It’s non­stop ac­tion for Pre­mier League play­ers

CityPress - - Sport -

Two Pre­mier League ti­tle con­tenders are set to clash in a cru­cial show­down this af­ter­noon, when Manch­ester City host Ar­se­nal.

Pep Guardiola’s charges will be ea­ger to build some mo­men­tum head­ing into the Christ­mas pe­riod, af­ter they claimed their first win in four games mid­week with a 2-0 re­sult against Wat­ford.

Af­ter a barn­storm­ing start to their league cam­paign, City have seen in­con­sis­tency creep into their play of late and are in fourth po­si­tion, seven points adrift of top spot.

The Sky Blues will be with­out mid­fielder İlkay Gün­doğan, who is likely to spend a long time on the side­lines af­ter suf­fer­ing knee lig­a­ment dam­age dur­ing the win over Wat­ford.

“I am so sad for İlkay ... He may be out for some time,” said Guardiola in a post-match press con­fer­ence.

Mean­while, the Gun­ners come into the game af­ter suf­fer­ing only their sec­ond league de­feat of the sea­son. They were edged out 2-1 by Ever­ton at Good­i­son Park in Liver­pool on Tues­day.

The de­feat saw Arsène Wenger’s men slip down a spot to third place. They now trail lead­ers Chelsea by six points, a point bet­ter off than City.

In team news, Ar­se­nal have no fresh in­jury con­cerns, said Wenger in his pre-match press con­fer­ence: “We should have the same squad we had at Ever­ton ... We have some knocks and bruises, but they should all be avail­able again.”

When asked about the fi­nan­cial gap that ex­ists be­tween his side and City, Wenger added: “It is re­duced, but it is still there ... But we have qual­ity [play­ers, so] it is not a rea­son to not win the game.”

In 38 Pre­mier League meet­ings be­tween the teams, Ar­se­nal have had the bet­ter of Manch­ester City on 23 oc­ca­sions, while the Cit­i­zens have won only six times, draw­ing nine.

Judg­ing by the re­cent his­tory be­tween the sides, fans should ex­pect high-oc­tane ac­tion, as there have been 24 goals in their last six league ties; an av­er­age of four per game. The last com­pet­i­tive fix­ture be­tween City and Ar­se­nal came in the Pre­mier League and re­sulted in a 2-2 draw at the Eti­had Sta­dium in Manch­ester, with goals from Ser­gio Agüero and Kevin de Bruyne negated by Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sánchez.

Giroud may once again prove to be key for Ar­se­nal as the French striker has scored in four con­sec­u­tive games against City in all com­pe­ti­tions.

Else­where to­day, Dean Court is set for a mid-ta­ble bat­tle as Ed­die Howe’s Bournemouth pre­pare to host Claude Puel’s Southamp­ton. The Cher­ries are in 10th po­si­tion in the standings and have a chance to move up to sev­enth, while the ninth-placed Saints have the same tar­get in their sights.

In north Lon­don, Tot­ten­ham will wel­come Burn­ley to White Hart Lane as they aim to get back into the top four af­ter a 3-0 win over Hull.

Spurs will move up to fourth po­si­tion with a win, should City lose against Ar­se­nal, while the Clarets look to bounce back im­me­di­ately af­ter the 1-0 de­feat to West Ham United in the mid­dle of the week.

Over the Christ­mas and New Year pe­riod, the Pre­mier League will pro­vide non­stop ac­tion with 30 games, which may have huge im­pli­ca­tions all around the league, to be played over only 10 days.

The stand­out tie dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son is ar­guably Liver­pool against Manch­ester City at An­field on De­cem­ber 31. With both sides in the run­ning for the top-flight crown, emo­tions are bound to run high at the leg­endary ground. A win ei­ther way could have a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect on the ti­tle hunt, as well as the bat­tle for Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

The ac­tion on De­cem­ber 26 fea­tures a few top-against-bot­tom en­coun­ters, with José Mour­inho’s top four-chas­ing Manch­ester United tak­ing on rel­e­ga­tion can­di­dates Sun­der­land, while a strug­gling Hull City play host to ti­tle con­tenders Manch­ester City.

At the wrong end of the ta­ble, Alan Pardew’s Crys­tal Palace and Bob Bradley’s Swansea City are set to clash in what could be an im­por­tant rel­e­ga­tion scrap on Jan­uary 3.

The New Year’s fix­tures come to a close on Jan­uary 4, with a Lon­don derby be­tween Tot­ten­ham and Chelsea. Spurs may be look­ing to bol­ster their ti­tle chances at that time, while the Blues fight to stave off ri­vals to the crown in what prom­ises to be a heated bat­tle in the heart of the English win­ter. – TEAMtalk Me­dia

PHOTO: JAMES BAYLIS - AMA / GETTY IM­AGES

MISS­ING IN AC­TION Ser­gio Agüero will miss to­day’s game be­cause of sus­pen­sion

PHOTO: DAVID PRICE / AR­SE­NAL FC VIA GETTY IM­AGES

GOAL POACHER Alexis Sánchez will be look­ing to add to his goal tally against Manch­ester City

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