Pep Guardiola will bring up 200 matches in charge of Manchester City when the champions visit Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
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Both sides have endured disappointing campaigns to date, with Man City slipping 14 points off the pace set by Liverpool and Arsenal beginning the weekend in ninth place, seven points off the top four.
Having accumulated a whopping 198 points over the previous two campaigns, Man City now find themselves 14 points off leaders Liverpool following last weekend’s derby defeat to Manchester United, and that gap could grow to 17 by the time they kick off against Arsenal.
City have always been good at bouncing back from their rare defeats in the Guardiola era, as they did in midweek with a 4-1 cruise over Dinamo Zagreb, but such form will have sown a seed of doubt into the minds of the players, as well as increasing the belief from Arsenal’s point of view.
Not since the beginning of November have Man City won back-to-back games across all competitions, and with league matches against Leicester and Wolves to come after Sunday’s showdown, it could be that they drop yet more points during the festive period.
City remain the division’s leading scorers and could net in a club record-equalling 20th successive league away game this weekend, but whether a defence which has shipped more goals than the likes of Sheffield United and Crystal Palace can keep Arsenal’s attackers at bay remains to be seen.
Arsenal’s problems are similar but even more deep-rooted, with the Gunners boasting some of the deadliest forwards in the league who are hampered by a defence which has failed to keep a clean sheet in 13 matches.
It has not been a textbook audition for interim boss Freddie Ljungberg so far, then, and one of the more intriguing subplots surrounding Sunday’s match is the presence of Mikel Arteta – a favourite for the Arsenal job alongside Carlo Ancelotti – in the Man City dugout.
If Ljungberg does stay in charge for the foreseeable future then things will not get much easier for him, with Man City, Chelsea and Manchester United all to come in the next five games.
Arsenal will hand a late fitness test to Nicolas Pepe after he missed Thursday’s match against Standard Liege with a bruised knee.
Hector Bellerin is also a doubt after pulling out of the West Ham game during the warm-up due to a hamstring problem, meaning that Ainsley Maitland-Niles could once again start at right-back.
Former captain Granit Xhaka is still sidelined due to concussion, while Dani Ceballos, Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney, the latter of whom is set for three months out with a dislocated shoulder, have also been ruled out.
Gabriel Martinelli will be hopeful of keeping his starting spot after scoring against West Ham, and he could follow in the footsteps of Ian Wright, Davor Suker and Alex Iwobi as the only players to net on their first two Premier League starts for the club.
Alexandre Lacazette has scored all five of his goals at home this season but could be forced to sit out again, while on the other side Gabriel Jesus has hit all 10 of his goals this season away from home.
The Brazilian will continue upfront in the absence of the injured Sergio Aguero, who has been joined in the treatment room by John Stones.
Goalkeeper Ederson is expected to recover from illness in time to feature, but there is a bigger question mark over David Silva, who missed training on Friday with a leg injury.
Phil Foden impressed in midweek and will be hopeful of deputising for Silva again, although Ilkay Gundogan is more likely to replace the Spaniard.