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David Thompson 16th Dec 2011 - 21:50

Arsenal after a bust-up at the Etihad on Sunday.


Manchester City v Arsenal

Sunday 16:00 - live on Sky Sports 1

Manchester City 8/11    Draw 5/2    Arsenal 4/1

Big games just keep coming for the under pressure Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini, and this Sunday's test comes in the shape of North London's finest, Arsenal. Having recently been knocked out of the Champions League and losing their first Premier League game of the 2011-12 season it is certainly an opportune moment to record a convincing victory at the Etihad Stadium in front of an expectant home crowd.

Both clubs received bad news from the UEFA draws in Lyon. Despite topping their group Arsenal were handed the red herring in the knock-out phases draw as they pulled AC Milan for their last 16 clash. Meanwhile Man City didn't fare much better in the Europa league, expecting a more manageable tie in Europe they got anything but as they drew the holders FC Porto.

Despite the negatives Mancini will be quick to remind his overpaid superstars that they have taken 49 from a possible 51 points in their last 16 games at the Etihad Stadium and won the last 12 in a row. He will be delighted with the return of Micah Richards (8/1 anytime) to the squad what with his problems on the other flank. Former Gunner Gael Clichy is suspended due to his dismissal in City's 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge whilst his direct replacement Aleksandar Kolarov remains injured. With this news one would expect Arsene Wenger to let loose England winger Theo Walcott (5/1 anytime), however such is City's squad that Pablo Zabaleta (12/1 anytime) can fill the void at left-back and Gareth Barry (7/1 anytime) can lend a hand should Walcott look to exploit the right-hand side.

Arsenal's defensive problems persist, despite no new injuries they are still missing left backs Andre Santos and Kieran Gibbs as well as right backs Carl Jenkinson and Bacary Sagna. They are making do Djourou (25/1 anytime) on the right and playing arguable the league's best central defender Thomas Vermaelan (8/1 anytime) at left back. This proved effective against Everton where Arsenal managed to keep back-to-back Premier League clean sheets for the first time since February, however the Gunners back four will be fully tested and stretched on Sunday when they face the league's top scorers on their own patch.

If their last meeting is anything to go by, which saw Man City win 1-0 (8/1 correct score) in a Carling Cup tie last month thanks to a late Sergio Aguero (9/2 first goalscorer) breakaway goal, expect a close affair with possession for both sides. Arsenal where unlucky to lose that tie but the main talking point had to be the spat between former gunner Samir Nasri (9/4 anytime) and defensive midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong (12/1 anytime). Neither are likely to start at the Etihad on Sunday but it would be fitting if both entered in a fixture that produced three red cards in the two meetings last season. (3/1 for a red card in the match)

Roberto Mancini has done well to deflect attention away from 21-year-old Italian Mario Balotelli (5/1 first goalscorer). He has had yet another training ground bust-up, this time with England right-back Micah Richards. If he starts, as is expected, look for the likes of Vermaelen and Song (12/1 anytime) to upset the talented forward in the hope of another outburst.

Arsenal's last trip to Manchester ended in them conceding eight goals in a humiliating defeat to Alex Ferguson's side. Since then Arsene Wenger's side have come leaps and bounds and are sure to test the league leaders. Van Persie (5/1 first goalscorer) remains in outstanding form having scored 15 in 15 in the league so far, he will have it all to do but not as much as the Arsenal central midfield. If Wenger can get to grips with Yaya Toure (5/1 anytime), Barry (7/1 anytime) and Silva 7/1 first goalscorer) then the gunners stand a real chance of taking something away on Sunday. However for me the city squad looks too strong on paper and with Mancini keen to put on a performance in front of their home crowd, expect City to continue their goalscoring against a make-shift Arsenal back line.

With all the attacking prowess on show and with both sides missing key players in defense our Match Winner offer has to be a tempter. We have enhanced the price of there being four goals or more in the match from 7/4 to a very generous 2/1. Will there be goals galore come Sunday evening?



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