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Thursday 26 July 2012

Man City and Arsenal set for Bird's Nest test

Barclays Premier League champions to take on Gunners in Beijing on Friday

Mikel Arteta scores Arsenal's winner against Man City in the Barclays Premier League in April

While the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games is taking centre stage in London over in Beijing the focus is firmly on events at the iconic 'Bird's Nest' stadium, where Barclays Premier League champions Manchester City take on Arsenal on Friday.

There will be plenty of pride at stake in this pre-season friendly, which kicks-off at 1300 BST, with City determined to re-affirm their status as the pre-eminent force in the English game.

Arsenal, though, will be out to remind Roberto Mancini's charges that the result of their most recent meeting – a 1-0 victory for the Gunners at the Emirates Stadium, was no fluke.

Mancini goes into the contest buoyed by the news that Vincent Kompany has tied his immediate future to the club by agreeing a new six-year contract.

Kompany signing

Kompany, who was a rock at the heart of the meanest Barclays Premier League defence last term with only 29 goals conceded, has already helped his side keep two clean sheets in their pre-season tour.

"It's my first time here in China but we feel very really lucky to be here"
- Mikel Arteta

Along with Sergio Aguero – who famously scored the winner against Queens Park Rangers that clinched the title for Mancini's men last season – the Belgian international scored in last Friday's 2-0 win against Turkish Super Lig side Besiktas.

Even though Robin van Persie has not accompanied his side on their summer travels, Arsenal have made an encouraging start to their Asia Tour, coming from behind to defeat a Malaysia XI earlier this week thanks to goals by Thomas Eisfeld and Chuks Aneke.

Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta, the man who scored the winner against City in April, is hoping to repay those supporters who have made their arrival in China a pleasant experience.

Pleasant stay

"It's my first time here in China but we can only feel very really lucky to be here and to feel the support that we are getting from all the fans and how respectful and passionate they are," said Arteta.

"The only thing we can do is try our best now on Friday, play well and hopefully they will enjoy the match."

Along with Van Persie, Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has also stayed behind in England to continue his rehabilitation from his long-term ankle injury, while new signings Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud have also remained in order to settle.

City's Mario Balotelli and David Silva, who scored in the 1-0 Barclays Premier League victory against the Gunners in December, also miss out after having been accorded more time off to recover from their UEFA Euro 2012 exertions.

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Key Points

  • Pride at stake in high-profile pre-season friendly
  • Premier League clubs to meet in 80,000 arena
  • Podolski and Giroud among Gunners' new signings