From the Bernabeu to the Etihad, the Champions League to the Premier League, from European excitement and adventure to everyday domestic matters. Following on from the disappointing, yet also encouraging, defeat to Real Madrid, attention turns to an important encounter with Arsenal.
Both sides have recorded exactly the same start to the campaign, winning two and drawing two, but whilst Arsenal have been described as ‘in-form’ and have received wide praise, City are supposedly struggling and ‘must win’ this fixture as the pressure builds. It is an interesting comparison and reflects how both sides are viewed these days: City as title holders for whom anything but a victory is deemed a mild crisis, and Arsenal as a growing team who have promise but not yet the consistency or ruthlessness to lift trophies.
Recent meetings between the sides would suggest that for all the enthralling, attacking football both play, goals are at a premium. Arsenal have failed to score in five of the past seven encounters against City in all competitions whilst in the league, City have been goalless in four of the past meetings with the Gunners. Our excellent home form, 29 wins and two draws from the past 31 games, suggests a win is on the cards.
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With regards to team selection, Roberto Mancini’s first question is which system to adopt for this match. He opted to start with four at the back in the Bernabeu but that changed to three, with two wingbacks, after half-time. Matija Nastasic made his debut against Real Madrid, replacing Joleon Lescott, but the England man will be determined to reclaim his place. Maicon missed training on Friday but would have been expected to miss out anyway, with Pablo Zabaleta coming back into the side.
In midfield, Samir Nasri misses out through an injury sustained at the Bernabeu so James Milner and Scott Sinclair are both in the frame to start, as are Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko, the former having recovered fully from injury and the latter looking dangerous whenever handed an opportunity.
Here is the side Mancini could select:
The visitors have been producing some lovely, attacking football this season and have seemingly added a defensive solidity that was previously lacking. They haven’t as yet, though, come up against any of the top sides so their supposed newfound resilience will be tested by our creative forces. Lukas Podolksi looks an inspired addition, as does Santi Cazorla but with Bacary Sagna missing through injury, Carl Jenkinson stands out as a weaklink at the back.
Referee: Mike Dean – Returns to the Etihad for the first time since officiating in the final game of last season, that unforgettable encounter with QPR. Very highly regarded, and rightly so, but does have a penchant for penalties.
Prediction: MAN CITY 3 – 2 Arsenal – Everything from recent meetings points towards a low-scoring game but with both sides’ abilities going forward combined with possible frailties at the back, I suspect this might be a thriller. Goals to be scored by Carlos Tévez, Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Lukas Podolski and Gervinho.