Much like two speeding cars racing towards each other in a dangerous game of chicken, Manchester City and Arsenal will collide at the Etihad on Saturday eager to protect two remarkable records.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side have undoubtedly the best home form in the Barclays Premier League, while Arsene Wenger has assembled a team unrivalled on their travels. It will be tantalising to see who swerves first.
City have won seven out of seven matches on their own patch this campaign, amassing a frankly ridiculous 29 goals (the most in the division) and conceding just two (the least in the division).
Arsenal have 16 points from seven away games – joint-highest with Tottenham who have played one more – while also scoring 14 goals (equalled only by Manchester United) and conceding five (the fewest by a distance).
With both harbouring serious ambitions for the title come May it is set up to be one of the clashes of the season. Here, Sportsmail assesses who may have the edge.
Bring it on: Manchester city boss Manuel Pellegrini (left) and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger (right) will go head to head on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium
Goalkeeper: Costel Pantilimon v Wojciech Szczesny
The Poland international may be three years younger than his Romanian counterpart but he boasts a wealth more experience in this country. Szczesny has improved markedly this year to the point where Wenger is no longer searching for a new No 1. Pantillimon has performed admirably since his promotion in place of Joe Hart, to give Pellegrini a welcome headache as the England goalkeeper pushes for a recall.
Pantillimon 6 v Szczesny 7
Wearing the gloves: Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny (right) is three years younger than Costel Pantilimon but boasts much more Premier League experience
Right-back: Pablo Zabaleta v Bacary Sagna
City’s reigning player of the season has not quite reached the heady heights of last year’s performances yet, but he is a steady presence both in defence and attack. Sagna has suffered a campaign punctured by injuries but could return to the side for the Etihad trip and Wenger would be thankful.
Zabaleta 7 v Sagna 6
Ever present: Pablo Zabaleta (left) is a steady presence for Manchester City, while Bacary Sagna faces a fitness test ahead of the trip to Manchester
Left-back: Gael Clichy v Kieran Gibbs
The master versus the apprentice. Sort of. Gibbs was Clichy’s understudy at Arsenal for a number of years before the Frenchman moved north like so many out of north London. The pair share similar characteristics of smooth running, quick acceleration, and offensive threat. But both can also lapse defensively.
Clichy 6 v Gibbs 6
Similar traits: Kieron Gibbs (right) was once a team-mate of Gael Clichy’s when the latter was at Arsenal
Centre-back: Vincent Kompany v Per Mertesacker
What a boost it is for City to have their Belgian captain back. He brings composure, leadership, and iron strength to the backline. Mertesacker has become an Arsenal favourite and those hapless displays when he first signed are a distant memory. Now the German is a vital member of the starting XI and his absence is felt.
Kompany 8 v Mertesacker 7
Rocks at the back: Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany (left) has returned from injury, while Per Mertesacker has put his poor displays in the past
Centre-back: Martin Demichelis v Laurent Koscielny
There are signs emerging to give reason for Pellegrini’s trust in Demichelis, which originally looked odd after a sluggish start to life in Manchester. The Argentine never appears rushed although can be outdone by slick movement. Koscielny is enjoying an excellent campaign, developing a fine understanding with Mertesacker. Prone to rash tackles, however.
Demichelis 6 v 7 Koscielny
Strong performers: Martin Demichelis (left) has recovered from his slow start in Manchester, while Laurent Koschielny has developed a strong pairing with Mertesacker
Centre-midfield: Fernandinho v Mathieu Flamini
Eyebrows were raised at Fernandinho’s £30million pricetag in the summer – given his age and position – but few will question his value now. Brings dynamism to the City midfield. Flamini, conversely, cost nothing but only now can that be seen for the wonderful business it was. The Frenchman has provided the link so often missing from Wenger’s recent teams: grit in the middle of the park and a defensive screen.
Fernandinho 7 v Flamini 8
Working hard: Fernandinho (left) has proven to be worth the £30million Manchester City shelled out in the summer, while Mathieu Flamini was a bargain on a free transfer
Centre-midfield: Yaya Toure v Mikel Arteta
Keane and Vieira: Best of Enemies was on TV this week and Toure is the only player in the Premier League at this moment who could rival that pair. He has been the finest in that position in the division since he signed in 2010 and, at 30, is enjoying his best form to date: nine goals in all competitions. Arteta is Arsenal’s captain and provides a commanding voice on the pitch. Vital to the team for both breaking up play and triggering attacks.
Toure 8 v Arteta 7
Top service: Yaya Toure (left) and Mikel Arteta are both vital players for their respective clubs
Right wing: David Silva v Aaron Ramsey
What a season this has been for Ramsey. With 13 club goals overall he has already far surpassed his total from all previous seasons combined, but it is his contribution elsewhere that should be noted too. He offers terrific mobility and presence – never going missing from a match. Silva might still not be competing at his early 2011-12 season peak but he is close. Injury has halted his progress this campaign but when he has played that twinkle he brings is present.
Silva 8 v Ramsey 9
On the right: Aaron Ramsey (right) is having his best season yet, while David Silva is not far off his top form
Left wing: Samir Nasri v Jack Wilshere
Two players who have given people reason to doubt their commitment but whose undisputed ability is rising to the top. Roberto Mancini claimed Nasri was offering only 50 per cent but that number is not far off maximum under Pellegrini after a series of scintillating performances. Wilshere was caught puffing a cigarette in October but since then has only been lighting up the pitch. His adaptability has been most impressive.
Nasri 8 v Wilshere 7
Ability in abundance: Both Samir Nasri (left) and Jack Wilshere have turned in impressive performances
Forward: Alvaro Negredo v Mesut Ozil
A couple of summer signings heralded in greatly different manners but both reaping similar, positive results. Of course, Ozil’s impact has been manifold, but do not underestimate the importance of Negredo to this City team, both in terms of goals and balance. The German shades it for his mesmeric and galvanising qualities allied with tangible end product.
Negredo 8 v Ozil 9
Big buys: Alvaro Negredo (left) has been prolific for City, while Mesut Ozil has made a huge impact at Arsenal
Striker: Sergio Aguero v Olivier Giroud
Two strikers competing at the top of their talents – but Aguero is that level above. The little Argentine is pocket rocket capable of explosive shooting from any angle and movement to baffle the smartest defenders. Giroud has shown off his range of finishing – both in and out of the box – as well as often beautiful link-up play. It is 12 league goals to seven this term in favour of the City man.
Aguero 9 v Giroud 8
TOTAL: CITY 81 v ARSENAL 81
Firing frontmen: Sergio Aguero (left) has scored 12 league goals this term, compared to Olivier Giroud’s seven
Source : Daily mail