In what many are dubbing the game of the season, the Premier League’s top two collide at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night in a match that will have a huge bearing on who lifts the silverware at the season’s conclusion.
We head to Manchester with a five-point lead, although Pep Guardiola’s team are breathing down our necks courtesy of having two games in hand - a home encounter with West Ham United next month, and a trip to Brighton & Hove Albion in the final week.
Having ended lengthy waits to taste victories at Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford and Tottenham during his time in charge, Mikel Arteta will be hoping he can claim our first victory in the blue half of Manchester since 2015 to give our title credentials a huge boost.
City eyeing up a Treble
Having booked their place in the semi-finals of the Champions League and setting up an FA Cup final derby day, thoughts have begun to turn towards City potentially emulating their neighbours’ exploits in 1999 and claiming the Treble come the end of the season.
They certainly have the momentum to do that, as since losing at Tottenham Hotspur at the start of February, Pep Guardiola’s side have won eight of their last nine league games, including their last six to close the gap to us at the top of the table.
At home this season they've looked imperious, winning 24 of their 26 matches in all competitions, with Brentford and Everton the only teams to leave with a result. However they have just kept 12 clean sheets in that time, with only five registered at the Etihad in the Premier League so far.
What the managers say
Arteta: “We knew from the beginning that City were the team to beat, probably with Liverpool, because of what those teams have done in the last six or seven years. They’ve fully deserved that credit and to be at the top. We were the ones that wanted to be closing that gap as much as we possibly could, and we are toe-to-toe with them.
“We knew we had to go to the Etihad, we know that after that we are going to have another five very difficult games. The game is going to be really important - but if it’s going to define the season, the answer is no.” - read every word from Mikel’s press conference
Guardiola: “It’s good to be here. After the first round [of fixtures] Arsenal did, it was difficult to think we would be here in that moment, so it is a really, really important game. We could get points our opponents cannot, so our focus is on what we have to do. We played two times this season and in the past as well. They have been really tight games and really difficult.
“It is really important, but not decisive because there are too many tough games for both sides. We have more tough games to play but cannot deny how important it is."
It remains to be seen if Granit Xhaka will be well enough to travel to Manchester after missing Friday’s game against Southampton through illness.
William Saliba remains out with a back issue, joining long-term injury victims Mohamed Elneny and Takehiro Tomiyasu on the sidelines.
City’s only concern surrounds Nathan Ake, who Guardiola admitted is set to miss out after hurting his hamstring during last week’s Champions League tie with Bayern Munich. Phil Foden made his return to action by playing the final 22 minutes of City’s FA Cup win against Sheffield United on Saturday after having his appendix removed.
Facts and stats
We have lost our last 11 Premier League games against Manchester City, our longest losing streak against an opponent in our league history.
We have scored just three goals in our last 10 league games against City, failing to score on seven occasions. We’d only failed to score in six of their previous 37 against the Citizens in the competition.
We’ve scored at least twice in each of our last eight league games, last having a longer such run between August-October 2018 (9).
Mikel Arteta has lost all six of his Premier League games against Manchester City – they're the only side the boss has faced but failed to beat as a manager in the competition.
Gabriel Martinelli has been involved in 11 goals in his last 10 league games (8 goals, 3 assists). Overall, he has 15 Premier League goals this season, the joint-most by a Brazilian player in a single campaign, along with Roberto Firmino in 2017/18.
Bukayo Saka has scored our last two league goals against City, though both of these have come in home games. Our last player to score home and away against the Citizens in the same season was Theo Walcott in 2016/17.
Erling Haaland has scored 32 Premier League goals for Manchester City this season, the joint-most ever by a player in a 38-game campaign in the competition. 20 of those have come at the Etihad Stadium, the most home goals by a player in a season since 2007/08 when Cristiano Ronaldo and Fernando Torres each scored 21.
Michael Oliver has been handed control of this one, which could be a good omen for us as we have won each of our last five matches he has officiated, including successes against Liverpool, Chelsea, West Ham United and Everton this term. Those are four of 24 games we’ve won under his watch, out of a possible 51.
Oliver has only overseen two City games this season - their opening day win over West Ham, as well as the 6-3 success against Manchester United. They have won all of the last 11 Premier League games he has taken charge of, stretching back to September 2020.
- Referee: Michael Oliver
- Assistant Referee 1: Stuart Burt
- Assistant Referee 2: Ian Hussin
- Fourth official: Craig Pawson
- VAR: David Coote
- Assistant VAR: Eddie Smart
Recent trips to the Etihad Stadium
It was only back in January that we last faced City away from home, and that saw our much-changed side fall to a 1-0 defeat in the FA Cup with Ake grabbing the only goal of the game to end our interest in the competition.
That stretched City’s winning streak over us at their home to seven matches, and you have to go back to May 2016 for the last time we got a result, when a late Alexis Sanchez equaliser earned us a point in a 2-2 draw.
The previous year was the occasion of our last win on City’s patch, which came when a Santi Cazorla penalty and an Olivier Giroud header took all three points.
Look back on that game as well as other memorable wins against City - including us twice scoring four times in the first half - in our look back at classic contests.
For the best big-game build-up for any Gooner around the word, Nick Bright and Adrian Clarke will be live at Emirates Stadium one hour before kick-off to get you prepared for the action.
They’ll link up with Nicole Holliday who will be at a special screening of the match for some of our My Arsenal Rewards members, and Adrian will analyse how we can overcome our recent record at the Etihad to secure three massive points.
There will also be chat about our Women’s Champions League semi-final against Wolfsburg, and a celebration of the under-18s’ run in the FA Youth Cup, before we join Dan Roebuck and Josh James for live commentary from the Etihad, who will keep you up-to-date with how the huge contest is shaping out.
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