Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Friday January 11 2013
13th January, 2013
Arsenal welcome champions Manchester City (there's a sentence I didn't see myself typing ten years ago) to North London knowing both teams require nothing less than a victory.
City currently trail United by 7 points, with Arsenal 5 points behind their rivals (in more ways than one) Spurs. Indeed, the gap for both teams might be bigger come kickoff.
Arsene Wenger believes beating Manchester City could give his team the lift they need to become a force at the top of the table again.
'We know this a vital period for us," the manager said. "We are on a positive run. We still lack a bit of confidence in some situations and I feel our team will be very dangerous if we have full confidence.
"We are not far from it but we need another positive result in a big game to be completely confident and believe in our ability to come back."
Meanwhile, Roberto Mancini wants to reverse his unflattering record in N5, 'He added: 'To play against Arsenal in London is very, very difficult because they play very well there.
'But we changed many things last year and it is a time now to change this situation.
'Also it is difficult because we miss important players but we want to do a good job on Sunday.
'We are disappointed because we need our fans away. We have fantastic fans, fantastic support. We are sorry for this.
'I don't know the real situation. I read it in the newspaper. It is clear for us our fans are very important.'
Arsenal will give Olivier Giroud a late fitness test after he suffered a deep gash on his knee in the F.A. Cup draw with Swansea. Abou Diaby and Andre Santos came through an U-21 match earlier this week, along with Carl Jenkinson. Gervinho is on international duty with Ivory Coast.
Lukas Fabianski (ankle) is Arsenal's only other absentee, Emmanuel Frimpong is suspended following his red card in the U-21s on Wednesday.
Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Mannone; Sagna, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, A.Santos, Arteta, Coquelin, Diaby, Wilshere, S.Cazorla, Rosicky, Ramsey, Chamberlain, Podolski, Walcott, Giroud.
If Giroud isn't fit enough to start, Arsenal will opt for Walcott upfront. If they do so, they'll need to reactivate the high octane pressing game against City, because they will need to rely on fast transitions of play to service Walcott.
Jack is at his best on the front foot I feel, pressing opposing defenders high up the pitch- a tactic that brought Mikel Arteta his winning goal against City last season. If Arsenal are to win, they need to boss the midfield and Wilshere will be key to that battle.
City lose Yaya Toure to the Ivory Coast's African Nations quest with brother Kolo. Samir Nasri is suspended and Sergio Aguer's calf injury keeps him out.
Aleksander Kolarov (knee) returns, but Micah Richards (knee), Jack Rodwell (knee) and Maicon (knee0 are all unavailable.
Manchester City (from): Hart, Pantilimon; Zabaleta, Lescott, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Kolarov; Rekik, Barry, Milner, Garcia, Silva, Lopes, Suarez, Sinclair, Tevez, Dzeko, Balotelli.
If Wilshere and Cazorla are responsible for igniting Arsenal's attacking performance from midfield, then City's David Silva is charged with much the same task.
Silva is adept at finding space where there seems to be none and picking passes that elude even the most perceptive of radars. City will probably be cautious and look to hit Arsenal on the break and Silva's qualities will be central to their success.
Manchester City havem't scored at the Grove since April 2007, when DaMarcus Beasley registered in a 3-1 defeat for City.
There have only been 5 goals in the last 6 games between the two teams.
Arsenal have missed their last three penalties against City.
There have been four red cards in the last five fixtures between the two.
City have conceded more goals from outside the area than any other side in the league.
The two teams have played one another 174 times. Arsenal have won 89, City 45 with 40 draws.
The referee will be Mike Dean. Excellent.
I'm expecting another tight game with the two sides inseparable ultimately. 1-1 draw, Dzeko for City, Cazorla for Arsenal.
Arsenal play Swansea City at home in the 3rd round of the F.A. Cup on Wednesday.
Manchester City are at home to Fulham next Saturday.
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Date:Friday January 11 2013
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