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A closer look at the intriguing FA Cup tie between the Premier League’s top two

Bukayo Saka (left) and Nathan Ake could be facing each other again (PA)
Bukayo Saka (left) and Nathan Ake could be facing each other again (PA)

The Premier League’s top two sides meet in the FA Cup on Friday as Manchester City host Arsenal in a fourth-round tie at the Etihad Stadium. Here, the PA news agency looks at how the encounter could unfold.

Who are the favourites?

Arsenal celebrate scoring
Arsenal are setting the pace in the Premier League (John Walton/PA)

Form points to Arsenal, who are five points clear at the top of the Premier League, but experience favours City. The Gunners have been outstanding this season, racing to 50 points in the opening half of their campaign and making an unexpected title charge they look increasingly likely to sustain. Yet City, consistently outstanding and highly successful in recent years, are unlikely to give up their crown without a fight. They are yet to meet this season, making this clash particularly intriguing.

Will both teams be at full tilt?

Erling Haaland
Erling Haaland has been in outstanding form for City (Martin Rickett/PA)

This is unclear. While this tie has all the ingredients of a classic, it remains to be seen how strongly managers Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta want to play it. Both have other priorities with Guardiola setting his sights on the elusive Champions League and Arteta bidding to end the Gunners’ 19-year wait for a league title. Guardiola has pursued the domestic cups with vigour in the past, regardless of the aims in other competitions, but City’s recent form has been patchy and it is uncertain which version of them will turn up. Arsenal’s intensity could depend on how many changes Arteta makes.

What could the result mean for the title race?

Manchester City's Ruben Dias challenges for the ball against Arsenal
The two clubs have not faced each other for 12 months (John Walton/PA)

As the sides have not yet faced each other this season, and with their first Premier League meeting just a few weeks away, it will be intriguing to see how they measure up to each other. Neither will want to overplay their hand but would undoubtedly relish the chance to land a psychological blow. Some of the individual battles – on the field and the touchline – could be fascinating, not least for how they could affect the plotting for future games.

How well do the managers know each others’ thinking?

Mikel Arteta (left) and Pep Guardiola (right)
Guardiola (right) and his former assistant Arteta know each other well (Martin Rickett/PA)

After three years working together at City, old master Guardiola and his former assistant Arteta seem unlikely to surprise each other if they stick to their usual gameplans. It will be interesting to see the line-ups and which players are deployed for certain roles, or if there is any tactical variance from the norm. Guardiola has won six of their seven meetings but Arteta prevailed in the 2020 FA Cup semi-finals and has a stronger team than previously.

What is the team news?

Phil Foden
Phil Foden was not in City’s squad last weekend (Bradley Collyer/PA)

City have a near fully-fit squad after defenders John Stones and Ruben Dias recently returned to action after injury lay-offs. The only question mark is over England international Phil Foden, who was not involved at all against Wolves last weekend, with Guardiola saying he had a foot problem. Foden is actually a player in need of game time having been quiet since returning from the World Cup. Arsenal have no fresh injury concerns but Gabriel Jesus, Reiss Nelson and Mohamed Elneny remain on the sidelines.