Arsenal host Manchester City on Monday night, and a win will take them back to two points behind Premier League leaders Leicester City, but perhaps more importantly, leave Man City four points behind, and move seven points clear of fourth.
Here are my predicted starting XI’s:
Despite them both having only returned to training in the past week, I am expecting both Sanchez and Aguero to start, in what is the biggest game of the season so far. Meanwhile the rest of the Arsenal team will remain unchanged with Campbell the only player dropping out. City will also be largely the same but De Bruyne will come in for Navas, and Bony will drop to the bench.
Sanchez will have completed a few training sessions, while Aguero has had longer to regain fitness. However we all know that the Chilean doesn’t need much recovery time before he’s firing on all cylinders again. At the same time, the risk of another injury would not be worth the gamble for Wenger if he’s not completely ready with such a busy schedule set to ensue.
Arsenal are going into the game off the back of three consecutive victories, which has taken them to 2nd in the Premier League, as well as securing a Round of 16 tie against Barcelona in the Champions League. Arsene Wenger will be hoping to keep this momentum going and confidence throughout the squad growing before a hectic festive period which see’s the Gunners play Southampton and Bournemouth before hosting Newcastle all within a week.
Meanwhile Manchester City scrapped a late win against a struggling Swansea side last week, and lost away to Stoke the previous week. They will be looking to make a resurgence with a fit again Aguero, attempting to prove that they are rightly favourites to win the league this year.
Bellerin v Sterling
It will be a big test for Bellerin who has not been in the best of form since his return from injury several games ago. Contrastingly, Raheem Sterling has been one of City’s best players this season, if not the best. Delivering fairly consistently while injuries have blighted a lot of his teammates.
Giroud v Otamendi/Mangala
I expect Giroud will mostly take up his position on Mangala’s side given he is the poorer of the two at present. How well he can hold up the ball and bring others in to play will be crucial to our game, against a team who will most likely set up very defensively as they always have done at the Emirates.
Flamini v Silva
With Coquelin a long-term absentee, it falls to Flamini to take up the mantle once again. How effectively he can stop the little Spaniard from picking out Augero, de Bruyne or Sterling, will be integral to Arsenal’s defensive resolve.
Of course there will be battles all over the park, these are just a few key ones to name.
Arsenal have lost only one in their last 18 home meetings with Manchester City, and 4 of the last 6 games between the two at the Emirates have resulted in draws, with 1 win a piece.
Despite Man City’s wealth and the force they have become in recent years, they have always come to the Emirates looking to play counter-attacking football, and most importantly, to not concede.
Arsenal are often questioned over their performances against the bigger teams, but with 2 wins and a draw against City last season, and home wins against Manchester United and Bayern Munich already this season, the shroud surrounding this is finally starting to dissipate.