Manchester City will host Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium this Saturday in a clash that could determine whether the Cityzens will be in the title race and if the Gunners are ready to compete for the top four.
Having played one game fewer, Manchester City are currently 11th in the English Premier League table standings with four points, eight behind league leaders Everton. Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta's side had enjoyed a considerably good start to the season, albeit their loss to Liverpool in September.
The last time both sides met, Manchester City lost to Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final held at the Wembley Stadium. That victory gave the Gunners confidence that they can get a result against a top-six side. After that win against the Cityzens, Arsenal went on to overcome Chelsea and Liverpool in their pursuit of the FA Cup and Community Shield trophies.
Pep Guardiola's home ground advantage has diminished. Without fans, playing home or away rarely has an impact on the players. In their previous EPL fixture at home, Manchester City were humbled 2-5 by Leicester City. The team would want to avoid another embarrassing result this weekend or else Guardiola's name could be in the sacking list.
Here's a look at the five key battles that could determine which team gets all three points.
#5 Pep Guardiola vs Mikel Arteta
Once seated beside each other, Mikel Arteta will return to the Etihad Stadium as Arsenal's manager for the second time in the Premier League. The 38-year-old has achieved a win-percentage of 62.86% in 35 matches while Guardiola's time at Manchester City is increasingly under scrutiny.
In the Spaniard's first attempt against his mentor, David Luiz was sent off, the Gunners conceded three goals and they simply paled in comparison to Manchester City. However, when the two sides met in the FA Cup semi-final, Arsenal came up on top with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring a brace.
As a manager who focuses on possession and passing, the former Bayern Munich coach was outwitted by Brendan Rodgers in September.
Under Arteta, Arsenal have been deploying a similar tactic of playing on the counter, when they face the top six.
Knowing that they lack creativity in the midfield, the north Londoners have been relying on the pace of their forwards and youngsters to catch opponents by surprise. It will be a risky option but it could also seal the result for the young manager.
#4 Kyle Walker vs Bukayo Saka
With Kieran Tierney is a major doubt for the clash, Arteta could call upon Bukayo Saka to do some defensive work once again. During his time as a left-back, the 18-year-old English international impressed by showing his ability to stay calm and annul the attacking threat of his opponents. Saka recently earned his first senior call-up and played for the Three Lions during the international break.
In the previous EPL fixture against Sheffield United, Saka scored his first Premier League goal at the Emirates Stadium. Going into the fixture, he would surely be beaming with trust from his teammates as well as his manager.
On the other hand, Kyle Walker, who has played all EPL games for Manchester City this season, has yet to keep a clean sheet for his team. At the moment, the defender has lost more duels (17) than he was won (14), and the Cityzens look vulnerable defensively.
It will be interesting to see if Arsenal's youngster can successfully outshine Manchester City's experienced defender.