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

Sports Mole provides predicted lineups, team news and a full match preview of Premier League champions Manchester City's opening-game trip to Arsenal.

Manchester City begin their Premier League title defence on Sunday afternoon with a tricky test against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

The Citizens will be eager to get off to a positive start in the pick of the opening weekend's top-flight fixtures, as they face a Gunners side embarking on a new chapter in their history.


Unai Emery gives his instructions during the pre-season friendly between Arsenal and Atletico Madrid on July 26, 2018© Reuters

For the first time since September 1996, when Bruce Rioch took charge of a 3-0 win against Sunderland, Arsenal will play a Premier League match without Arsene Wenger in the dugout.

The Frenchman announced at the tail end of last season that he would depart in the summer following 22 years at the club, bowing out on somewhat of a low as the Gunners again finished outside of the top four and failed to add any silverware to their collection.

For many Arsenal fans, it is a change that was much needed, with Unai Emery the man tasked with turning things around in North London.

Emery arrives on the back of a largely positive spell at Paris Saint-Germain, having won a domestic treble in his second season at the Parc des Princes, only to fall well short in the Champions League - the competition that truly matters to the Parisians' wealthy backers.

In terms of both on and off the field activity it has been a solid start for the Spaniard, who has plugged gaps that were in desperate need of plugging through the addition of a new goalkeeper, a couple of new defenders and a defensive midfielder.

Pre-season results have been positive, too, thanks to 8-0 and 5-1 wins over Boreham Wood and Paris Saint-Germain respectively, either side of a 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid in the Far East, before beating Chelsea on penalties and Lazio in normal time.

Momentum is something that Emery could certainly do with ahead of meetings against Man City and Chelsea in his first two competitive games, followed by the visit of a rejuvenated West Ham United that now have Jack Wilshere and Lucas Perez - among a whole host of others - in their ranks.

Emery insists that it is a case of taking it one game at a time, though, and Arsenal should hold their own on the opening matchday in front of their home supporters. Only once did they lose at the Emirates Stadium across their last 11 league games there last season, although that was a 3-0 thrashing against this weekend's opponents.

With a 37-point gap to bridge on City from last season, the first task for Arsenal's new manager will surely be bringing Champions League football back to the red half of North London. On Sunday, we have our first chance to see whether the Gunners really have evolved over the past few months, or if another year of disappointment is in store.

Pre-season form: WDWDW

Manchester City

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola watches on during the Premier League clash with Southampton on May 13, 2018© Reuters

It is a stat that has been used a lot since the end of last season but one that cannot be emphasised enough: no team since Manchester United, between 2007 and 2009, has retained the Premier League title.

When you consider that the last three champions have finished 10th, 12th and fifth, recent history suggests that Pep Guardiola's men have their work cut out merely holding down a Champions League spot.

Nobody expects an implosion in the manner of Chelsea, or indeed Leicester City's reversion back to the norm, but the general consensus is that the reigning champions will not find things quite so simple this time around.

That said, no team has dominated the Premier League in the same manner as the Citizens, who racked up triple figures last seasons in terms of points, and also set a record for the most games won, goals scored and best goal difference.

Following that up will be difficult, and Guardiola also knows that his side have to progress further in the Champions League this time around after being well beaten by domestic rivals Liverpool in the last eight stage earlier this year.

Even when accounting for the fact that City missed out on the defensive-midfield target they were after, they still look stronger than they were in May after adding versatile attacker Riyad Mahrez to their ranks. Mahrez will bring the best out of others, including Raheem Sterling, while Aymeric Laporte and Benjamin Mendy have the feel of new signings.

The Citizens, who have won their last seven opening-day fixtures, went a long way to showing against Chelsea in last weekend's Community Shield that they will not lack motivation this term, which skipper Vincent Kompany feared could prove his side's downfall.

A weakened Chelsea side could not live with City at Wembley Stadium; now it is down to a far more settled Arsenal outfit to throw an early spanner in the works by showing that Guardiola's men can indeed be beaten.

Pre-season form: LLWW

Team News

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey in action during his side's Premier League clash with Leicester City on May 9, 2018© Reuters

Guardiola has revealed that Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne, involved in the World Cup until the final stages, are both fit and ready to play a part this weekend despite their limited training.

A similar lineup to the one fielded at Wembley last weekend can be expected, though, with Mahrez finding his groove and Sergio Aguero hitting the ground running with a couple of goals.

David Silva is among those likely to miss out on a starting spot, delaying his 250th league outing for City, while Eliaquim Mangala and Danilo are confirmed out due to injury.

Arsenal's biggest fitness concern ahead of the big kickoff is midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who is carrying a calf injury sustained during pre-season.

Nacho Monreal is another doubt which, combined with Sead Kolasinac's layoff, potentially means a place in defence for Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

Elsewhere, Bernd Leno is favourite to start in goal over Petr Cech, and fellow newbie Lucas Torreira is also pushing for a start.

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Leno; Maitland-Niles; Sokratis, Mustafi, Bellerin; Torreira, Ramsey; Lacazette, Ozil, Mkhitaryan; Aubameyang

Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Mendy; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Bernardo; Mahrez, Aguero, Sane

Head To Head

Arsenal have an underwhelming recent record against Man City, winning just two of the last 12 encounters in all competitions.

The Citizens won 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium in March and are now seeking consecutive away league wins in this fixture for the first time since 1936.

Not since 1994 have the sides faced off on the opening day of the season, meanwhile, with the Gunners prevailing 3-0 at Highbury in that one.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Arsenal 1-2 Manchester City

This is not an ideal opening fixture for either manager. Emery would have wanted a gentler way to ease his way into life at a new club; Guardiola could have done with a more willing opponent on the back of a World Cup summer.

City are unbeaten in nine games on the opening weekend, however, and Guardiola is also without defeat in 10 matches against opposite number Emery, so we are backing the visitors to claim a narrow victory.

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Unai Emery gives his instructions during the pre-season friendly between Arsenal and Atletico Madrid on July 26, 2018
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