Monday 21st December – 20:00 – The Emirates Stadium
The final Premier League game before Christmas Day sees second face third as Arsenal host Manchester City. Both sides have struggled with injuries in recent weeks, but have remained in what is shaping up to be an incredibly close title fight. The Gunners are on a run of three consecutive wins, the most recent of which saw them defeat bottom side Aston Villa 2-0. Manchester City were also winners last weekend, but left it late to beat managerless Swansea City 2-1 – the perfect response to the loss to Stoke City. The winner of this clash in North London will sit second in the table come 25th December, but Leicester City will be hoping for a draw which would see them enjoy a four point lead at the top as they sit down to eat their turkey and all the trimmings.
- Forward Alexis Sanchez is back in training after a hamstring injury and could be in contention to play.
- If he fails to pass a fitness test, Arsene Wenger could name an unchanged side to the one that beat Aston Villa last weekend, meaning that Joel Campbell and Theo Walcott would start on the wings.
- Mikel Arteta could also be back after a calf injury, but Jack Wilshere (leg), Francis Coquelin, Danny Welbeck, Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky (all knee) remain out.
- Sergio Aguero could feature after four games out with a heel injury, while captain Vincent Kompany (calf) returned to light training but is not yet working with the squad so continues to sit out.
- City midfielder Fernando (hamstring) and defender Pablo Zabaleta (knee) are also still on the sidelines, while midfielder Samir Nasri (leg) is out long-term.
- Kevin De Bruyne is likely to return to the starting line-up, with Jesus Navas the man to make way.
The Key Battle: Olivier Giroud vs Nicolas Otamendi
In the recent absence of Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud has stepped up to the plate for Arsenal with five goals in his last three games – including a vital hat-trick against Olympiakos which took the Gunners through to the knockout stages of the Champions League.
A threat with his head or his feet, the Frenchman probably gets less credit than he deserves as he has proved vital to Arsene Wenger’s sides in recent weeks. Even with Sanchez out of the side, Giroud still holds the tag of ‘unsung hero’.
Nicolas Otamendi is also trying to improve his reputation in the absence of first-team regular – Vincent Kompany – but at the moment the Argentine is not living up to the £28.5 million that Manchester City paid for him in the summer.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side may be winning games, but they have not kept a clean sheet with Otamendi in the back four since the beginning of November against Aston Villa. That’s six games in a row that they’ve conceded in whilst the 27 year old has been on the pitch.
Arsenal wins = 94 / Manchester City wins = 49/ Draws = 43
*According to http://www.11v11.com
Last Meeting: Manchester City 0-2 Arsenal (18th January 2015)
Santi Cazorla scored a goal and created another as Arsenal ended Manchester City’s 12-match unbeaten league run and damaged their title hopes. Spain playmaker Cazorla converted a first-half penalty after Vincent Kompany fouled Nacho Monreal. Arsenal added a second after the break when Cazorla’s free-kick picked out Olivier Giroud and the France striker headed in from close range. The result left City five points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea. [BBC]
Arsene Wenger: “It is a massive game. When we play at home, you want to win because we are ambitious and we feel we have the chance to come out in a strong position after Christmas. It will be a very tight game because if you look at the numbers since the start of the season, offensively and defensively the numbers are very close. Manchester City has huge individual potential with David Silva and Sergio Aguero coming back and so we will need a top, top-level team performance.”
Manuel Pellegrini: “It’s not a decisive game as after this we have to play 21 games more. It’s important to try to be the best team from the first round, to play against a team with one point more. It’s a game of six points, to win three and to take three off a rival.”
The Referee – Andre Marriner
- Last Premier League game: West Ham 0-0 Stoke City (12th December 2015) – 3 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Arsenal game: Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Arsenal (23rd September 2015) – 4 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Manchester City game: Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Manchester City (3rd May 2015) – 7 yellow cards, 0 red cards
Stat of the Match
There have been five red cards in the last five Premier League matches between City and Arsenal at the Emirates.
Where can I watch it?
Sky Sports 1 are showing the game live from 7pm, with kick-off an hour later.
My Prediction: Arsenal 1-1 Manchester City
I was originally going to go for a 0-0 draw between these two sides, but then I saw that both of their talismen could both return from injury. I still think that they’ll share the honours though, with Sergio Aguero opening the scoring on his return, before Olivier Giroud equalises in a 1-1 draw.