Arsenal can make it another frustrating afternoon at the Etihad for Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola is sure to be an interested observer for this one as after watching one Champions League dream die in midweek he could see his hopes for next season extinguished before they even begin. Assuming United have taken care of business on Saturday, anything less than a City win will mean that the top four is out of their hands. Meanwhile, Arsenal are not safe for a top four finish either, although a home game against Aston Villa on the final day is a decent security.
City’s improving form looks to have been something of an illusion as Newcastle and then Southampton took valuable points off them but now that the distraction of the Champions League is behind them they may well return to their best. Still, they rarely threatened Real Madrid on Wednesday and will have to show a greater attacking threat here. Meanwhile, Arsenal’s form is certainly not what they’d be looking for despite being on their longest unbeaten streak of the season at eight games.
Looking at City’s season there has been a remarkable split between their performances against the current top eight and versus the rest of the league. Against the former they’ve gone W1-D3-L9 while they have a W18-D4-L1 record otherwise. It’s a staggeringly poor record for a team that has shown they are perfectly capable of matching the best teams in Europe and at home they’ve lost against all of the other teams in the top six.
The atmosphere at the Emirates is increasingly divided after another season of failure but the Gunners are at least well placed to secure another top-four finish. They’re also the only side to win at the King Power this season and have not lost in their last four games against Man City while winning their last two meetings. As ever though, it’s their record at the best teams that has let them down. While they won at Leicester early in the campaign their record away to the rest of the current top-half is W0-D4-L3. Furthermore, in all seven of their trips to the current top nine they’ve conceded at least twice.
Defensively the Gunners are in reasonable form right now though, as they’ve kept clean sheets in five of their last seven matches including each of the last three. However, their ability to keep another one will surely depend on what City side turns up. 14 of City’s last 16 home Premier League games have had at least three goals but this is also a team that has had a league-high (along with Man Utd) of five nil-nils this season. The expected absence of Vincent Kompany should make goals more likely and certainly gives Arsenal a boost, which leads us to our best bet.
Given the inconsistent goals stats we prefer the chance of honours being shared here. Arsenal will definitely be happy to collect another away draw, which would be their sixth in nine away games as well as continuing their record of draws away to the top-half this term. That will mean the only way they can be bumped from the top four is if they lose against Villa on the final day while both Manchester clubs take maximum points from their remaining matches, so don’t expect to see them push forward if it’s level late on.
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