches (W4 D4) with only West Ham (10) and Leicester (9) on longer unbeaten runs than the Gunners and Wenger's side have kept three clean in a row in the Premier League for the first time since September 2015. 

Arsenal's only absentee is Per Mertesacker, who picked up a hamstring injury against Norwich. The rest of the team is fully fit, so Wenger is spoilt for choice. 

Olivier Giroud is on a goalscoring drought – failing to score in his last 15 league games, which will hopefully see Wenger opt to start Danny Welbeck, who was the man to find the winner against Norwich last time out. 

‘Dat Guy Welbz’, as he is affectionately known, has looked a better player whenever he has been available. He is quick off the mark, has great aerial ability and is strong on the ball. 

Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez have lacked consistency this campaign. 

Ozil may be the leading assist chart for the season, but those assists have died down in recent weeks, while Sanchez has blown hot and cold since his return from injury. 

However, both players are instrumental to the team, and have the ability to turn the game on its head in the blink of an eye. 

With Ozil’s creativity and vision, combined with the Chilean’s goalscoring prowess, they give Arsenal a cutting edge which is invaluable. 

The Gunners will need to ensure they remain solid and organized in their backline, just as they have been in their last three games. 

If they can do that, they could just get the better of Man City.  

Probable line-ups:

Manchester City: 4-2-3-1

Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Otamendi, Kolarov; Fernandinho, Fernando; Nasri, Navas, De Bruyne; Aguero

Arsenal: 4-2- 3-1

Cech; Bellerin, Koscielny, Gabriel, Monreal; Elneny, Ramsey; Iwobi, Sanchez, Ozil; Welbeck

Betting Verdict: Draw (5/2)
Arsenal will be eager to take more points off City, and will be confident of finishing the season with a victory at home to bottom side Aston Villa. Sunday's clash at the Etihad is even more important for City after their defeat by the Saints, and after that Pellegrini's men face an away trip to Swansea on the final day of the campaign. A tight affair is expected and the draw looks a likely result. 

Written by Aaron Crowie. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Crowie