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Mar 30, 2024 11:39 am

Health issues hamper both teams as Arsenal visit Man City

Mikel Arteta

The Premier League title picture could become clearer when Arsenal visit Manchester City on Sunday. But both teams could be without key contributors who have been integral to their title challenges.

Arsenal (20-4-4, 64 points) enter the weekend leading the league on goal difference over Liverpool, but with a trio of critical health concerns. They’re led by questions over the status of current leading scorer Bukayo Saka, who withdrew from international duty with England last week because of a hamstring issue.

Center back Gabriel dos Santos also pulled out of camp for Brazil with an Achilles issue. And attacker and Brazilian compatriot Gabriel Martinelli has been out for Arsenal’s last two league matches with a foot problem.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said none of that trio had fully trained on Friday, but with the match on Sunday still had time to work themselves into the picture in Saturday’s session.

More generally, the Gunners will hope 2 1/2 weeks off following their last fixture in the UEFA Champions League won’t disrupt their obvious momentum. Arsenal had won their last seven league fixtures while outscoring opponents by an astonishing 33-4 ratio.

“You can’t do anything about it, that moment is gone,” Arteta said of the timing of the break. “They had to go to their national teams, and we have maximized as much as we possibly could during the time we had here with certain players. Now everybody’s back and so positive about what is coming and looking forward to it.”

Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola knows his third-place City squad (19-3-6, 63 points) will be without defenders Kyle Walker and John Stones after they also picked up ailments while on international duty.

The status of key playmaker Kevin De Bruyne is questionable after he missed City’s FA Cup quarterfinal victory over Newcastle two weeks ago with a groin issue.

The 32-year-old Belgian missed virtually all of City’s first half of the campaign with a hamstring injury he picked up in August. The impact of his January return was obvious: He’s had two goals and 12 assists in all competitions since coming back, and his five assists in the Premier League are already two off the team lead despite playing in only nine PL fixtures.

City has lost four times in all competitions this season, with no defeats coming in De Bruyne’s appearances.

“Kevin is so important,” Guardiola admitted Thursday. “It has been a tough season for him with injuries. He has been out for a long time. He trained really well yesterday. We will see what he does in the next few days.”

–Field Level Media

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