After a midweek Premier League programme which provided twists and turns in the title race, the landscape may have changed once more by the time Sunday comes along.
A shock defeat to Newcastle has piled the pressure on champions Manchester City, who could find themselves having dropped down into third by the time they face Arsenal, provided Tottenham do what they couldn’t and beat Rafa Benitez’s Magpies.
And while City welcoming Arsenal to the Etihad Stadium is inarguably Sunday’s headliner, an undercard featuring Leicester City and Manchester United is certainly not to be sniffed at.
Leicester City v Manchester United
Having dropped their first points in the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era, United travel to the King Power Stadium looking to re-assert themselves in the race for the top four.
The Red Devils will have mixed feelings over Tuesday’s result. On the one hand, they will be disappointed at having failed to beat the league’s 17th-placed team at home. However, rallying late on to clinch a point and remain unbeaten the interim manager undeniably lifted the mood at the final whistle.
But, with Arsenal beating Cardiff City, they still lost ground and will look to put that right against the Foxes, who are fresh from taking a hard-fought point off leaders Liverpool (becoming the only side after Manchester City to walk away from Anfield with anything this season).
The past is the past but United have certainly enjoyed the better time of it in recent meetings, with six wins and three draws in the last ten. Their last defeat to Leicester came in September 2014, when Louis van Gaal’s reign was still in its infancy, the United team featured Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Tyler Blackett.
Since then, United have won one and drawn the other two visits to the King Power. Last season, a Juan Mata brace put Jose Mourinho’s side in the driving seat for three points, only for Harry Maguire to score a 95th-minute equaliser.
Jamie Vardy will relish the visit of United, though. The 32-year-old wasn’t able to add to his impressive tally against Liverpool but has found plenty of joy in previous encounters with United, scoring four times.
One of the biggest changes Claude Puel has made as Leicester boss has been to abandon the trademark frenetic counter-attacking style that turbo-charged the club’s historic romp to the title in 2016 for a more measured, possession-based approach.
Ironically, that hasn’t produced steadier results. In fact, inconsistent performances have produced erratic results since they pulled off that remarkable one-two punch with wins over Chelsea and Manchester City at Christmas.
Their last six games in all competitions have yielded just one win, four defeats – including at League Two’s Newport County in the FA Cup – and that draw at Anfield.
It’s difficult to know what you’re going to get from Puel’s men but, make no mistake, if they can manage to emulate the organisation and resilience which frustrated Liverpool, United will be in for a sizeable challenge.
Manchester City v Arsenal
This weekend’s heavyweight clash sees Pep Guardiola’s City welcome Arsenal to the Etihad, hoping to extinguish the pain of Tuesday night’s shock defeat to Newcastle.
Unai Emery’s Gunners come into the game on the back of a win but have a dismal record away to top-six rivals; their last win came in January 2015, 2-0 at City.
Since them, however, City have asserted their superiority in this fixture, unbeaten in the last nine and having won the last three with an aggregate score of 8-0.
Kevin Campbell And Paul Dickov Preview The Big Game
Naturally, Arsenal will be wary of Sergio Aguero. The Argentine has scored eight times in 15 appearances against the North London side and seven in his last 11.
There are a couple of stats that should further boost City’s confidence. Their last four home games in all competitions have ended with an aggregate score of 24-0 and, while two of those were cup games against Burton Albion and Rotherham United, it’s difficult to imagine Arsenal’s injury-depleted defence shutting out the champions for 90 minutes. The Gunners don’t keep many clean sheets on the road either; one in the last 19, in fact.
The Boots Are Off! Kevin Campbell And Paul Dickov
On top of that, Guardiola has never lost in 11 previous encounters with Emery, having won seven and drawn four. Five points behind Liverpool, Sunday would be a disastrous time to start.
While most of this seems to paint a bleak picture for Arsenal’s chances, they can rely on the goalscoring prowess of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, both of whom found the net in the midweek win over Cardiff.
Aubameyang and Lacazette have scored 24 league goals between them (just two shy of half of Arsenal’s tally), with the former – who this week marked one year at the club – becoming the fastest player in the club’s history to reach 25 goals, requiring just 37 games, five fewer than Thierry Henry.
This fixture hasn’t produced a 0-0 draw since January 2011. With the attacking talent set to feature, we don’t think that’s going to change on Sunday. It should, however, be a thrilling spectacle, with City needing to narrow the gap on Liverpool and Arsenal trying to keep their noses in front in the race for Champions League qualification.
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