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Sky Blue News: Pep Presser, Massive Match, By the Numbers, and More...

Headlines on a massive Match Day.

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Manchester City v Sheffield United: Emirates FA Cup Semi Final Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images

Manchester City are set for a showdown of epic proportions at the Etihad against Arsenal FC. The Gunners are league leaders, but City have closed the gap and are breathing down the neck of Mikel Arteta’s squad. Sky Blue News is here with all the latest to get you ready.


The Portuguese defender has been in superb form since returning to the starting XI after the World Cup.

He says the team mentality will be that of a playing in a final as City chase three major trophies in the weeks that remain.

“I think we have been on form in the right time for a long time now,” said Dias.

“It is that time of year and every game you are either in or out with Champions League elimination rounds and also the way it goes in the Premier League.

“We have been fighting finals for a long time now and it will keep being the same until the end.

“It comes from ambition - ambition for us all. Ambition is one of our best characteristics.

Pep Talk: “It’s an important game, we can get points and our biggest opponent cannot,” - Saul Garcia - Bitter and Blue

Pep Guardiola knows the challenge that lays ahead of Manchester City as they ent this must have match vs Arsenal. Speaking to the media, our manager spoke about pressure, Haaland and so much more!

Let’s dive in-

Pep on match

“It’s an important game, we can get points and our biggest opponent cannot,”

“But we have to focus on what we have to do.

“We’ve played two times this season and in the FA Cup and there (away at Arsenal in the league) they were really tight games and really difficult.

“When you play against these teams they can control everything.

“I’ve said from a long time ago with Arsenal when with Arsene Wenger they always have the incredible details and care of the ball and who they select to play with the biggest quality and biggest skills.

“But Mikel has brought a new dimension. They are huge competitors in all senses, so aggressive.

Man City vs Arsenal: Joao Cancelo’s exit, Ruben Dias’ impact and how Pep Guardiola made Man City click - Nick Wright - Sky Sports

There are many factors behind City’s rejuvenation and the return of Ruben Dias, following a hamstring injury sustained with Portugal at the World Cup, is undoubtedly a significant one.

Guardiola was cautious when reintroducing him following his month-long absence, naming him on the bench in four consecutive games - only one of which he appeared in at all - before putting him back in the starting line-up against Aston Villa on February 12.

Even then, he continued to tread carefully. Dias impressed in the first half against Unai Emery’s side as City roared into a three-goal lead but he did not emerge for the second period, Guardiola later citing his booking for dissent as the reason for his withdrawal at the interval. “Of course he was disappointed,” he added.

Manchester City vs Arsenal – A Massive Moment in the Title Race Awaits - Adam Marrett - Man CIty Square

Nathan Ake has been superb this season, and would be a contender for City’s player of the season if not for Erling Haaland’s record breaking season and Rodri’s outstanding form this season.

Also in Manchester City’s two wins over Arsenal in the FA Cup tie and City’s win at the Emirates Ake was outstanding at left back in both games, and did a superb job on Arsenal danger man Bukayo Saka.

If Ake does miss here his loss will be felt, but Aymeric Laporte has been waiting for a opportunity and did well in his minutes against Bayern and again against Sheffield United on the weekend.

Another selection question will be who will Pep Guardiola play on the right wing. I feel the rest of City’s line up is self explanatory on recent form, but there’s a case here for either Bernardo Silva or Riyad Mahrez to start on the right given the form Mahrez comes into the game off the back of his weekend hat trick.

Erling Haaland has the ‘same mentality’ as Cristiano Ronaldo, says Man City team-mate Bernardo Silva - James Hunsley - Goal

WHAT HAPPENED? The record-breaking Norwegian is on course to obliterate the Premier League golden boot record of 34 goals set by Andy Cole (1993-94) and Alan Shearer (1994-95), with 32 already to his name in just 28 league appearances. Haaland’s tally for the season currently stands at 48 goals from 42 matches across all competitions, as he bears down on Ronaldo’s career-best of 61 strikes in a single campaign (in 2014-15). And there are further similarities between the two, as Bernardo, who lines up alongside both players for club and country, outlined in an interview with Arab News.

WHAT THEY SAID: “The goal figures, it’s unbelievable; it’s Cristiano and [Lionel] Messi level, that amount of goals,” the Portugal midfielder said. “Hopefully Erling can keep going that way because we need his goals until the last game of the season. He has definitely got the same mentality as Cristiano, always wanting to be in the box, always wanting to score. He doesn’t care if he touches the ball one or two times, when he touches he scores. He’s just a proper striker.

“We knew what Erling could do before he arrived because he’s been doing that for a few years before he joined us, in Norway, Austria and Germany. We watched him and we played against him, but you never know when he comes here, what level he can get to. But what he’s done so far this season has been amazing and we are really happy to have him with us. He’s definitely a special player and he’s helping us very much. I hope he can get even better.”

A record that gives them no hope of victory – Stat Preview: Manchester City vs Arsenal (Premier League) - Emily Holt - City Xtra

Pep Guardiola’s side come into the game in great form, coming off the back off an emphatic 3-0 victory against Sheffield United, with Riyad Mahrez scoring an impressive hat-trick to send his side into a Manchester derby FA Cup final.

Mikel Arteta’s side have performed astoundingly all season, but have struggled to maintain their fantastic form over the past few weeks, suffering three consecutive draws in the Premier League and leaving an enticing opportunity for City to snatch the title away.

The Gunners will have to put on an aggressive attacking performance at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night if they want to keep their chances of securing the Premier League title alive, and ahead of the game, here are all the important statistics and potential landmark moments to look out for!

And finally... Barca are once again sniffing around a City player.

Aymeric Laporte ‘keen to leave Manchester City for Barcelona’ - Oliver Thomas - Sports Mole

The 28-year-old has made a total of 174 appearances for the Citizens in all competitions since joining the club from Athletic Bilbao in January 2018, winning 11 trophies including four Premier League titles.

Laporte was a first-team regular under Pep Guardiola last season, making 44 appearances, but he has since fallen down the pecking order this term, starting just seven times in the Premier League.

The Spain international missed the first two months of the campaign due to a knee injury, and he has since struggled to force his way into the starting lineup ahead of Ruben Dias, John Stones, Manuel Akanji and Nathan Ake.

Laporte has only featured in six of City’s last 17 games across all competitions since the beginning of February and the defender is believed to be frustrated with his lack of regular game time.

Laporte recently dropped a hint over his future at Man City when he took to social media to post a cryptic message that read: “After the rain, a rainbow; after a storm, the calm; and after an end, a new beginning.”

The defender is under contract at the Etihad until June 2025, but it is understood that he has a ‘concrete possibility’ of leaving the Citizens, who will not stand in his way if he pushes for a summer exit.

According to Relevo, Laporte feels that his time in the Premier League is up and he is keen to return to Spain, with Barcelona viewed as his preferred destination.

There you have it. Stay wit Bitter and Blue all match day long and follow along on Twitter with @BitterandBlue1. Sky Blue News returns tomorrow with more headlines.