A place in the fifth round of the FA Cup will be up for grabs on Friday evening when Manchester City lock horns with Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester City produced a scintillating display in the third round of the FA Cup, smashing Chelsea 4-0 in the process. They have bounced back well from the Manchester derby disappointment at Old Trafford by winning back-to-back league games against Tottenham and Wolves, respectively.
Arsenal, on the other hand, are in imperious form and will be in high spirits after clinching a mighty 3-2 win over Man United at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. The Gunners are a team to beat at the moment and will be keen to continue their juggernaut by dumping City out of the FA Cup.
That said, here are the key battles that could define the outcome of an exciting cup tie between Man City and Arsenal.
#Erling Haaland vs Arsenal centre-backs
Erling Haaland is tearing Premier League records apart, leaving onlookers marvelling at his athleticism and goal-scoring prowess. He once again proved why he is among the most feared strikers in Europe by scoring a hat-trick against Wolves on Sunday—his fourth in the Premier League so far.
With four goals in the last two games, Haaland is right back in form and he would definitely want to add to his season’s tally of 31 goals. However, the Norwegian will need to get past Arsenal centre-backs, William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes.
Saliba and Gabriel have built a strong partnership at the back for Arsenal and they will want to prove their worth to the fans by stopping an in-form Haaland.
#Martin Odegaard vs Rodri
Turning attention towards the other end of the pitch, from Man City’s perspective, integral to stopping the Arsenal juggernaut at the Etihad Stadium will be keeping quiet the man who makes Mikel Arteta’s team tick—Martin Odegaard.
Odegaard has taken his game to a different level across the campaign thus far, and is considered by many as the Premier League’s best midfielder at this moment in time. He is the Gunners’ chief creator as he is at the hub of most Arsenal attacks, and his tally of eight goals and five assists in the Premier League will undoubtedly serve as a source of concern for Pep Guardiola on Friday.
Stopping Odegaard will be key and there is no one better in Man City colours than Rodri to do that job. One of the best defensive midfielders in Europe, Rodri will be tasked with keeping a close watch on the Arsenal skipper and if he can nullify his threat, City should have more chances of booking their place in the next round of the FA Cup.
#Riyad Mahrez vs Oleksandr Zinchenko
Riyad Mahrez has been magnificent in recent weeks, most notably single-handedly flooring Spurs at the Etihad Stadium. Expected to start on the right flank, he will be raring to continue his rich vein of form for City.
Having been Mahrez’s teammate at City for three seasons, Oleksandr Zinchenko will definitely know a thing or two to stop the Algerian from getting on the scoresheet. The Ukraine international isn’t just orchestrating things on the pitch as an inverted full-back, he has been a leader on and off the pitch for the Gunners.
This expected battle between Mahrez and Zinchenko could well hold the key to which team qualifies for the next round of the FA Cup at the final whistle.
#Kevin de Bruyne vs Thomas Partey
Kevin de Bruyne may not have hit the strides expected after the resumption of the Premier League but he is still world-class and a match-winner on his day. In just six months, he has forged an unbelievable understanding with Haaland, and Arsenal will need to stop the duo from linking if they are to emerge victorious at the Etihad Stadium.
Mikel Arteta will be wary of De Bruyne’s threat and may task Thomas Partey with a man-marking job of sorts on the Belgian. Partey has been a key component in this exciting Arsenal side, acting as the solid link between midfield and attack.
If the Ghana international can stop De Bruyne’s supplies to Haaland in the box whilst tracking his smart movement, Arsenal’s chances of advancing to the next round of the FA Cup will go a notch higher.