Manchester City take on Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium this weekend as both clubs continue to fight for a Champions League place (4pm Sunday, Sky Sports 1).
The Gunners are in a stronger position to make certain of a top-four spot this weekend, with seven points currently separating them from Manchester United in fifth. The Red Devils do have a game in hand and can still overhaul Arsenal if they lose this weekend. That looks unlikely, though, and Arsene Wenger may privately be considering qualification to be a done deal. The Frenchman would love to make things certain this weekend, with a victory at the Etihad Stadium one of the highlights of Arsenal’s 2014/15 season.
Man City’s position is a little more precarious, with just four points separating them from United, who also have one fixture more to fulfil. Failing to beat Arsenal would leave Champions League qualification out of their hands, a situation the hosts will be desperate to avoid materialising on Sunday afternoon. There is more than enough quality in their ranks for City to secure a convincing win, but question marks about the team’s attitude and application continue to linger, with the players and Manuel Pellegrini (pictured) receiving a great deal of criticism for a flat and insipid display away at Real Madrid in midweek.
Pellegrini will be unable to call upon the services of captain Vincent Kompany, who was taken off just a few minutes into City’s clash with Madrid at the Bernabeu on Wednesday. Pablo Zabaleta (calf) and David Silva (hamstring) will also miss out and are likely to be sidelined for the remainder of the campaign, but Raheem Sterling is now fit again after an injury lay-off of his own. Eliaquim Mangala is likely to partner Nicolas Otamendi in the heart of the backline, Gael Clichy should be given the nod ahead of Aleksandar Kolarov at left-back and Yaya Toure could miss out after his poor performance in the Spanish capital. Talented teenager Kelechi Iheanacho is pushing for a start in the front four, while Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero are certain to be involved at the top of the pitch from the start.
Arsenal, meanwhile, will have to do without Per Mertesacker, who is missing with a hamstring problem, but otherwise have a fully fit squad to choose from. Danny Welbeck is expected to replace Olivier Giroud at centre-forward, with Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi and Alexis Sanchez the most likely options in the three roles behind the frontman. Mohamed Elneny, who has impressed since joining the north London club in the January transfer window, will retain his place in the centre of midfield, while Jack Wilshere could make an appearance off the substitutes’ bench.
Our Preview’s Man City v Arsenal Betting Tips Verdict
A high-scoring encounter could be on the cards at the Etihad, with the draw looking like the most probable outcome. With Aston Villa heading to the Emirates Stadium on the final day, Arsenal are virtually assured of their place in the top four, but Man City will be under a fair amount of pressure to deliver a win this weekend, with any dropped points giving Manchester United a chance of overhauling them in the final Champions League place.
The relatively long odds available on a 2-2 draw make that a tempting option for one of our preview’s betting tips, while it is difficult to look past Aguero in the first goalscorer market. That result could set up a dramatic final day in the race for the Champions League, with Manchester United hoping to overtake their local rivals by the end of the campaign next weekend – if the Red Devils are able to do just that, it could well save Louis van Gaal’s job.