Manchester City: Stefan Jovetic & Matija Nastasic - Out; Gael Clichy & Micah Richards
Arsenal: Alex Oxlade-Chainberlain, Abou Diaby, Ryo Miyaichi, Lukas Podolski, Bacary Sagna & Yaya Sanogo - Out
Manchester City: None
Manchester City: LWWWD
Manchester City and Arsenal are widely regarded as the two best teams in the Premier League and for good reason: Man City have by far the best attack in the league, while Arsenal contain the league's toughest defence. Additionally, both teams contain world class performers in every department of the pitch. In defence: Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany star for City; Per Mertesacker and Sagna for Arsenal. In midfield: David Silva and Yaya Toure for City; Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil for Arsenal (Ramsey has not performed at this level long enough). Where there is a difference is Sergio Aguero is the only world class attack, giving City a slight edge in an otherwise even tussle.
City having the edge over Arsenal is important as I predict an open game, for City's sake and indeed even for Arsenal's, it makes sense to play this way. City must realise this is their best chance to narrow the six point gap between themselves and Arsenal before the Champions League resumes in February - after the Chelsea game next week, Arsenal's matches are all winnable until a trip to St. Mary's to play Southampton at the end of January. If City play their cards right they could be level with Arsenal after next week. This mode of thinking must dictate their preparations for the up and coming game. This situation is parallel to last season when City played Man United and lost 3-2. United were able to extend their league, ahead of a few 'easy' matches and the rest is history.
Arsenal need to win to follow Man United's example. Man City are the best team in the land and therefore most likely to be the ones leading the chase for top spot. Those more pragmatic than I am would suggest Arsene sets his team up to play for a draw - after all it is better to preserve the lead than to lose it all together. Although I hate teams who adopted this philosophy, it does make sense - if and only if you have a team do so. Arsenal tried this against Napoli on Wednesday and had Napoli had 10 more minutes, it would have been Arsenal and not the Italian side cursing the nature of their group of death.
Arsenal's best bet of gaining a draw is if they take the game to City. City are suspect at the back and if Arsenal are able to prove everyone wrong by getting an unlikely result, it not only gives Arsenal a great psychological boost, but it also creeps doubt into Man City.
Where Arsenal can do the most damage is in the middle of the pitch. Although Man City generally wield more possession, Arsenal rely more on midfield creativity to score goals, whereas City rely more on individual skill to make a breakthrough. If Arsenal can pass as quickly and as slickly as they can, the City back-line will be caught unawares. Furthermore, against Southampton, City struggled to navigate through Southampton's midfield.
With Arteta, Flamini and Ramsey being in fantastic form and being hard workers, there is no reason why Arsenal cannot exert there dominance on City.
However, for Arsenal to do this, they would have to do something no Premier League team has done in the Premier League so far. Another omen that is against them is the fact they were unable to rest any of their players mid-week. Man City were able to rest Aguero, Negrdo, Kompany, Nasri and Yaya Toure.
Although in the past I have made too much of fatigue, it does seem to have caught up to Arsenal. Against Everton and particularly Napoli, they looked leggy towards the end, and with the added zip City players will have, I doubt Arsenal will be able to play their normal game.
Furthermore, against Southampton, City did not have David Silva available. Against Bayern he showed why he is up their with Iniesta as the two best attacking midfielders in the world. Silva is able to retain the ball under enormous amounts of pressure and I believe he will give City the added impetus the need to win the midfield battle.
Manchester City 3-1 Arsenal