Manchester City-Arsenal Preview
By CHRIS ALTRUDA
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Even for the best of squads, a bogey always lurks.
For Manchester City, that place is Emirates, and the reigning champions will set out to end a staggering 27-match winless streak in league play Sunday when they face Arsenal in a game vital to their hopes of defending their Premier League title.
City (13-6-2) are seven points adrift of archrivals and front-running Manchester United and can ill-afford to drop points, more so since they must still make stops at Old Trafford and Tottenham Hotspur as well as host top-five sides Chelsea and Everton. While Roberto Mancini's side has won four of five since their 1-0 home defeat to United on Dec. 9, the task of leaving Arsenal's home ground with three points for the first time in league play since 1975 already appears to be weighing on his players.
"We have to go to the Emirates, play as well as we know we are capable of and see if we can put an end to our poor run of league results on their ground," Gareth Barry told the team's official website. "We know there is a need for us to keep winning games because seven points is not a small gap and we can't allow that to increase."
While Mancini does have a victory at the Emirates in his pocket - a 1-0 fifth-round League Cup victory in November 2011 - the four matches in London with him on City's touchline have seen his team fail to create, let alone sustain, any sort of offence. Manchester City has totalled five shots on goal in those games, with two of them playing out to scoreless draws and last season's 1-0 defeat in which the Gunners had possession for nearly two-thirds of the match.
City have gone 499 minutes without a goal at Arsenal in league play since DaMarcus Beasley tallied in the 41st minute of a 3-1 loss April 17, 2007.
Mancini will have to make one important change to his midfield with Yaya Toure playing for Ivory Coast in the African Nations Cup.
Arsenal (9-7-4) are in sixth place and four points behind Chelsea for the final Champions League spot, enjoying their best form of the season with four wins and a draw on the trot. The Gunners were held to a 1-1 draw at Southampton on New Year's Day, getting an own goal late in the first half by Guly for the point.
Arsenal's home mastery of City, plus Toure's absence, has given Arsene Wenger's side a touch of confidence heading into this match. Additionally, the Gunners' 25 goals at home in league play trail only Manchester United's 28.
"It will give us an extra bit of belief," Aaron Ramsey told the team's official website. "We beat them last year at home and with Yaya Toure gone tot he Africa Cup of Nations, it's a big loss for them.
"He is a big player for them and so influential, so hopefully we can take full advantage of that and get another good result."
Arsenal have scored three or more goals in four of their nine home matches, highlighted by a 7-3 romp over Newcastle on Dec. 29.
The teams played to a 1-1 draw at the Etihad in September, with Laurent Koscielny's 82nd-minute goal allowing Arsenal to salvage a point.
Gunners striker Olivier Giroud is questionable for the match due to a cut on his knee.
Updated January 10, 2013