Sunday 8th May. 4PM. Sky Sports 1
A mind-blowing title race might be done and dusted, but there’s still plenty to play for in the upper echelons of the Premier League as four teams battle it out for Champions League qualification. And Sunday’s showdown at the Etihad will go a long way to answering some of those questions.
As it stands, Manchester City and Arsenal are the firm favourites to secure those places; for the winner of this one, third-place and automatic qualification looks inevitable. However, losing could leave the door wide open for a nail-biting finish, depending how Manchester United and West Ham perform.
Tensions will be running high. It should be a thrilling battle.
Will City Suffer Champions League Hangover?
Manuel Pellegrini’s were so close to booking a Champions League final spot, but the Citizens simply didn’t turn up at the Bernabeu. Unfortunately, they have no time to feel sorry for themselves at this stage of the campaign and must refocus on the task at hand. However, they shouldn’t expect an easy ride against the Gunners.
City do boast the best home form in the division, registering 12 wins and scoring a massive 45 goals. They’ve not been quite so confident in recent times, though, and the fear of dropping outside of the top four will certainly play on their minds. Meanwhile, injuries to key men in the form of Vincent Kompany and David Silva won’t help matters either.
The hosts are still blessed with a number of quality players, and will be looking to Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and co for inspiration. Raheem Sterling will be determined to prove his worth should he be recalled to the starting XI too, and that pace could be deadly against a sometimes sluggish Arsenal backline.
Pellegrini’s side are under immense pressure. But if they perform to their full potential, they’ll have every chance of sealing the win that would virtually seal their place in next year’s Champions League. After their journey in Europe this term, failure to achieve it would be an utter disaster.
Arsenal Gunning For Second
For Arsenal, it would take an epic implosion to miss out on a top four spot, and Arsene Wenger’s side can make the trip to Manchester with far less pressure than the hosts. On the other hand, they’ll want to confirm automatic Champions League qualification, and could target a tired City as the perfect chance to do it.
The Gunners will also be hoping to leapfrog Spurs into second before the season ends, so a positive result at the Etihad could be crucial. They can be confident given their seven-game unbeaten streak since losing to Barcelona back in March.
Performances haven’t exactly wowed the Emirates in recent weeks, but the quality of Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez can cause problems for the home side. The Gunners were sublime in last year’s corresponding fixture too, and if they repeat that tactical astuteness, they’ll have every chance of registering another memorable win.
It’s always passionate when these modern day rivals meet. We wouldn’t expect anything less than maximum commitment on Sunday. That should create a fantastic spectacle, and we’ll be hoping to land some profit too.
Manchester City v Arsenal Betting
With home advantage on their side, Manchester City are the favourites with the bookies. However, Bet365s odds of 6/4 suggest that they don’t think it’ll be easy. Arsenal, meanwhile, can be baked at 19/10 whilst the draw is priced 13/5.
It’s difficult to overlook City’s home form, but they were bereft of ideas on Wednesday night. Combined with the disappointment of missing out on the final, the host will certainly be vulnerable.
If Arsenal can stamp their authority on proceedings early doors, there’s no reason that they can’t get the point that should guarantee a top three finish. They might even get the win too.
Whatever happens, it will be a ferocious battle from start to finish. There’s too much riding on the result for it to be anything. We’d expect to see plenty of heated challenges, and think referee Anthony Taylor could face a tough time.
The combination of combative midfielders and slow defenders could well lead to an early bath for someone. At 10/3, we’ve got to have a little punt.