It’s nonstop action for Premier League players
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
MISSING IN ACTION Sergio Agüero will miss today’s game because of suspension
GOAL POACHER Alexis Sánchez will be looking to add to his goal tally against Manchester City