Arsenal vs. Manchester City: Team News, Preview, Live Stream, TV Info

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2018

Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola (R) and Arsenal's French manager Arsene Wenger (L) watch from the touchline during the English League Cup final football match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Wembley stadium in north London on February 25, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  /         (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Arsenal host would-be Premier League champions Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday, needing to close a 10-point gap to the top four.

The Gunners are sixth, adrift of Chelsea and north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, with the latter occupying the fourth and final qualification spot for next season's UEFA Champions League.

By contrast, City are champions in waiting, thanks to a 13-point lead over neighbours Manchester United. The Citizens have even played a game less than the Red Devils.

City will have the psychological advantage at the Emirates Stadium, after thrashing the Gunners 3-0 in the 2018 Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday. The result has increased the pressure on embattled Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, with numerous candidates already being named as potential successors for the 68-year-old this summer.

City are fresh off beating Arsenal to win the Carabao Cup.
City are fresh off beating Arsenal to win the Carabao Cup.James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

Perhaps the biggest doubt concerns City's journey to north London. The Citizens won't change their plan to travel on Thursday, despite the threat of Storm Emma and heavy snow, according to Duncan Wright of The Sun.

Wright revealed what would happen if City were unable to make it to the game: "Premier League rules state that if any team is at fault for failing to fulfil a fixture, then their opponents would be awarded a 3-0 victory."

Here are the schedule details, before a preview and look at the team news:

              

Date: Thursday, March 1

Time: 7:45 p.m. GMT, 2:45 p.m. ET

TV Info: Sky Sports PL, NBCSN

Live Stream: Sky GoNBC Sports App

             

The situation surrounding Wenger is the only place to start, with the beleaguered Frenchman having been undermined by recent performances, per James Olley of the London Evening Standard.

Wenger is facing intense pressure.
Wenger is facing intense pressure.IAN KINGTON/Getty Images

Olley believes Wenger has to win the UEFA Europa League to secure the last year of his contract or face the axe.

The report named former AC Milan, Chelsea and Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti as a leading candidate to replace Wenger if Arsenal choose to call time on the career of the man who was won three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups for the club.

There's no doubt Wenger's magic touch has deserted him and his team in 2018, though. Sunday's defeat was Arsenal's sixth of this young calendar year. They have also been beaten by Bournemouth, Swansea City and Spurs in the league, as well as Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup and Ostersunds in the second leg of the Europa League last 32.

Arsenal are still in the Europa League, facing a last-16 tie against a resurgent AC Milan. Yet Europe's second-tier competition still looks like Wenger's best chance to steer the Gunners back into the top four.

In previous years, Wenger has specialised in late-season rallies, usually making some sort of tactical tweak to inspire qualification for the Champions League. This time, however, it's difficult to see what the veteran manager can do to transform a squad woefully short on confidence, lacking talent in defensive areas and imbalanced in a midfield populated by playmakers and not enough runners and tacklers.

Ancelotti's name continues to be lined with the Arsenal job.
Ancelotti's name continues to be lined with the Arsenal job.IAN KINGTON/Getty Images

Facing City again so soon after Wembley will be a formidable test of Wenger's ability to still come up with answers.

The Carabao Cup winners are zeroing in on a first league title since 2014, playing a brand of intricate, possession-based football ironically reminiscent of Wenger's best Arsenal teams.

It's not all joy for City, though, who will be without vital holding midfielder Fernandinho. The Brazilian will be absent after suffering a hamstring problem on Sunday, per City's official website (h/t the Press Association and Ben Rebuck for the Daily Mirror).

Fernandinho is the shrewd destroyer who provides balance to manager Pep Guardiola's otherwise forward-thinking midfield. He is also an essential extra layer of protection in front of a back four Arsenal could expose.

Fernandinho will miss out.
Fernandinho will miss out.Tim Ireland/Associated Press

Wenger's bigger concern will be how his own feeble defence copes with City's pace and power in attack. Centre-forward Sergio Aguero, a scorer at Wembley, is one goal shy of 200 for the Citizens.

The prolific Argentina international is also in a rich vein of form against the Gunners, per OptaJoe:

Aguero should be ably supported by the pace of Leroy Sane, although Raheem Sterling remains a doubt after missing the League Cup final with a hamstring injury. Gabriel Jesus did come off the bench at Wembley, though, and the Brazilian striker could make his league comeback from a knee problem.

City's attacking resources are bad news for Arsenal, with an already faltering back line set to be without Nacho Monreal, who limped off at Wembley. Sead Kolasinac could take his place again if Wenger sticks with a back three, or midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles could slot in at left-back if the Gunners boss opts to revert to a traditional back four.

Guardiola has own decision to make at left-back, where Benjamin Mendy is still injured and Fabian Delph remains suspended. It means Danilo or converted midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko will be drafted in for league duty, per Tom Doyle of the London Evening Standard.

City are stronger heading into this decisive match, with the atmosphere around Arsenal only adding to the pressure and strain on Wenger and his players. Yet there's no escaping the fact the Gunners are in must-win territory if they have any hope of a top-four finish.

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