Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs Manchester City

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  • Manchester City has not conceded a goal in 508 minutes.
  • Of the eight times City has scored 5 or more goals in a game this season, only one came on the road.
  • A win would put the Gunners three points from the top; a loss gives Everton a chance to pull within three of Arsenal.

It’s a pivotal match for both clubs in the top-four picture as red-hot Manchester City travels to the Emirates for a date with Arsene Wenger’s Gunners at 1:30pm ET on NBCSN or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

For Manchester City, who have not conceded a goal in over five straight Premier League matches, the title is theirs to lose – and so are the record books.  Another clean sheet would put their streak at a club record 598 minutes.  Already, their streak is City’s best in the top flight since 1915.

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Add the fact that Manuel Pellegrini and company have bagged 11 goals in that span (eight in their last two) and Arsenal will have plenty to think about on both ends of the pitch.

The same can’t be said for the Gunners.

Wenger’s bunch have been up to their usual late-season slide recently, picking up just four points thus far through March and seeing themselves outscored 9-3 largely thanks to a 6-0 spanking by Chelsea.

(MORE: Arsene Wenger deeply regrets not signing Yaya Toure)

With an away win, Arsenal are all but mathematically eliminated from the title contention, while Manchester City would kick off their three-match gauntlet in a positive fashion.

Following this weekend’s fixture, City will host Southampton at the Etihad before traveling to Anfield for a potential title-decider against Liverpool. Following that, City could be in the clear with just Sunderland, West Brom, Crystal Palace, Everton, Aston Villa, and West Ham left on the docket, making this stretch even more important.

Not too much has changed on the injury front for either side.  Arsenal will still be without Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere, while Laurent Koscielny misses out thanks to a calf injury. Pellegrini misses Sergio Aguero and Matija Nastasic while welcoming back David Silva.

What they’re saying:

Pellegrini on Arsenal: “I think Arsenal have a chance of winning the title. Maybe they didn’t play well or have the results they needed in the last two matches. But I think that all the teams will drop points also from now until the end of the season, so I continue thinking that Arsenal have a lot of chances to fight for the title.”

Wenger on their current position: “We want to finish first in the league and everything else, the other priorities are still there. You want to be in the Champions League of course, but it is never good enough to be anything other than first and you hope always you are the best. If you ask any team, and they have to be in the top four (so) you cannot say as well it is a shame, but you want to be first – you do not work day and night to be second.”

David Silva on City’s position: “I think another win would make us favorites. There will still be a long way to go but we’ll be in a great position going into the final few weeks. If we win them all, there is nothing anyone can do to stop us.”

Prediction:

With two teams coming into the match in almost completely opposite form, there’s an easy route.  Arsenal will have to fight hard to win the match, and Wenger will have them looking for revenge after the Chelsea defeat led to many counting them out. It’s hard to see a club like the Gunners laying down and dying like they did at Stamford Bridge twice in such a short span, and for that reason I like a 2-2 draw in this match, much to the delight of Chelsea and Liverpool fans.

Watch Live: Swansea host Manchester United

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Swansea City welcome Manchester United to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Jose Mourinho’s side aiming to stay top of the Premier League table.

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Yes, it’s early days, but the Red Devils were imperious in their thumping 4-0 win against West Ham United to open their season. Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic dominated and Mourinho’s men are now a powerful, well-oiled machine.

As for Swansea, they struggled at Southampton but came away with a draw, however the main storyline surrounding the South Wales side this week has been losing Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton for over $60 million. Paul Clement will have to act fast to spend that cash wisely, but there is no doubt the Swans will miss their Icelandic playmaker.

In team news Swansea bring in Kyle Bartley and Roque Mesa as they line up in a 3-5-2 formation with Jordan Ayew and Tammy Abraham up top.

Man United are, unsurprisingly, unchanged.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski; Fernandez, Bartley, Mawson; Naughton, Mesa, Fer, Carroll, Olsson; Ayew, Abraham. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, van der Hoorn, Fulton, Narsingh, Routledge, McBurnie.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Blind; Matic, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Mata, Rashford; Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Smalling, Fellaini, Herrera, Lingard, Martial

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

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Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

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With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.

Falcao scores again to extend red hot start

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Monaco is hoping to ride out the final two weeks of the transfer window with 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe still in tow.

While they wait, they aren’t missing a beat.

With Mbappe out of the squad, Radamel Falcao has begun the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season as Europe’s hottest goalscorer. He bagged a hat-trick last weekend with Mbappe on the bench to give him four goals in the first two league matches. Then, with Mbappe out of the squad entirely, Falcao netted the winner in a 1-0 road win over FC Metz.

Falcao has scored five goals so far this year, and his club has a +5 goal differential. In a way, Falcao has already been worth six points thus far.

Thanks in part to Ligue 1’s early start, Falcao’s five league goals are by far more than anyone else in the major European leagues. Four players have scored a pair of Premier League goals, nobody in La Liga or the Bundesliga have scored more than one, and the Serie A season has yet to start.

The Colombian did the same thing last season. After eventually coming off the shelf from to hamstring and concussion problems to start the season, Falcao scored 10 goals in 10 Ligue 1 matches leading up to the new calendar year.

At 31 years old, Falcao isn’t a long-term solution and the club will clearly look to retain Mbappe despite Falcao’s hot start, but should they lose the young Frenchman, the club will be in good hands while they search for a replacement over the next year.