What: English Premier League
Who: Manchester City vs Arsenal
When: Sunday, 23rd September, 2012, at 16:00 UK Time
Where: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
Manchester City quickly forgot their draw away to Stoke City last weekend, with a much more attractive fixture on their mind. The trip to Real Madrid in the Champions League though was a disappointment as manager Roberto Mancini watched his side throw away a 2-1 advantage with only five minutes left, losing 3-2. It was a result which proved that, if put under serious pressure, the Citizens’ defence is vulnerable – and the Bernabeu clash will have been watched time and again by Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger in the run up to this match.
Of course, a visit from Arsenal is a good chance for Mancini’s men to once again assert their domestic authority, especially as champions. The Citizens will be expected to make the running and have enough ex-Gunners players in their ranks to give this game a different kind of edge; they will also be aware that while City won this fixture 1-0 last season, the previous year Arsenal inflicted a heavy 3-0 defeat on the Citizens.
This is indeed Manchester City’s first real test at home this season – visits from Southampton and QPR are a world away from facing an in-form Arsenal. And this is something Mancini knows.
"Arsenal can compete for the title this year", said the Italian. "They have less pressure from last year because they have sold two or three important players like Robin van Persie and Alex Song. Maybe they can do better than last year for this reason. Plus all the players he bought are good players with experience."
A Bigger Test
Alarm bells were ringing at the Emirates Stadium just two games into the new season. Two successive 0-0 draws seemed impossible for a Gunners side so obviously attacking. Then came a trip to Liverpool and, everything just clicked. Summer signings Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla performed superbly at Anfield, each helping themselves to a goal in a comfortable 2-0 win.
Since then, the floodgates have opened, Southampton thrashed 6-1 and French champions Montpellier beaten in their own backyard earlier in midweek. The picture in north London has been completely transformed, but that makes this meeting against Manchester City even more crucial. And with Chelsea providing the next Premier League opponents for Wenger’s men, a loss here, followed by defeat to the Blues, would undo the good work so far.
"It’s a huge test for us", admitted Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta. "We’ve been playing well. We played really well when we went to Liverpool – that’s a tough place to get three points but we did it."
Manchester City 3-1 QPR (01/09; Premier League)
Stoke City 1-1 Manchester City (15/09; Premier League)
Real Madrid 3-2 Manchester City (18/09; Champions League)
Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal (02/09; Premier League)
Arsenal 6-1 Southampton (15/09; Premier League)
Montpellier 1-2 Arsenal (18/09; Champions League)
Manchester City: Samir Nasri (doubt); Micah Richards
Arsenal: Wojciech Szczesny; Jack Wilshere; Emmanuel Frimpong; Tomas Rosicky; Bacary Sagna
Players to watch
Manchester City – Mario Balotelli: Roberto Mancini was forced to deny speculation of a bust-up with Balotelli last week and the striker could well be asked to shoot down Arsenal here. Having been left out of Manchester City’s squad to play Real Madrid, Balotelli’s freshness would be a major asset here.
Arsenal – Santi Cazorla: The Spaniard has adapted to life at Arsenal with ease and already looks overjoyed with the role Arsene Wenger has given him. Cazorla can help Arsenal to dominate possession here, while his eye for a goal and ability from set-pieces could trouble the Citizens.
Manchester City’s defeat to Real Madrid was painful for the club’s players and they will be keen to bounce back here. Arsenal’s defence has looked better than last season, with a sense of solidity around it, but this match could see it tested to destruction. Expect Roberto Mancini’s men to edge a close game. Manchester City 2-1 Arsenal.
Read betting previews at Inside Bet: Swansea v Everton and Manchester City v Arsenal