Crunch time for Manchester City as Arsenal visit Eastlands

2013-12-13 08:22

Manchester – Pablo Zabaleta admits Manchester City’s showdown with Premier League leaders Arsenal tomorrow 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% 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 are 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.”

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 face 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.”

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