City of Manchester Stadium, Manchester
October 24th, 2010, 8:30 PM IST

The biggest game of Sunday sees Arsene Wenger’s lads take on a resurgent Manchester City side – a veritable clash of the Titans. With the teams occupying the third and second spot in the League table respectively, this match is a potential decider as far as the Big four berths are considered. Given that Chelsea and Manchester United have the opportunity to add three points to their tally this weekend, both sides will be playing for a win to keep up with the competition.

The blue side of Manchester have seemingly got what it takes to be a serious title contender; they have mustered hard fought wins against Blackpool and Newcastle United, despite being relatively poor by their standards. In recent seasons, they have proved their mettle against the other big teams, which included a victory over Chelsea this season as well, and will be looking to repeat last season’s emphatic victory against the Gunners. They are fresh off an Adebayor-inspired victory over Lech Poznan in the Europa League, which gives them ample confidence going into the game. Roberto Mancini has been successful in delivering the goods expected of him by the Arab owners, but it is too premature to conclude that Citeh will be in the title race, going by the intensity of the league and the number of Big-4 contenders breathing down their necks.

The Gunners overcame a resolute Birmingham side last weekend, and in midweek dispatched off Shakhtar Donetsk with ridiculous ease in the Champions League. Despite their recent results, they will find the going tough against Citeh. The London side were dominant against Chelsea, but failed to penetrate the Blues’ defensive shield; Manchester City are a step ahead, often deploying three defensive midfielders to crowd out the midfield. The Chelsea game demonstrated Arsenal’s inability to deal with teams that park the bus in front of goal, and one can expect Mancini to adopt a similar ploy. Unless Arsenal have a plan B, the game is likely to go in favor of the hosts. However, Wenger will be glad to have three first choice players back on the field, especially captain Cesc Fabregas.

The last encounter at the Eastlands saw Emmanuel Adebayor dominate the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The Togolese, who moved to Manchester City for 25 million pounds, did everything he could to spite the visiting fans. He stamped Van Persie’s leg, unleashed a bad tackle on Cesc Fabregas, and concluded his vengeful act with an unwarranted celebration of his headed goal , running the entire length of the pitch towards the Arsenal crowd . All eyes will be on the African for this game, with Roberto Mancini hinting that Adebayor could start the game after his hat-trick on Thursday. It will be interesting to see how the Gunners will handle their former team-mate, once he steps on the pitch.

Emmanuel Adebayor Manchester City 2010/11 Manchester City V Newcastle United 03/10/10 The Premier League Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom
Adebayor – Bad blood

Team news

Manchester City

Former gunner Kolo Toure will miss the game with an hamstring injury, while Aleksandr Kolarov remain on the sidelines. However, the men in sky blue will be boosted by the return of Ivorian Yaya Toure in the center of the field, as well as the prospect of Mario Balotelli being on the bench. With Adam Johnson and David Silva in good form this season, and captain Tevez running the show for them, there is no doubt about the quality of the side that will take to the field on Sunday.

Like the last game at the Emirates, Mancini will field an ultra-defensive side to negate the attacking instincts of the Gunners. Nigel De Jong and Yaya Toure will have the responsibility of marking out Cesc Fabregas and cut off his supply to the forward line, while the center back pair of Kompany and Lescott will look to keep Chamakh quiet. However, Wayne Bridge is not good enough a left back, and he could find the going tough against the quick-footed Theo Walcott, which means that the defensive midfielders will have to constantly be on their toes throughout the game.

Probable Starting XI: Hart, Richards, Lescott, Kompany, Bridge, De Jong, Yaya, Barry, Milner, Silva, Tevez


The Gunners will miss the services of the impressive Jack Wilshere, who saw red for his reckless tackle on Nikola Zigic last Saturday. However, Wenger will be delighted with the availability of Fabregas, Walcott and Bendtner for this fixture. The captain will more than compensate for Wilshere’s absence, while Walcott could be utilized as a super-sub, wreaking havoc against a tired defense with his pace. Bacary Sagna, who injured his thigh in the Chelsea game, could return for the Eastland games. With Rosicky, Bendtner and Walcott on the bench, Arsenal have the quality to grind out a win against this Manchester side.

Arsenal v Shakhtar Donetsk , Champions League Group H 19/10/2010  Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal scores from the penalty spot Photo Marc Atkins Fotosports International Photo via Newscom
Cesc Fabregas – back in style

Lukasz Fabianski has churned out a series of impressive performances in recent games, and the Gunner faithful will be hoping that the Pole will continue his fine form. However, Andrey Arshavin’s lackluster performance so far has been a cause for concern for the Arsenal faithful, despite Wenger pointing out that he has created the most number of chances in the league. With Tomas Rosicky proving his worth in whatever time he was given on the field, the Russian must turn the tide and come up with another ‘Liverpool salvo’, if he wishes to retain his place in the starting eleven. Song and Diaby will have to pit their physical mettle and mental wits against the likes of De Jong and Yaya Toure, and any slip up in the midfield could prove to be Arsenal’s undoing, especially with Tevez finding the back of the net consistently.

Probable Starting XI: Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Clichy, Song, Diaby, Fabregas, Nasri, Arshavin, Chamakh

Football Fans Know Better

Key Facts

– Arsenal have lost four of their last five games at the City of Manchester Stadium
– Arsenal have not maintained a clean sheet in their last fifteen away games
– Carlos Tevez has been involved in nine of the twelve goals scored by City this season, and has scored 28 goals in his last 31 matches.
– Manchester City have won three of their last four games against a big-four opponent.

TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For

Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)
The Argentine forward has been enjoying a rich vein of form since his well publicized move to the Eastlands from Old Trafford, scoring a staggering 28 goals in his last 31 games. He was instrumental in putting his side in the second spot in the league table, and his brace against Blackpool earned Citeh a hard-fought victory over the Tangerines. The Arsenal center backs have the enviable task of keeping him at bay, for any slip-up will be capitalized on by the Argentine without hesitation.

Carlos Tevez Manchester City 2010/11 Manchester City V Newcastle United (2-1) 03/10/10 The Premier League Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Tevez – unstoppable

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Manchester City 2-2 Arsenal

TheHardTackle’s Blast From The Past