PREMIER LEAGUE

Premier League: Manchester City vs Arsenal preview

All the latest news and information as Manchester City host Arsenal in the Premier League’s hotly-anticipated return on Wednesday evening.

Premier League: Manchester City vs Arsenal preview
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Manchester City vs Arsenal: preview

Exactly 100 days since a ball was last kicked in the Premier League, ex-Manchester City coach Mikel Arteta takes his Arsenal side to the Etihad Stadium to face his former employers on Wednesday (21:15 CEST). When these two teams met back in December, Kevin de Bruyne stole the show with a virtuoso performance, scoring two and setting up the other in a comprehensive 3-0 victory for City. Arsenal’s central defensive pairing of Calum Chambers and Sokratis Papastathopoulos looked lost at times and were repeatedly undone by City’s inventiveness in possession.

Six months on, the hosts have little to play for in terms of their league position, comfortably in the top four but facing a two-year ban from European competition. Their season hangs on finding success in the Champions League and they will want to use hit the ground running against Arsenal to reassert themselves as one of the continent’s elite.

Arsenal have been through a lot of change this season and Arteta is the third man to take charge of the club in 2019/20, following the sacking of Unai Emery and the ill-feinted caretaker reign of Freddie Ljungberg. The Gunners have picked up 17 points from his first ten games in the dug-out but five draws suggest that his side had not quite clicked before the league’s suspension in March. In the interim, he will have had the opportunity to lay the foundations for a new style and we should see a much more polished Arsenal side in the remaining fixtures.

Despite their chaotic season Arsenal retain hopes of Champions League qualification, with the fifth-place team likely to receive City’s spot. Arsenal are currently five points adrift but a win this evening would see them move within two and kick-start their season under Arteta. However, their record against Guardiola’s men is far from promising, picking up just one point from the last seven league fixtures between the two sides.

Manchester City vs Arsenal: injuries and suspensions

The three-month hiatus has allowed two of City’s key players from recent title wins to return to fitness after lengthy injuries. Aymeric Laporte has recovered from a knee injury that has seen him miss the majority of the season and is expected to start in the heart of defence. The Frenchman missed a recent practice match with an unknown complaint but has since returned to full training.

The mercurial Leroy Sané, a subject of interest from Bayern Munich during the break, is also fit enough to return to the squad, but will likely start on the bench having not played a competitive fixture since August.

In his pre-match press conference on Monday, Arteta said that he had nearly the whole squad available for selection but may be cautious with those returning from major injuries. Lucas Torreira has returned to training but looks unlikely to start, with Dani Ceballos set to partner Granit Xhaka in midfield.

Left-back Keiran Tierney has recovered from a shoulder injury suffered against West Ham United in December and would offer more defensive protection than 18-year-old Bukayo Saka, who has impressed in his time in the role.

Manchester City vs Arsenal: predicted teams

Manchester City:

Ederson - Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Mendy - Rodri, De Bruyne, Gundogan - Mahrez, Sterling, Aguero.

Arsenal:

Leno - Bellerin, Luiz, Mustafi, Tierney - Xhaka, Ceballos – Pepe, Ozil, Saka - Aubameyang.

Manchester City vs Arsenal: what the managers said

Pep Guardiola (Manchester City): “The players are training good, but I don’t know the physical condition. I think we are ready to play one game but three days after another one, and four days after another? We are not ready. That’s why you have to rotate and use all the players.”

Mikel Arteta (Arsenal): "The physical state of the players is not as it was three months ago. You can sense that as well. That urgency from the crowd, how passionate they are in England [isn't there].

"We have to adapt. We have to experience it and find ways to motivate our players in moments. Let's see how it goes."

Manchester City vs Arsenal: prediction

The last few weeks of Bundesliga action has given some clues about what to expect, but it is difficult to know which side will benefit most from football’s return. Manchester City’s most irreplaceable player, Laporte, is a big boost and the three-month break should have allowed them to refocus after a disappointing league campaign. The suspension has given Arteta time to work on his team and we may now see why some at City viewed him as Guardiola’s long-term replacement. It promises to be an exciting free-flowing game, but City’s firepower should give them the edge over a developing Arsenal side. 3-1