MX23RW : Thursday, December 13 04:46:59

Preview: Arsenal vs. Manchester City - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides predicted lineups, team news and a full match preview of Sunday's EFL Cup final between Arsenal and Manchester City.

Manager Arsene Wenger takes his Arsenal side into Sunday's EFL Cup final with Manchester City looking to win the competition for the first time since his arrival at the club back in 1996.

City boss Pep Guardiola is looking to claim his first trophy with the North-West outfit and the Spaniard will be keen to ensure that the club remain on course for the treble after being eliminated from the FA Cup earlier this week.


Arsene Wenger watches on during the Premier League game between Everton and Arsenal on October 22, 2017© SilverHub

On Thursday night, Wenger was expected to rotate his players for the Europa League game with Ostersunds FK but although a number of first-teamers played the full 90 minutes against the Swedish side, Wenger will feel grateful for learning more about the character of his team.

The 2-1 defeat to the minnows led to Wenger being critical of the players who lined up at the Emirates Stadium, with the Gunners boss claiming that they were "complacent" and had not approached the match in the manner expected of them, thoughts echoed by the supporters who booed their team off at half time.

Arsenal eventually booked their place in the last 16 of the competition but the result only strengthened the theory that Wenger has not been getting the most out of a talented group of players, and the experienced Frenchman will be demanding a response when they take to the pitch to play City this weekend.

The fear among the Arsenal fanbase will be that a fourth defeat in half-a-dozen matches will further dampen the morale at the North London outfit, but their club have shown in the past that they can rouse themselves for a cup final at Wembley, with their 2-1 triumph over Chelsea in the FA Cup in May still up there with one of their most satisfying results of the past few years.

Even beating this City side would not top the triumph over their fierce rivals, but it would at least give Arsenal more of a chance of turning a corner in the long run at a time when the North Londoners are starting to lose touch with the other five big teams in the Premier League.

The platform is also there for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to make his first real impression in a Gunners shirt. The January signing scored on his debut against Everton but failed to contribute against Tottenham Hotspur a week later, and the onus will be on the Gabon international to show everyone associated with his new club that he can become the star man in attack that he has the potential to be.

Recent form: WWWDW
Recent form (all competitions): WLWLWL

Manchester City

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola at the Premier League match against West Ham United on December 3, 2017© SilverHub

In recent months, Guardiola has been forced to frequently address the possibility of City completing the quadruple this season but within the space of a week, the Spaniard must find a way of ensuring that his side still have an opportunity to claim three trophies by the end of the campaign.

The 1-0 defeat at Wigan Athletic will not set the alarm bells ringing in Guardiola's mind, but the highly-successful former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach will be aware that he will have to field questions about the mentality of his players if they suffer back-to-back defeats in the space of six days, both in cup competitions that they were expected to win.

Guardiola will not lose perspective, however. City narrowly lost a match where they had played for over 45 minutes with 10 men and the opportunity was taken to hand the likes of Nicolas Otamendi and Raheem Sterling a night off ahead of the trip to Wembley.

Kevin De Bruyne deserves to be regarded as City's best player, but Otamendi and Sterling are arguably City's two most improved players since the arrival of Guardiola, with Sterling, in particular, a regular matchwinner since the start of August with 20 goals being contributed from the flank.

Sunday's match may come too soon for Gabriel Jesus, who could make the bench after returning to training after a knee injury, but Sergio Aguero has netted in his last four matches against Arsenal and will be confident of adding to the 14 goals that he has already scored in 2018.

Just two years have passed since City last won a trophy - this competition in 2016 - but unlike with their penalty-shootout success over Liverpool, victory on Sunday could mark the start of a mass trophy haul in the coming seasons. However, defeat would arguably leave City in a position where even winning just the Premier League title could be regarded as an anti-climax.

Recent form: WDDWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWDWWL

Team News

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey in action during his side's Premier League clash with Brighton & Hove Albion at the Emirates Stadium on October 1, 2017© SilverHub

Wenger has revealed that Aaron Ramsey will undergo a late fitness test to determine whether the Welshman can return from a groin injury in time to feature this weekend.

Mesut Ozil is expected to start - despite missing several days of training through illness - while Aubameyang is a likely starter after being cup-tied for the Europa League.

Wenger has already confirmed that goalkeeper David Ospina will remain between the sticks for Arsenal, with Matt Macey likely to be named on the bench instead of Petr Cech.

City will be without the suspended Fabian Delph after his sending-off against Wigan, with Guardiola having to choose between Danilo and Oleksandr Zinchenko at left-back.

Claudio Bravo is expected to get the nod in goal and Otamendi will return to the centre of defence, but Sterling is not a certainty to start having sustained a minor injury against Basel earlier this month.

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Ospina; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Wilshere, Ramsey; Iwobi, Ozil, Aubameyang

Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Bravo; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Zinchenko; Fernandinho, Gundogan; Sterling, D.Silva, De Bruyne; Aguero

Head To Head

Sunday's encounter at the national stadium will represent the 193rd competitive meeting between the two clubs, with Arsenal claiming 96 wins in comparison to 51 victories for City.

The majority of Arsenal's success in this fixture came before the changes in City's boardroom, but the Gunners have still held their own in recent years with five wins and five draws coming from the last 17 contests.

Ten months ago, Arsenal recorded a Wembley win over City as Wenger watched his side overturn a one-goal deficit to prevail by a 2-1 scoreline in the FA Cup semi-final between the two teams.

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We say: Arsenal 1-3 Manchester City

Arsenal enjoy playing at Wembley and are likely to produce a positive reaction to their blip in Thursday's Europa League clash with Ostersunds, but we cannot look past City for this match. The EFL Cup would not have been on Guardiola's list of priorities at the start of the campaign, but victory here would take some pressure off in regards to winning silverware at the Etihad Stadium.

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Who will win the EFL Cup final between Arsenal and Manchester City?

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David Ospina makes a save during the Champions League game between Arsenal and PSG on November 23, 2016
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