Hard to split the sides in crucial contest at Emirates Stadium

Sunday 4.00pm

BY THE time Manchester City kick off at Emirates Stadium they could be 10 points behind their biggest rivals Manchester United. Roberto Mancini overhauled an eight-point deficit last year and knows that keeping the gap at a manageable distance is crucial.
The Gunners strung together a four-match winning streak in December in the league before they dropped two points at Southampton on New Year’s Day.

Since then they were unable to hold on to a 2-1 lead at Swansea in the FA Cup on Sunday as their form has suffered a touch in 2013. Much of that falls at the feet of a back four that has conceded eight times in five matches.

Their last home league match produced the incredible 7-3 victory over Newcastle, to make it two wins on the bounce in north London. Only the league leaders have a better record than Arsenal in their last six home league fixtures.

Although Arsene Wenger has had the upper hand over City at home in recent meetings, the champions have lost just once on the road this season. They have won three of their last four away outings, with their only blip coming in a shock 1-0 defeat at Sunderland.

There will be some concern that Sergio Aguero looks set to miss the clash because of a hamstring injury. However, Edin Dezko is available and leads the club’s scoring charts in the league with nine.

City have more than enough cover from the bench and their strikers have been sharp in front of goal in their last three games, bagging 10 goals.

Mario Balotelli could also be in line for a return to the side after featuring for the Under 21s, and has a big point to prove following last week’s training ground fracas with his manager.

This is a must-win game for City and I expect them to really push for it in what promises to be an open contest. However, it’s very difficult to split the sides in the outright market and I would rather focus on goals.

Ladbrokes are offering 8/13 for both sides to score and that looks a great price. The strikers really should dominate this match.

Arsenal have scored an average of 2.78 goals per game at home this campaign and I would recommend that spread bettors buy total goals at 3.2 with Sporting Index.

■ Pointers…
Both teams to score at 8/13 with Ladbrokes

Buy total goals at 3.2 with Sporting Index