Writer: Nick Simmonett
Date:Tuesday April 17 2007
Arsenal host Manchester City tonight as they look to rubberstamp their place in next seasons Champions League.
Arsenal`s hopes of playing in next season`s Champions League took a massive dent in the last month after they suffered consecutive defeats to Everton, Liverpool and West Ham. Arsene Wenger stopped the rot at Newcastle with a bore draw, before going on to mastermind a victory over euro rivals Bolton on Saturday.
A victory for Man City could help boss Stuart Pierce secure his position as manager for next season, after rumours he is set for the chop after a disappointing season at the Eastlands.
Arsenal will be confident of victory but they will have to be cautious if City, they travel to Ashburton Grove with no expectations and no pressure; a combination that can often prove fruitful for the Premiership`s 'lesser` teams. 4 wins in their last 6 away matches supports this theory.
Goals have been hard to come by for City until their recent 3-1 away win at Craven Cottage. Their top scorer this season is Joey Barton with 7 goals. One-time Arsenal target Samaras comes a close second with 6 goals.
Barton may be City`s top scorer but he hasn`t faired too well on the discipline front this season, with 11 yellows and 1 red card!
Arsene Wenger shares my concern that City may be most threatening today, because there is no pressure on them. Speaking at his pre-match press confrence Wenger said: 'City might be at their most dangerous away from home because there is no pressure on them.
'They have a good midfield and to block their midfield will be the most important for us.
'They are safe now, but they will want to keep going and they will come here and try very hard.'
City boss Sturat Pierce believes that a victory today could see his team go the rest of the season unbeaten.
The bad (or good if your name is Tim Stillman) is that Freddie Ljungberg joins Henry, Van Perise and Walcott on the sidelines.
The good news is that there are no other fresh injuries.
According to BBC Sport Diaby and Baptista are both pushing for a start.
The Czech midfielder was outstanding against Bolton at the weekend, not only did he score the crucial equalizer, he also joined Cesc Fabregas in running rings around Kevin 'I'll never get a cap' Nolan and Co.
I'm tipping him to do a similar job against City and grab another goal.
City striker Emile Mpenza is a doubt with a hip injury. striker Mpenza also faces a late fitness test fot Man city.
He's the kind of striker Arsenal hate to play against - sh*t on the floor but great in the air. He'll be looking to bring his team mates into play by holding up the ball. He doesn't pose much of a goal threat but that doesn't make him any less of a danager.
The leanient Mark Halsey will referee today's game. This will be his first Arsenal game of the season (if I'm not mistaken). So far this season he's dished out 5 red cards and 50 yellow cards in his 22 matches. An average of 2.50 per game.
This is usually a bad sign but I'm quite confident about this one. I know both Le Boss and myself (best of buddies are we ;)) both said that City could pose a threat but I feel that Arsenal are returning to form just in time to grab that third place in the Premiership. 3-0 Arsenal. Adebayor, Rosicky and Gallas to grab them.
Date:Tuesday April 17 2007
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