Gunners in stern test at Etihad
Posted Saturday, December 14 2013 at 02:00
Arsenal are five points clear at the top of the Premier League, though, and that advantage would have been even bigger if Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu had not popped up with a late equaliser at the Emirates Stadium last Sunday
London- Arsenal’s Premier League title credentials will be given a major test when they travel to Manchester City on Saturday.
City have made the Etihad Stadium a fortress this season, winning all seven home games in the top flight and scoring 29 goals in the process.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side have also only conceded twice at home in the Premiership and come into the game on the back of a stunning 3-2 Champions League win at Bayern Munich.
Arsenal are five points clear at the top of the Premier League, though, and that advantage would have been even bigger if Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu had not popped up with a late equaliser at the Emirates Stadium last Sunday. Arsene Wenger’s charges suffered their first loss in seven games when Napoli beat them 2-0 in midweek, but they still qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League for the 14th season in a row.
The Londoners’ reverse in Italy caused them to drop to second behind Borussia Dortmund in Group F, meaning they will face one of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern, Atletico Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain in the first knockout round.
But Wenger has urged his players to put that disappointment behind them and concentrate on the race for the Premiership title.
“We have done our job now we will give absolutely everything on Saturday morning (at City),” said the Frenchman.
“We will see what comes out of the draw and will assess that in February, because a lot can change on both sides, on us and the team we play against, so we need to put that to the back of our minds now and focus on the championship.” Arsenal have lost only once on their travels in the top flight this season - at City’s local rivals Manchester United last month.
Lukas Podolski could return to their squad after being sidelined since August with a hamstring injury, but Bacary Sagna (hamstring) is ruled out. Aaron Ramsey will be expected to return to the starting line-up after being restricted to a substitute appearance against Napoli. City come into the game brimming with confidence after coming back from 2-0 down to beat European champions Bayern on Tuesday.
That victory was not enough to secure top spot in Group D, but Pellegrini’s men have now won five of their last six games in all competitions and know a victory over Arsenal would leave them just three points adrift of their opponents at the top of the table. Micah Richards sustained a hamstring injury against Bayern so will not feature on Saturday, and former Arsenal full-back Gael Clichy (foot) is a doubt.
Yaya Toure returns after being suspended for the trip to Germany, while Pellegrini must decide whether to give England goalkeeper Joe Hart another chance in the Premier League or keep faith with Costel Pantilimon.
Players to watch...
For Man City’s Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy, this is a match of emotions. They both rose to prominence at Arsenal before securing big money transfers to Man City. Clichy, though, is an injury worry for the clash.
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