Mikel Arteta (87 mins)
Barclays Premier League
, Apr 8, 2012
Ground: Emirates Stadium , Kickoff: 16:00 , Att 60,096
Mancini expecting on-song Gunners Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini expects Arsenal to be back on top form for his side's crucial trip to the Emirates Stadium.
City can ill afford any more slip-ups in the Barclays Premier League title race after falling five points behind rivals Manchester United with seven games to play.
Arsenal, who have their own Champions League ambitions to satisfy, stuttered themselves as they were beaten at relegation-threatened QPR.
But after winning their previous seven league games, Mancini sees that result as a mere blip and believes City will need to be at their best to win and keep the pressure on United.
Mancini said: "It was a surprise for me, I didn't think this - Arsenal played the last seven games and they won all that they played. QPR probably did a good game.
"Sunday for us will be a difficult game, playing against a top squad like Arsenal.
"But we should play our game, we should play well, not like against Sunderland. If we play better we can do well." City began March with a two-point lead at the top of the table, but a surprise defeat at Swansea and frustrating draws against Stoke and Sunderland have seen the odds swing in United's favour.
But with a Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium still to come later this month, City only need United to drop points in one game to regain control of their title destiny - providing they win games themselves.
Mancini conceded this week that defeat at Arsenal, coupled with a United victory over QPR, would effectively condemn City to the runners-up spot.
Yet that is not a thought he is entertaining as he remains determined to take the race to the wire.
The Italian said: "We can't think this now. We should think we can win the title - seven games to the end, with one derby to play at home. I think we can win this title.
"Last year we did 71 points - now we are at 71 with seven games left.
"I think we should do the maximum we can do in seven games and then after we will see." Top-scorer Sergio Aguero could return after missing the last two matches due to a much-discussed foot injury.
Joleon Lescott will also be welcomed back in defence after five games out with a hip injury and midfielder Samir Nasri is available to face his former club.
Arsene Wenger has challenged Arsenal to end any doubt over what the end-of-season run-in will bring by winning all of their remaining seven matches - starting with title-chasing City.
Arsenal could need victory to move back ahead of Tottenham, who are behind in fourth only on goal difference and travel to Sunderland on Saturday lunchtime.
Wenger, though, expects his side to produce the required performance which saw them win seven on the spin before a lacklustre effort at QPR was punished by a 2-1 defeat last weekend.
"We have been consistent in the last two months and if we maintain that consistency there will not be many twists and turns," the Arsenal manager said.
"You never know how easy a programme is in this Premier League because if you look at the last two months we won at Liverpool and Everton, and then lost at QPR.
"That was not really predictable, so it is still difficult to predict." Wenger added: "I am convinced we can finish third, like Tottenham are convinced they can do it. That is normal because we are at the same level of points." Gunners skipper Robin van Persie echoed Wenger's call for the team to concentrate on their own jobs rather than worry about what City may or may not do.
"We are well prepared, because you have to know your stuff about the opposition, but in the end it's about your own performance that will hopefully make the difference," Van Persie wrote in his programme notes for tomorrow's match at Emirates Stadium.
"I am confident that we can get a good result - we have to get three points, a draw is not that good for either of us, so it should be a great game." The Gunners reported no fresh injury concerns ahead of the game.
Arsenal vs Man City
Last modified 18:22 08/04/12
Arteta arrow bursts City's bubble Arsenal delivered a potentially fatal blow to Manchester City's Barclays Premier League title hopes as Mikel Arteta fired home a brilliant late winner at Emirates Stadium, where Mario Balotelli was shown a red card in a 1-0 defeat.
Leaders Manchester United had earlier opened up an eight-point lead over their bitter rivals with their 2-0 lunchtime win over QPR at Old Trafford, leaving Roberto Mancini's men with little room for error.
However, the Gunners - chasing a place back in the top three - raised their own game and created enough chances to have been well ahead by half-time, with Robin van Persie's goalbound header striking team-mate Thomas Vermaelen.
