Arsenal vs Manchester City – Emirates Stadium – March 1, 2018 – 19:45 hrs – EPL Preview
Mancheter City are a side truly fired up. A 5-1 drubbing of Leicester City a fortnight ago in a Premier League encounter was followed by an emphatic 0-4 away win at Basel that has virtually landed Pep Guardiola's boys a berth in the UEFA Champions League Round of 8.
City meet Arsenal twice inside a week, thanks to the Carabao Cup or EFL Cup final to be played on February 25th at the Wembley. Sergio Aguero with already 29 goals for City in all forms of competition (and 5 from his last two) will look to pose serious threats to the Arsenal goal and the Gunners worries will be compounded by the arrival of the young Gabriel Jesus back from injury.
Besides Aguero, all four forwards Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling have been in fine fettle, getting goals in the Leicester and Basel games. Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sane will be difficult to contain on the wings. The injured, but superb Edinho would be replaced by Claudio Bravo for the EFL Cup tie and also next week's Premier League clash at the Emirates.
Arsenal's new acquisitioins, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, will be severely tested in the coming days and whether they would prove to be worthy replacements for the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott remains to be seen.
Mkhitaryan impressed in the Gunners' convincing wins against Everton and Ostersunds FK, but then this is easy meat. The 1-3 defeat to minions Swansea City have exposed serious flaws in their defense and Arsene Wenger should consider himself lucky that he will be taking on City at home.
The Gunners have been further handicapped by the absence of ex-Lyon and key striker Alexandre Lacazette out on account of a knee-surgery till March end. The absence of their most important playmaker, Mesut Ozil, owing to “illness” is also baffling.
There are rumours that the advent of Mkhitaryan may have curtailed the German international's role in the midfield. Nevertheless, Ozil is expected to start off at the Etihad next week and even an appearance in Sunday's Cup showdown.
Arsenal host Ostersunds at the Emirates on Thursday night for the Round of 32 second leg clash of the UEFA Europa League. The Gunners look poised to move into the Round of 16 having gained an almost unassailable lead of 0-3 in the first leg of the said tie.
Manchester City were not able to secure a win in any of their last 5 visits to the Emirates, but bookmakers are expecting that to change this time given the incredible form the visitors are in and the wealth of talent at Guardiola's disposal.
The host’s rank on the 6th spot on the Premier League table are likely to remain unchanged irrespective of Thursday night’s results while Manchester City will remain unchallenged at top, a clear 15 points ahead of their next best rivals, Manchester United.
Manchester City despite their aura of invincibility this season have been knocked out of the FA Cup by a non-descript Wigan Athletic highlighting a weak under-belly which Wenger would like to exploit to the fullest. Two thrilling encounters seem to be on the cards for lovers of English football.