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Kevin De Bruyne to start, Manuel Akanji comes in at right-back – Predicted XI: Manchester City vs Arsenal (Premier League)



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Manchester City welcome Arsenal to the Etihad Stadium in a crunch clash at the top of the Premier League on Sunday afternoon in the return of club football.

The two sides come into the showdown separated by just one point in the Premier League title race, with Mikel Arteta’s squad carrying a slender numerical advantage with them to the Etihad Stadium this weekend.

The Gunners took all three points in the reverse fixture back in October, during a stretch in which Pep Guardiola’s side were without defensive midfield mainstay Rodri for three consecutive games – all of which resulted in defeats.

But the Etihad outfit come into Sunday’s clash in better form than back in the autumn, having not lost in any competition since the turn of the year, winning all but two of their 15 matches in that period.

Injuries could define the outcome this weekend however, as the international break sprung bad news for Manchester City. Both John Stones and Kyle Walker picked up injuries that will see them miss the Premier League showdown.

Elsewhere, the likes of Matheus Nunes and Manuel Akanji appear to have passed late fitness tests to partake in training ground activities upon their return to Manchester, but both players could be assessed in the build-up to the game.

With those injuries and fitness concerns across Pep Guardiola’s squad in mind, let’s take a look at how we believe Manchester City could line up against the current Premier League leaders this weekend!

Predicted XI

Ederson should return in goal after a thigh injury sustained against Liverpool earlier this month saw Stefan Ortega step in between the sticks against Newcastle in the FA Cup before the international break.

We expect Manuel Akanji to step in at right-back for the injured Kyle Walker. The Swiss international should be comfortable in the role given he was Pep Guardiola’s first choice out-wide throughout most of last season.

With another injury to John Stones, this time sustained during the recent international break, Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake will be the most likely centre-back pairing in front of Ederson’s goal this weekend.

That leaves Josko Gvardiol to return to the left-back role. The Croatian was a bonafide starter in the early months of the campaign, but a ligament injury saw the defender lose momentum after a fast start to life at Manchester City.

Rodri will, of course, start in defensive midfield, and fresh off the back of his goal-scoring heroics with the Spanish national side as he bagged a brace from the penalty spot in a 3-3 draw with Brazil at the Santiago Bernabeu.

We do however expect Mateo Kovacic to join the Spaniard given John Stones will not be filling up his usual space in the double defensive midfield role. Such a move could be imperative to Manchester City dominating midfield spaces against Arsenal.

Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva will take up the two wing spots this weekend, and we’ve seen the pair play on both sides to keep opposition defenders on their toes. We expect a similar set up at the Etihad Stadium this time around.

That, of course, means Kevin De Bruyne will sit in behind Erling Haaland in Manchester City’s attacking force. The superstar duo wreaked havoc on the Arsenal defence last season and will be hoping for similar success on Sunday.

Starting XI: Ederson; Akanji, Dias, Ake, Gvardiol; Rodri, Kovacic, De Bruyne; Bernardo, Haaland, Foden.

Substitutes: Ortega Moreno, Lewis, Gomez, Wright, Nunes, Grealish, Doku, Bobb, Alvarez.