After the woodwork twice again came to City's rescue in the second half, the Gunners were not to be denied as, with three minutes left, Arteta strode forwards to smash a superb, 25-yard drive past Joe Hart into the bottom corner City finished the match with 10 men when Balotelli, who should have been sent off for a studs-up challenge on Song in the first half which was missed by referee Martin Atkinson and his assistants, was shown a second yellow card for clattering into Bacary Sagna.
Mancini cut a forlorn figure at the final whistle, as his position will now once again come under intense scrutiny.
Arsenal started strongly, with both Theo Walcott and Sagna stretching former team-mate Gael Clichy on the overlap.
Tomas Rosicky was seeing plenty of the ball and on nine minutes the Czech midfielder's drive was deflected behind.
Yaya Toure, who once had a trial at Arsenal as a youngster, was left in a heap following a clash of knees with Song, and the Ivory Coast midfielder hobbled off for treatment.
On 14 minutes, Arsenal had a shout for a penalty when Vincent Kompany looked to have pushed Van Persie in the back as the ball was floated into the City penalty area.
Toure was unable to continue, and while the visitors were down to 10 men, they almost went behind.
A corner from the left was flicked through the City six-yard box, where Van Persie headed it goalwards, only for the ball to cannon back of team-mate Vermaelen on the line and up onto the crossbar, with Rosicky nodding the rebound over.
City made an enforced change on 17 minutes as David Pizarro replaced Toure.
Balotelli then caught Song with a studs-up challenge just below the knee. Neither Atkinson nor his assistant on the touchline saw the poor tackle which, if they had, would have surely resulted in a red card for the controversial Italian striker. Fortunately, Cameroon international Song was able to recover and continue.
On 25 minutes, Balotelli popped up in the Arsenal penalty area to flick a corner goalwards, and when his shot was blocked by Kieran Gibbs, the maverick City forward took his frustrations out by kicking the base of the post.
The Italian finally received a caution for catching Sagna with a high boot on 38 minutes.
It was perhaps something of a surprise to see the 21-year-old return for the second half, Mancini electing to keep faith with a player whom he openly admits he may well have punched were they team-mates.
City went on the offensive, with Sergio Aguero's looping header tipped over by Szczesny.
At the other end, Blues keeper Hart was a bystander as Van Persie came even closer to breaking the deadlock on 62 minutes after he was picked out from a floated cross by Song, but his cushioned header came back off the base of the post when perhaps the Dutchman - without a goal in three games - should really have hit the back of the net.
On 66 minutes, Laurent Koscielny caught Gareth Barry on the ankle to collect a 10th yellow card of the season, and with it a likely two-game suspension.
It was then City's turn to spurn a great chance when Kompany headed a deep free-kick back across the Arsenal six-yard box, but Balotelli failed to connect with his attempted scissors-kick.
The Gunners broke away through Song, who slipped Van Persie clear on the left side of the penalty area to slot past Hart, but the Dutchman had strayed just offside.
City's goal continued to lead a charmed life as Walcott's shot was tipped on to the far post by Hart, with Vermaelen then scuffing the rebound which Benayoun could not force past Joleon Lescott on the line.
On 87 minutes, Arsenal finally made the breakthrough - and effectively gift-wrapped the championship for United - when Mikel Arteta strode forwards to fire a brilliant 25-yard strike into the bottom corner.
|Player rating out of ten||Player name||Substitution||Did they score?||Player's disciplinary record||Rating|
|28||Kieran Gibbs(sub 55)|
|14||Theo Walcott(sub 84)|
|30||Yossi Benayoun(sub 77)|
|10||Robin van Persie|
|11||Clarindo Andre Santos(sub 55)|
|15||Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain(sub 84)|
|16||Aaron Ramsey(sub 77)|
|Player rating out of ten||Player name||Did they score?||Player's disciplinary record||Substitution||Rating|
|42||Gnegneri Toure Yaya(sub 16)|
|16||Sergio Aguero(sub 82)|
|19||Samir Nasri(sub 78)|
|8||David Pizarro(sub 16)|
|13||Aleksandar Kolarov(sub 78)|
|32||Carlos Tevez(sub 82)|
|34||Nigel De Jong|