| Mesut Ozil, during a practice session |
London: Arsenal’s lunchtime game at Manchester City on Saturday could be a defining one for their Premier League title hopes, even if Arsene Wenger has greeted that idea with a typically Gallic shrug.
The Gunners have a comfortable cushion over second-placed Liverpool. “We are five points ahead and, overall, the Premier League is a marathon,” said Wenger, speaking before his side progressed to the knockout stages of the Champions League despite a 0-2 defeat to Napoli on Wednesday that left them facing a potentially tricky last-16 clash.
“We will be in the race no matter what happens.”
Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea play struggling Crystal Palace at home on Saturday. They have let in six goals in their last two Premier League games and the leaky defence will have to be made watertight. “We are creating a lot of chances, we are playing a lot of nice football, but we have to finish off opponents,” Mourinho said before Chelsea’s 1-0 home Champions League victory against Steaua Bucharest.
City, who surged back from 0-2 down to beat European champions Bayern Munich 3-2 in Germany in their final Champions League group game, are fourth and six points behind Wenger’s men.
Despite their position, Arsenal will be the underdogs against a side who remain unbeaten at home in the league this season and see no reason why they cannot at least match Manchester United’s 1-0 win over the north Londoners last month.
“With the disappointing results we have had away from home, it’s important that we try to go through the season winning every single home game,” City’s England midfielder James Milner, who scored the winner on Tuesday, said. “That won’t be easy, but the way we are playing we can do that.”
Neither of City’s top two league goalscorers played in Munich with Sergio Aguero, the second most prolific scorer in the Premier League after Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, rested and Yaya Toure suspended.
Arsenal were held 1-1 at the Emirates by Everton last weekend but their defence has been tough to penetrate with three clean sheets before the Everton game and two goals conceded in their last nine league and European games prior to Wednesday.
Meanwhile, City manager Manuel Pellegrini said he made a mistake by not realising his team were one goal away from topping their Champions League group, but does not feel guilty about his mathematical blunder.
“When they scored second I didn’t think about scoring five. I tried to think more about the game because we were losing 0-2. I recognise my mistake but I don't have a guilty conscience,” he said.(Agencies)