Guardiola ready for a big battle against Arsenal, 'the best team in the Premier League'

Manchester City manager not certain about Erling Haaland's fitness for Wednesday's key clash

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said that Arsenal are the best team in the Premier League as his side prepare for a trip to the Emirates in Wednesday's top-of-the-table clash.

League champions City are second in the standings and three points behind leaders Arsenal with one more game played. They will now look to close the gap after recovering from their recent slump to ease past Aston Villa 3-1 on Sunday.

City will draw inspiration from last month's FA Cup 1-0 victory over the London club.

"So far, they are the best team in the Premier League," Guardiola said on Tuesday.

"We felt it a couple of weeks ago [in the FA Cup]. The commitment, they are sharp. It will be a big, big battle. You have to be ready.

"I do not truly believe one week ago we are out of form and now we're back in form. Every game is different, you can play good and win and everything is perfect but tomorrow you could lose. Tomorrow is an important one, everyone knows it, and we'll try to do our best."

Wednesday’s pivotal match could hardly be more ill-timed for Arsenal, who are winless in consecutive league games for the first time this season.

Mikel Arteta's team are looking to win the league title for the first time in 19 years, yet approach the game at the Emirates that has such big implications in the midst of their current slump.

Mikel Arteta's Arsenal currently lead the Premier League. PA

His side followed up their unexpected defeat by relegation-threatened Everton with a 1-1 draw with Brentford on Saturday.

They at least received a psychological boost as Guardiola said he was unsure whether Erling Haaland will be available for the match.

The striker was substituted at halftime in City’s 3-1 win over Villa on Sunday with what Guardiola at the time described as a “knock”.

Haaland took part in a recovery session on Monday but Guardiola could not say if the league’s top scorer, with 25 goals, would be healthy enough to play on Wednesday.

“Right now, I don’t know,” Guardiola said.

The City manager started the press conference by apologising to former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard for his comments last week. Guardiola was stern in his defence of the club after allegations of financial misconduct by the Premier League. He referenced Gerrard's infamous slip in 2014 against Chelsea, which ultimately helped Manchester City pip Liverpool to the title.

He had said: "Some moments belong to us – they absolutely belong to us. The (title-winning) goal from (Sergio) Aguero, when (Mario) Balotelli slipped (in 2012)? I don't know if we are responsible for Steven Gerrard slipping at Anfield. Was that our fault? I have respect for Steven Gerrard – but that moment belongs to us."

Guardiola began his news conference by expressing his regret.

"I apologise to Steven Gerrard for my unnecessary and stupid comments I said the last time about him. He knows how I admire him and his career, what he has done for this country that I am living and training in," the Spaniard said.

Updated: February 14, 2023, 3:28 PM