After seeing their hopes of being crowned champions of Europe dashed in midweek, Manchester City now need to refocus their attention on sealing a top four finish in the Premier League and defeat at home to Arsenal will only increase anxiety.
Just one goal saw City lose to Real Madrid in the semi-final of the Champions League. That is respectable, but there still must be a tinge of regret at the lack of threat they posed at the Bernabeu on Wednesday. For a match that meant so much to the club, attacks were terribly rare and at no time did they go for the jugular, but the achievement of finally making it to that stage of the competition cannot be ignored. Manager Manuel Pellegrini can leave knowing that he has progressed the club in Europe.
But domestically they have gone backwards to the extent that even qualifying for the Champions League has become a huge struggle. A win here should mean that they will have enough to hold off their rivals, but the performance at Southampton in their last league match will have been concerning, as will the sight of captain Vincent Kompany suffering yet another injury in Madrid. There will be a fair amount of tension among the supporters here, as their team has a lot to lose.
There is still a little pressure on Arsenal in terms of securing a top four place for next season, but it would take a freakish set of results to deny them another year among Europe’s elite even if they do suffer defeat here, especially as they have the virtual insurance policy of a home clash with bottom club Aston Villa on the final day. Even so, that is not enough for some supporters as they voiced their disapproval during last weekend’s victory over Norwich City.
The team scraped victory in the match itself thanks to the consistently impressive Danny Welbeck, but a lot of the attention was diverted by the atmosphere in the stands as placards were held up across the Emirates Stadium by those who feel the lengthy regime of Arsene Wenger is past its sell-by date. There was a reasonable amount of support for the Frenchman, and a third successive win over Man City would help ease some of the disquiet.
The groin problem for Kompany will keep him out for Man City, who are also without Aleksandar Kolarov, David Silva and Pablo Zabaleta.
Welbeck is likely to regain his place in the Arsenal starting XI after coming off the bench to such positive effect against Norwich. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has suffered an injury that will keep him out of Euro 2016, while Per Mertesacker is also absent.
Last Meeting: A change of approach from Arsene Wenger and the decision to play with Francis Coquelin as a holding midfielder reaped huge rewards for Arsenal as they snuffed out Man City to record a notable 2-0 victory in January 2015. A foul by Vincent Kompany on Nacho Monreal allowed Santi Cazorla to fire home a penalty just after the midway point of the first half, and the Spaniard’s free-kick delivery led to the second as Olivier Giroud headed home.