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Saturday December 14, 2013 MYT 7:30:00 AM
Friday December 13, 2013 MYT 5:58:59 PM
by shaun orange
Well done. Man City's Fernandinho (centre) and his team-mates defied the odds to beat European champions Bayern Munich in their final Champions League Group match in mid-week. Can the Citizens repeat the feat at home against Premiership table-toppers Arsenal on Saturday? - AFP
MANCHESTER City’s clash with Arsenal at the Etihad today is the pick of the weekend’s English Premier League programme and one that promises loads of action and great excitement.
Many neutrals point to a victory for City, partly because they are the only club in English football with a 100% home record so far this season.
But it might not turn out to be as simple as it looks.
Arsenal lead the Premiership by five points and have been the most consistent of the title contenders. They have shown good form in recent weeks, bouncing back with three wins and a draw in their last four League games – during which time they conceded a solitary goal.
They crashed at Napoli (2-0) in the Champions League in midweek, but will no doubt put that behind them as they turn their focus back to the biggest prize of all – the Premier League title.
However, Arsenal will be hard-pressed to craft a win at the Etihad. It is not impossible, but should be remarkably difficult to achieve.
The Citizens have played their best football at home this season, with seven wins from seven outings. And they have capped it by scoring 29 goals and conceded a mere two.
It is that record which Arsenal will be wary of as they make their way to the Eastlands. They will also have noted that Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta were not in the starting line-up at the Allianz Arena, where Manuel Pellegrini’s side registered a famous win over Bayern Munich’s European champions on Tuesday.
Pellegrini will almost certainly start with Aguero and Negredo upfront, if they are fit. This attacking combination has reaped rich rewards since the arrival of Negredo in the off-season and the Gunners will be tested thoroughly by the two marauding strikers.
City’s defence will be bolstered by the inclusion of Kompany, yet will remain rather suspect. But it is the midfield where Pellegrini will be looking to win the battle against Arsenal. Toure, along with David Silva, who made a comeback from injury in the victory at Bayern, have long been the lynchpins in the middle of the park. They are in a class of their own and the best in this league.
But the rapid settling down of Brazilian star Fernandinho has added a new dimension to the team and, in my book, is really what has turned around their fortunes compared to last season.
It has been said that every time City attack, one expects them to score. Ask Tottenham, they should know after that 6-0 thumping on Nov 24.
Spurs were not the only one to be humiliated at the Etihad. Others were also trounced – Newcastle (4-0), Man United (4-1), Wigan (5-0), Norwich (7-0), CSKA Moscow (5-2).
So, could Arsenal be next on that list? Many neutral fans think so.
Shaun Orange believes City will win by three goals, even if it is after a tough fight.
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