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Manchester City v Arsenal preview: Title rivals shift focus to FA Cup

The FA Cup fourth-round weekend will get underway in spectacular style on Friday night as the top two teams in the Premier League, Manchester City and Arsenal, do battle at the Etihad Stadium.

Arsenal will head into the contest sitting top of the league standings and five points clear of nearest rivals City, but both teams will put their title battle to one side for this blockbuster cup clash.

City have an impressive recent record against Arsenal and can be backed at -133 to make home advantage count in the Full Time Result market, while the Gunners are +320 to prevail and the draw is +320.

WhatManchester City v Arsenal – FA Cup fourth round
WhereEtihad Stadium, Manchester
When15.00 ET, Friday 27th January
How to watchESPN+
OddsMan City -133, Draw +320, Arsenal +320

Title race on hold

It has been a spectacular season to date for Arsenal under Mikel Arteta, as they have won 16 and lost just one of their 19 Premier League matches this term and, if they continue at the same rate, then they will break the 100-point barrier by the end of the campaign.

A first league title success since the 'Invincibles' team of the 2003/04 season is certainly a distinct possibility and Arsenal can be backed at -137 in the To Win Outright market to end the campaign as champions.

City are the nearest rivals to Arsenal in the title race, but not only are they five points off the pace, they have also played a game more than the Gunners.

Pep Guardiola's side have uncharacteristically dropped points against the likes of Brentford and Everton at home, as well as losing the Manchester derby at Old Trafford, but back-to-back wins over Tottenham and Wolves have suggested a return to form.

City are bidding to become the first team in 14 years to win three-consecutive Premier League titles and they are priced at +125 in the Outright market, but for this weekend at least, theirs and Arsenal's focus will be elsewhere.

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Three decisive meetings in three months

Friday's clash under the lights at the Etihad will be the first meeting of City and Arsenal this season and will begin a run of three potentially decisive contests between the two sides in the space of three months.

Following their cup clash, the two teams will lock horns at the Emirates Stadium on 15th February in a rearranged Premier League fixture that was originally due to take place in October.

They will then return to the Etihad on 26th April for the reverse league fixture that could have a huge bearing on the destination of the title.

City and Arsenal have not locked horns since New Year's Day 2022 when the Citizens claimed a narrow 2-1 Premier League success at the Emirates, a result that extended their winning run over the Gunners to five matches, including the 5-0 thumping they handed out when the teams last faced off at the Etihad in August 2021.

A repeat of that 5-0 scoreline, at odds of +5000, seems a little farfetched this time around, and it was actually Arsenal that won the last FA Cup meeting between the two sides, prevailing 2-0 at the semi-final stage in 2020 as they went on to lift the cup.

Both teams expected to go strong

Under normal circumstances, both City and Arsenal might have been expected to field weakened teams at this stage of the FA Cup, but given the potential significance of this game on both league and cup, it would be a surprise if Messrs Guardiola and Arteta don't go strong.

City have a near fully-fit squad to choose from, although Phil Foden remains a doubt with the foot injury that ruled him out of last weekend's 3-0 victory over Wolves in the Premier League.

Erling Haaland grabbed his fourth hat-trick of the season in that game, taking his tally across all competitions for City to 31 in just 26 appearances, and he is -125 in the Anytime Scorer market on Friday.

Arsenal remain without Reiss Nelson (hamstring), Mohamed Elneny (knee) and Cedric Soares (muscle), while former City striker Gabriel Jesus is still a number of weeks away from returning from his knee issue.

Eddie Nketiah has led the line in Jesus' absence and the Englishman has certainly caught the eye, scoring six in as many appearances since the World Cup break, including a brace in last weekend's enthralling 3-2 league victory over Manchester United.

Nketiah has certainly stepped up to the plate in recent weeks and he is priced at +300 to get on the scoresheet against the blue half of Manchester as well.

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