Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Manchester City vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

Second-placed Arsenal take on sixth-placed Manchester City this Saturday in the day's early fixture. Arsene Wenger will be hoping to become the first manager to win at the City of Manchester Stadium this season, as City look to break back into the European spots.

The stadium has become a fortress for City this season, seeing the Citizens drop only 6 points in 12 home games. Sven-Göran Eriksson's side has yet to lose at home, but could be facing their toughest test of the season against a determined Arsenal side.

Traveling to a stadium in which the home team is undefeated is always a tough task, but an Arsenal team full of belief will still be full of confidence. The team are also provided continuity by the fact that Arsene Wenger's squad on Saturday will be the same as the squad that defeated Newcastle 3-0 on Tuesday.

Robin van Persie has returned to training but will not be fit in time for the match. Tomas Rosicky is expected to be back in contention before next weekend's game against Blackburn, and Johan Djourou is expected to be out for three more weeks. Emmanuel Eboue, Kolo Toure, and Alex Song are all on international duty at the African Cup of Nations.

Manchester City are relatively injury free with only Danny Mills, Michael Johnson, and loanee Nery Castillo likely to miss the match due to injury. Eriksson's side will be low on confidence though, having dropped two points to Premier League whipping boys Derby on Wednesday.

Arsene Wenger will likely field the starting XI from the Newcastle game again, with Manuel Almunia in goal. Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Gael Clichy, and the vastly improving Philippe Senderos will make up the back four.

In the midfield Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb, and Abou Diaby will try to provide for their forwards. Mathieu Flamini will have a tough time bossing around Blumer Elano and Martin Petrov, but after an incredible performance on Tuesday, the Frenchman will feel up to anything.

Emmanuel Adebayor will most likely start alongside Eduardo again, although Nicklas Bendtner may feature due to his height. Even Adebayor won't be winning too many headers against the huge backline of Manchester City which includes giants Richard Dunne and Vedran Corluka.

Although Micah Richards and the City defense have done an impressive job this season, Arsenal always seem to find a way through, and are likely to do so again this Saturday. Eriksson's squad lacks attacking power up front, and Arsenal's impressive midfield lineup should be able to stifle the contributions of City's top scorer Blumer Elano. This advantage should be enough to keep Arsenal at least level on points with Manchester United at the top of the Premier League table. I predict a 2-0 win for the visitors.