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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Arsenal look set for another Man City spanking

Top four leaving the Gunners behind

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
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Premier League
Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event, 7.45pm Thursday

Arsenal's quest for domestic silverware was crushed by a dismal 3-0 defeat to Manchester City in the League Cup final and lingering hopes of a top-four finish could be extinguished by the same opponents, who look solid odds-on favourites to defeat the Gunners for a second time in five days.

The gap between Arsenal and the top four has lengthened to ten points, as wide as it has been all season, and only a victory over City would give them realistic hope of putting pressure on the teams above them.

However, it is hard to see how a struggling Arsenal side can find the answers against arguably the best team in Premier League history.

City were nowhere near their scintillating best at Wembley on Sunday yet they cruised to victory over an Arsenal side who barely laid a glove on them.

Pep Guardiola has a few injury problems with Fernandinho and Raheem Sterling nursing hamstring strains and may decide to make a few changes with Sunday's clash at home to Chelsea in mind.

However, he is unlikely to tolerate a loss of focus and will demand the same high standards which his team have been reaching for the majority of the season.

City have dropped points in just four of their 27 league games and need just six wins from their remaining 11 fixtures to guarantee first place.

Arsenal's minimum target is to produce a better performance and restore some hope and pride to their suffering supporters, who were so dismayed by the abject surrender at the national stadium.

But it is doubtful whether they possess the quality to secure the win they need to keep a top-four challenge on the agenda.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan's availability is a positive for them but the Armenian was largely anonymous in his last Premier League outing, lasting just 63 minutes in the 1-0 loss at Tottenham.

Regular left-back Nacho Monreal, one of Arsenal's best players this season, misses out with a back injury and there are precious few midfield alternatives to Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka, who were so poor at the weekend.

City were forced into a tactical adjustment in the League Cup final when Fernandinho hobbled off, but Kevin De Bruyne seamlessly slotted into a more central role and, if anything, City improved.

Questions were being asked of the Citizens after their shock 1-0 loss at Wigan in the FA Cup fifth round but, like all top sides, they responded in emphatic style.

Guardiola wants them to wrap up the title as soon as possible, paving the way for an all out assault on the Champions League, and he should get the three points he craves in north London.

Manchester City
1pt 5-6 Sky Bet

Premier League standings

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Team news
Henrikh Mkhitaryan was ineligible at the weekend and should return. Nacho Monreal (back) has joined Alexandre Lacazette (knee) on the sidelines.

Manchester City
Fernandinho (hamstring) is out and Raheem Sterling (hamstring) is a doubt. Gabriel Jesus (knee) came off the bench in the League Cup final and is in contention.

Key stat
Manchester City have won 26 of their last 30 league games.

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It is hard to see how a struggling Arsenal side can find the answers against arguably the best team in Premier League history
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