As the English Premier League enters the business stage of the season, every result carries more importance for teams challenging for the title as one slip-up can prove costly. Manchester City benefitted from Liverpool’s late wobble at the end of last season, but Manuel Pellegrini’s side may not be able to hope for an element of fortune second time around. The defending champions have successfully clawed back the deficit to current leaders Chelsea who threatened to run away with the 2014/2015 title, but a hard-fought draw at Everton allowed Jose Mourinho’s side to go two points clear following their victory against Newcastle. Three points in the upcoming fixture may already be imperative at this stage of the season, but this is by no means guaranteed against an Arsenal side who appear to have found form at the right time in their pursuit of qualifying for the Champions League for the 18th consecutive year. It is difficult to call a winner between two teams who love to play enterprising, free-flowing football in what could be a pivotal game at the Etihad, with neutrals hoping for a repeat of last season’s 6-3 thriller.
A twelve game unbeaten streak has put Manchester City right back into contention to successful defend their Premier League crown following a slow start to the season which threatened to let Chelsea run away into the distance. Although the last three fixtures against Burnley, Sunderland and Everton have highlighted uncharacteristic defensive frailties which may have cost crucial points, Pellegrini’s side always have the quality in attack to cause problems for any team. Their rich vein of form also coincides with Pellegrini having a fully fit squad to choose from, with Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero returning to fitness following injury lay-offs. However, the absence of Yaya Toure, who is participating at the African Cup of Nations for the Ivory Coast, could have a negative effective; Manchester City have a poor record without their powerful midfielder, with City not recording a win without Toure since April.
An excellent 3-0 victory at the Emirates against Stoke was the perfect tonic for Arsenal who recovered from their potentially damaging defeat at Southampton on New Year’s Day in style. Thirteen points may be too big a gap for Arsene Wenger’s side to overturn in order to reach the Premier League summit, but in Alexis Sanchez have undoubtedly the most in-form player in England. The former Barcelona star has been a revelation since arriving in the summer, with the Chilean injecting true quality into Arsenal’s attack through speed, skill and a deadly eye for goal which has so far produced 12 goals in 20 league appearances. He is undoubtedly the last player Manchester City want to face, with Sanchez likely to pounce on any errors made by the defence or Joe Hart in goal. However, Arsenal may wish to keep it tight at the back themselves given they have only recorded 6 clean sheets all season, and coming up against a team who have already scored 45 goals is likely to be a real test of their defensive qualities.