Gunners seek City boost, Reds visit Spurs

Pablo Zabaleta admits Manchester City’s showdown with Premier League leaders Arsenal on Saturday is crucial as they bid to cut the Gunners’ advantage at the top of the table.
Arsenal celebrate in a previous match. Net photo.
Arsenal celebrate in a previous match. Net photo.

Pablo Zabaleta admits Manchester City’s showdown with Premier League leaders Arsenal on Saturday is crucial as they bid to cut the Gunners’ advantage at the top of the table.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side sit fourth, six points behind Arsenal, but they have a golden opportunity to reduce the gap with a victory at Eastlands, where they have a 100 per cent record so far in the league this season.

It is a huge test of City’s ability to regain the title they won in 2012 and Argentine defender Zabaleta believes their 3-2 win over European champions Bayern Munich on Tuesday will give them the belief to shoot down the Gunners.

“Beating Bayern was such a huge confidence boost,” he said. “We know Arsenal is six points on top of the moment.

“They have been the most consistent side so far this season and that is why they lead, but we play at home where we are very good and we know we have a team to beat them. We need to get three points to close the gap.

“There is still a long way to go in the Premier League. We want to win it back again and Saturday is a crucial game for us.”

December key to title chase

Meanwhile, City midfielder James Milner believes December will be a crucial month for their chances of winning the title again.

“With the gap they have at the top, if they win or we win, the league will look very different at the weekend, so it’s important that we win,” Milner said.

“There are so many games going into December, and when you look at the league table going into the month, it always looks completely different by January. So it’s important that it looks a lot better than it does now for us.”

City defender Micah Richards is set to miss the clash after suffering a hamstring injury against Bayern, while Matija Nastasic is also unlikely to feature as he continues to recover from a calf problem.

But former Arsenal defender Gael Clichy could return to faces his old side.

City’s display in Munich attracted widespread plaudits, even if Pellegrini and his backroom staff were criticised for apparently failing to realise that they needed just one more goal to secure top place in the qualifying group.

By contrast, Arsenal’s defeat at Napoli midweek was much less well received, with the Gunners enduring a nervous end to the game before losing 2-0 and narrowly avoiding elimination from the competition on goal difference.

Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny conceded the performance was below par and warned his team-mates they must improve if they are to get anything from the trip to City.

With a home meeting looming on December 23 against Chelsea, the France centre-back acknowledged this is no time for a dip in form.

“We need to play much better to win at Man City,” said Koscielny. “It’s two hard games that await us so it will be difficult because they are two of the best teams and we need some points.

“We are on top of the table so we need to keep this lead and December is a very important month in the Premier League. We need to be ready and to fight to win these games.”

Reds visit North London

Elsewhere, second-placed Liverpool, five points behind Arsenal, travel to Tottenham with goalkeeper Simon Mignolet demanding his team-mates step up in the absence of inspirational captain Steven Gerrard.

England midfielder Gerrard will be missing with a hamstring injury and Mignolet said: “We have other leaders in the team as well.

“We have a decent enough squad to deal with injuries, to cope with those kind of things. Every game we go into hopeful of getting three points. We will go to Tottenham and be positive.”

Jose Mourinho repeated his call for more goals from his strikers ahead of third-placed Chelsea’s meeting with Crystal Palace.

Mourinho’s side is five points adrift of the Gunners following last weekend’s surprise loss at Stoke and they were less than impressive again in a midweek win over Steaua Bucharest.

Demba Ba got the winner against Steaua but Mourinho has demanded more from the Senegal striker, who has just three goals in all competitions this season.

“Could get more,” said Mourinho of Ba. “He has two goals in the Champions League, which is nice for him. More goals in the Champions League than in the Premier League.”

United seek rebound at Villa

Manchester United, without a win in their last four league matches and 13 points behind Arsenal, have no margin for error as they head to Aston Villa on the back of two successive league defeats.

United manager David Moyes has come under fire for his role in the champions’ struggles, but winger Ashley Young insists the players should shoulder their share of the blame.

“Of course. We are the players who go out on the pitch,” Young said when asked whether they felt responsibility should be shared. Everyone is in it together; manager, staff and players. We win together, we lose together.”

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