On the back of securing a second consecutive win against Wolves on Sunday, Manchester City welcome Premier League leaders Arsenal to the Etihad for an FA Cup fourth-round clash.
The Blues will be aiming to make it three straight wins and reach the round of 16 when they face the Gunners on Friday, 27 January, at 8 pm (GMT), with the game to be televised on ITV1 in the United Kingdom.
Since City suffered back-to-back defeats, Pep Guardiola has seemingly made a statement with his team selections, choosing players who are currently ‘hungriest’ to get the club’s season back on track.
The Catalan is expected to field a similar team here, but with the cup competitions a little lower down the list of priorities, we may see a few changes.
Phil Foden is the club’s only potential absentee, having missed the previous two games due to a foot injury he sustained at Old Trafford earlier this month.
Guardiola gave an update on the 22-year-old’s fitness today, stating that he is ‘getting better’ and that he will be ‘assessed’ before tomorrow.
Stefan Ortega is likely to return in between the sticks. Ruben Dias will be eyeing his first start since injury at the heart of the Citizens backline, alongside any of the club’s other four top defenders.
Rico Lewis has continued his remarkable rise in the senior squad, starting the past two games; he may earn another start – though Kyle Walker may be given another chance coming up against Arsenal’s new man Leandro Trossard.
At left-back, Nathan Ake could come back in, with Joao Cancelo still seemingly out of favour. After a disappointing debut at Southampton, it seems unlikely that Kalvin Phillips will start in midfield again here; Rodri could keep his place.
Ahead of him, captain Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne should remain, behind a frontline consisting of Jack Grealish, Riyad Mahrez and Julian Alvarez, with top scorer Erling Haaland perhaps set for a rest.
Ortega; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; Rodri, De Bruyne, Gundogan; Mahrez, Alvarez, Grealish.
Arsenal are coming into this one on the back of a potentially season-defining 3-2 win over Manchester United.
After years of crisis at the Emirates, the Gunners are now reaping the rewards for ‘trusting the process’ under Mikel Arteta, Pep Guardiola’s former assistant manager at City, who has his side at the top of the Premier League table just after the halfway stage.
With his footballing style bearing similarities to that of his former boss, the Spaniard has focused on bringing in and developing younger players to fit his system, and after a promising season last term, that team is now looking better than ever.
Aided by the additions of four-time league title winners Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko, the North London side are mounting a serious title challenge and are five points clear of the Blues with a game in hand, having lost just once in the league so far.
In that position, winning that title is their main goal, but they certainly wouldn’t mind an FA Cup either, being the most successful side in the competition’s history (14 titles), having beaten Oxford United to get to the fourth round.
Jesus is ruled out through a knee injury, while Mohamed Elneny and Reiss Nelson are doubts. Matt Turner should start in goal, and Trossard is likely to make his full debut in what is expected to be a strong side.
Historically, City’s record against Arsenal hasn’t made for pretty viewing, and that is particularly relevant in the FA Cup meetings between the clubs, with just one of five ending in a victory for the Blues, coming all the way back in 1904.
In recent years, that hasn’t changed, with their last two cup meetings ending in semi-final victories for the North London side, who went on to lift the trophy on each occasion (2017, 2020).
However, in the league, the story has been severely different. Since Guardiola arrived in Manchester, his side have lost just twice in 17 meetings with the Gunners, winning 12 of their last 13 while winning six of their last seven at the Etihad.
Arteta has faced his former employers seven times while at the helm at the Emirates; in that time, he has led his side to just one win, with Guardiola’s men winning the other six, keeping four clean sheets in the process.
Last season’s fixtures between the sides saw a 5-0 demolition for City at the Etihad and a late smash-and-grab win at the Emirates. Arsenal will be eyeing revenge here.
Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistants: Constantine Hatzidakis & Neil Davies
Fourth Official: Robert Jones
VAR: John Brooks
Assistant VAR: Harry Lennard
Written by: @AdamHowarthSJ
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