Arsenal vs Manchester City Preview: Gunners host Man City

Arsenal is currently ninth in the points table with 22 points from 16 matches, while Manchester City is third with 32 points from 16 matches.

Arsenal's interim manager Freddie Ljungberg admitted Arsenal must be ready for a backlash from its own fans in Sunday's Premier League game against Manchester City.   -  Getty Images

Between Manchester City's threadbare defence and Arsenal's sub-standard one, there figure to be plenty of goals scored at the Emirates on Sunday when the two-time Premier League champions try to avoid falling further behind Liverpool and leave north London with a win over the Gunners.

Pep Guardiola's side is a distant third to the Merseysiders, 14 points adrift as the halfway point of the season approaches. The gap could reach 17 by kickoff, and as many have taken note of the chasm, Guardiola himself became a subplot this weekend when it was revealed he has a break clause in his contract for after this season.

The Spaniard, who signed a new deal through 2021 last year with the club and readying for his 200th match with the club, has dropped hints he would like to stay long-term at Manchester City, but such an out is consistent with his coaching track record. Guardiola took what was essentially a season-long sabbatical after his four seasons with Barcelona prior to taking over at Bayern Munich in 2013.

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Guardiola, who has posted a staggering 143-29-27 record on the blue side of Manchester, has been frustrated throughout the season to date, with City off their form of their title-winning campaigns and also dealing with what has seemed to be a relentless spate of injuries. He will have a second-choice pairing in central defence for this match as John Stones was the latest to join the injured list for an extended period of time.

Stones' absence, along with the long-term absentee Aymeric Laporte, has forced Guardiola into using Nicolas Otamendi and usual defensive midfielder Fernandinho in tandem. Right back Kyle Walker conceivably could shift to central defence since he was part of England's back three during the 2018 World Cup, and Guardiola does have options wide in Joao Cancelo and Angelino.

Those injuries have contributed to Manchester City failing to record a clean sheet over its last 10 matches in all competitions since beating Aston Villa 3-0 on Oct. 26.

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City will again be without top centre-forward Sergio Aguero, but that absence may not be as felt given Gabriel Jesus' current run of form. The Brasil international has five goals in his last three matches after striking for a hat trick in City's 4-1 Champions League victory at Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday.

"It's special," Jesus told City's official website after his second career hat trick and has scored all 10 of his goals this term on the road. "When I was young, I'd think about the Champions League - I wanted to play, I wanted to score, I wanted the ball. For me it's a very special moment when I score goals and a hat-trick as well.

"I have to do my job. My job is to score goals and help the team, without the ball and with the ball. Last month, I was not scoring and I feel so bad because I have to score and help my teammates. Now the goals are coming so I'm so happy but I cannot stop - I have to keep scoring."

The match was a dead rubber for City, which had already claimed the top spot in Group C. Its potential opponents for spring's knockout round of 16 are Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Borussia Dortmund, and Lyon. But it was also a needed bounce back after losing the Manchester derby at Old Trafford last weekend to United.

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Guardiola's final injury worry revolves around playmaker David Silva, who sat out Wednesday with a knock picked up versus United and is in a late race to be match-fit.

Arsenal (5-7-4) is ninth in the table on 22 points, but its inconsistencies have been so rife that table-topping Liverpool have more than doubled its points through 16 matches. Freddie Ljungberg continues to serve as caretaker manager as the rumour mill continues to churn out potential successors to the sacked Unai Emery.

One name who came off the list this week was Vitor Pereira, who opted to stay at Shanghai SIPG. Carlo Ancelotti continues to be a candidate, but he has been linked more closely to Everton than Arsenal following his surprising sacking at Napoli earlier this week.

The most intriguing name, though, continues to be former midfielder and current City assistant Mikael Arteta. He was interviewed after Arsene Wenger retired in 2018 but opted to stay with Guardiola, and even his current boss thinks it is possible his potential protégé is at a crossroads of sorts.

WHERE TO WATCH?

You can watch the live stream on Star Sports Select 1 and Star Sports Select 1 HD. You can also watch the live stream on Hotstar.

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