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Preview: Manchester City vs. Arsenal - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Manchester City vs. Arsenal - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Sunday's Premier League meeting between Manchester City and Arsenal.
By , Senior Reporter | 7mo

Manchester City have another chance to put some pressure on Premier League leaders Liverpool when they take on Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Citizens suffered a shock 2-1 loss at Newcastle United in their last outing and cannot afford to drop more points against their top-four challenging opponents.

Manchester City

The midweek round of Premier League fixtures was supposed to be all about whether Liverpool would hold their nerve with Man City breathing down their neck. The champions had the advantage of playing 24 hours earlier in arguably an easier fixture on paper, yet the Reds ended Wednesday night another point clear of their title rivals.

Tuesday's loss at St James' Park was made all the more surprising by the fact that Sergio Aguero had opened the scoring inside the opening minute. From that point on, though, Pep Guardiola's men seemed to take the three points for granted and they made the trip back south with a fourth league defeat of the season to their name.

City had won eight matches in a row heading into that Newcastle clash, scoring 33 goals and conceding just two. In fact, since Roberto Firmino temporarily restored parity in the league meeting between the Citizens and Liverpool on January 3, Guardiola's men had scored 30 goals without reply.

Then came goals from Solomon Rondon and Matt Ritchie in midweek, crushing that momentum the champions had built up over the past month. Now City must quickly pick themselves up, as they take on Arsenal and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium in the space of a week, either side of a rearranged trip to Everton.

The fixtures may not be kind for Guardiola, who admits that his side cannot afford to drop more points if they are to overhaul Liverpool, but they do at least have the opportunity to close the gap on top spot to two points ahead of the Reds' trip to West Ham United on Monday night.

Even accounting for their four successive league wins between January 3 and January 20, City's form over the past eight weeks will be a concern for Guardiola. City have lost four of their last nine top-flight outings, equalling the number of games lost in their previous 72.

City have already dropped more points than in the entirety of 2017-18, albeit in a season when they broke countless records in racking up 100 points, and they no longer seem the ruthless force they were 12 months ago.

That is best epitomised by the fact that three of their four defeats since early December have come after scoring first. Prior to that run, they had lost just three of their previous 96 matches when opening the scoring.

The wheels have not exactly come off yet, with City into the EFL Cup final, through to the last 16 of the FA Cup and in the knockout rounds of the Champions League, but Guardiola will know that his side have a big mountain to climb if they are to retain their Premier League crown.

Recent form in Premier League: LWWWWL
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWWL


Tuesday's 2-1 victory over Cardiff City marked the first time that Arsenal have won back-to-back league matches since overcoming Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur as November turned to December.

Unai Emery's side have lacked consistency in recent weeks, losing away to Southampton and West Ham United, heavily to Liverpool and drawing against Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United. A United side, it should be noted, that were being managed by Jose Mourinho at the time.

Yet a well-earned 2-0 win over Chelsea and the slender victory over Cardiff in the space of 10 days, either side of an FA Cup loss to Man United, has lifted the Gunners into fourth place. Goal difference may be all that separates them and Chelsea, but it is now advantage Arsenal with 14 games to go.

Arsenal, not for the first time under Emery, struggled to get going in a poor first-half showing against Cardiff, requiring a half-time reshuffle with the introduction of Alex Iwobi to finally take control of the match and earn all three points.

Winning away from home has proved to be far trickier for Arsenal this term, though, doing so just four times in 11 matches, losing four and drawing the other three. Just one clean sheet has been kept during their last 19 away outings, meanwhile, coming in a 1-0 win at Huddersfield Town last May.

For all the talk of their inconsistency, however, the Gunners have taken only three points fewer than Man City since August 20 and have lost fewer matches in that time.

Emery, who has never won a match against Guardiola in 11 previous meetings, now needs a major scalp to show that his side have stepped up a level since Arsene Wenger's departure last summer.

Victory at the Etihad Stadium would certainly send out a loud and clear message, but Arsenal's record against fellow top-six sides is poor in comparison to this weekend's opponents.

Recent form in Premier League: DLWLWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWLWLW

Team News

Guardiola is sweating on the fitness of goalkeeper Ederson, who sustained a cut on his leg in the build-up to Ritchie firing home a penalty for Newcastle in midweek.

Ederson played through the pain barrier but City may have to turn to 20-year-old Aro Muric if the Brazilian needs time to recover, though Guardiola will of course give his first-choice stopper every chance of being fit.

Benjamin Mendy sat out the defeat to Newcastle as he is still not fully over a knee injury, but after being given 11 days' rest he is expected to slot in at left-back here. Skipper Vincent Kompany remains on the sidelines, though, as does Claudio Bravo.

One man who appears certain to start up top is Aguero, who has scored in seven of his last 11 matches against Arsenal in all competitions, though he has not found the net in either of his last two.

In terms of the visitors, Emery could hand a debut to deadline-day arrival Denis Suarez at the home of his former club, but the Barcelona loanee is more likely to play a part from the bench.

Arsenal have been boosted by the return to fitness of captain Laurent Koscielny following the facial blow suffered in the defeat to Man United, which could see Emery revert to a three-man backline.

Should that be the case, Ainsley Maitland-Niles will need to be assessed as he is carrying a minor knee injury, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan is another slight doubt.

There are no concerns over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, however, with the Gabonese striker scoring his 25th Premier League goal in Arsenal's win against Cardiff, reaching that number faster than any other Gunners player in the competition's history (37 games).

Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Mendy; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Sane

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Leno; Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Kolasinac; Lacazette, Aubameyang

Head To Head

Man City have won their last three Premier League games against Arsenal - not since April 1937 have they won four in a row in this top-flight fixture.

The Gunners have lost seven of their last 11 visits to the Etihad Stadium, including defeat in the last two.

Taking all competitions into account, Guardiola's men have won the last four encounters against Arsenal by two clear goals.

We say: Manchester City 2-0 Arsenal

The champions have scored 25 goals in a row without conceding at the Etihad Stadium in all competitions, winning their last four home games by an aggregate score of 24-0. Arsenal are not the best of travellers and tend to struggle against City, with that disappointing run likely to continue this weekend.

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