Manchester United vs Liverpool could be the 'bigger' game, but that is not where the stakes lie. The result is not going to change who sits on top of the English Premier League table or take Liverpool away from the clutches of a mid-table dogfight.
The match which will really go a long way in deciding the English Premier League winner this year is the second game of a grand Sunday for football lovers — Arsenal vs Manchester City.
Not for the charm, not for the history and not for the rivalry. Arsenal vs City is purely about three vital points, about how it will change how the table-toppers approach the remaining season and who will play in Europe next year. The fact that it is after the United vs Liverpool match makes it an even more engaging contest.
The odds are highly stacked against City. They have won just 15 matches away to Arsenal and score 0.87 goals on average when they travel to North London. The last time the two teams met in the league, it ended a 1-1 draw.
If United win, then City will have no choice but to go gung-ho against the Gunners — who have found some scoring form off late — or risk going 10-points behind the Red Devils. Their attacking trio of Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud have gained some momentum and a win here could propel Arsenal to fifth place (Everton, who are 5th, play Swansea on Saturday and have played an extra game).
It will be interesting to see whether Roberto Mancini will play punching bag Mario Balotelli in the absence of Sergio Aguero. He'd rather the attention stay on the pitch, where he will most likely opt for Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko, but we'll all be wanting a bit of Mario, won't we?
From their last ten matches, City have won six, drawn two and lost two. Arsenal, meanwhile, have won five, drawn three and lost two. But the difference is that Arsenal are on a five-match unbeaten run and will be strong at home. They will also be louder, especially after City sent back around 900 tickets costing an atrocious £62.
If United lose or draw, then again — Manchester City will have to go gung-ho if they want to keep pace with the pace-setters. That's the beauty of the league format... the chasers have to win at all costs. A draw against Liverpool means City could cut the gap to the top to five points. If they lose, they can cut it to four points.
But then again, with the EPL, you never know. United could find themselves 10 points clear on Sunday and still lose the title. It has happened before and there is nothing to say it won't again.
So, while Manchester United vs Liverpool remains the more charming weekend attraction, do not discount Arsenal vs Manchester City.
First Published On : Jan 10, 2013 15:11 IST