Manchester City v Arsenal

Published 16/12/16 

The pressure is well and truly on for Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola as they prepare for a meeting at the Etihad that may reveal a great deal about their side’s title challenges.

Until Wednesday Arsenal had been keeping pace with league leaders Chelsea but their worst league performance of the season opened the door for Antonio Conte’s men to steal a march; by the time the Gunners kick off on Sunday the gap to first could be nine points.

Manchester City have also struggled to keep pace with Chelsea but brought to an end a near-three month wait for a home league win with an at times uninspired 2-0 victory over Watford, adding a rare clean sheet in the process.

Even those three points came at a cost, with Ilkay Gundogan facing several months on the sidelines with a knee injury and joining Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho and Vincent Kompany in missing Sunday’s crucial game.

TEAM NEWS

Manchester City midfielder Gundogan suffered a cruel blow in what has been an injury-plagued few years for him when he collided with Watford wide man Nordin Amrabat, reports in Germany now suggest the 26-year-old may be out for the remainder of the season.

Guardiola’s midfield options are further depleted by the absence of Fernandinho, suspended for violent conduct after being red carded in a brawl during the closing minutes of the 3-1 defeat to Chelsea. It likely means Yaya Toure, ostracised by his manager until last month, will be paired with Fernando at the base of City’s midfield.

Sergio Aguero will continue to serve his four match ban for violent conduct whilst Vincent Kompany is not expected to return until 2017.

Wenger is also without a key defender as Shkodran Mustafi continues his recovery from a hamstring injury that could rule him out for much of the festive period whilst Aaron Ramsey is unavailable with a similar problem.

Santi Cazorla, Danny Welbeck, Per Mertesacker and Mathieu Debuchy remain mid-to-long term absentees.

Injuries aside there remains an ongoing battle for spots on the Arsenal flanks, one it seemed Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were shading until both put in anodyne performances at Everton. Both Lucas Perez and Alex Iwobi will hope that a spot has now opened up for them.

POSSIBLE STARTING LINEUPS

Manchester City: Bravo; Zabaleta, Otamendi, Stones, Kolarov; Toure, Fernando; De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling; Nolito

Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin; Walcott, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Sanchez

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