Man City v Arsenal: Arteta ready for battle with 'best coach in the world' Guardiola

Close friends face off in top-of-the-table Premier League clash on Sunday

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, left, and Manchester City's Pep Guardiola are once again battling for the Premier League title. AP
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Mikel Arteta has hailed Pep Guardiola as “the best coach in the world” ahead of Arsenal's top-of-the-table clash against Manchester City on Sunday.

Arsenal currently lead the Premier League on goal difference ahead of Liverpool with reigning champions City one point behind.

The Gunners have won eight games on the trot this year, scoring a prolific 33 goals along the way, but face the ultimate test of their title credentials against a City side looking to become the first team to secure four English top-flight crowns in a row.

Arteta has close ties with his title rivals after a three-year spell as assistant coach to Guardiola before leaving to take over at the North London club in what is his first managerial role.

Last season, it looked like Arteta was set to guide Arsenal to their first championship since 2004 – holding an eight-point lead at the top at the start of April – only to be overhauled by City in the home straight.

And now Arteta and Guardiola are going toe-to-toe again with Arsenal twice having come out on top in games this season – winning the Community Shield on penalties and the league game at the Emirates Stadium 1-0 in October thanks to Gabriel Martinelli's late winner.

When asked on Friday whether his relationship with Guardiola was different now due to the rivalry, Arteta replied: “It had to change.

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“My admiration and what I feel for him certainly hasn't. In my opinion he's the best coach in the world by a mile and he's one of the nicest people that I've met in football.

“Certainly he's one of the ones that I've had the most fun and laughter working with. That's going to stay there forever.

“At the moment the rules are what they are and you're going to have to adapt to it.

“Probably I would prefer to do it [win the title] against someone who I don't have those feelings for but that's not a choice. It's what it is. We both want to win.

“We'll prepare the game very well. You cannot feel different about the person, but professionally you have to act differently.”

Arteta confirmed forwards Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli could feature having missed the international break with minor injuries, while defender Gabriel Magalhaes is also expected to be fit enough to start.

Guardiola, meanwhile has suffered a double defensive blow ahead of the game at the Etihad Stadium with Kyle Walker and John Stones both ruled out.

Walker suffered a hamstring injury in the early stages of England's friendly with Brazil last weekend, while Stones completed that game but then picked up an adductor problem 10 minutes into the draw with Belgium.

Goalkeeper Ederson could return to the side for the first time since suffering a thigh injury when conceding a penalty against Liverpool and Manuel Akanji has recovered from a knock on international duty with Switzerland, while Guardiola will make a late decision on the fitness of Kevin de Bruyne.

“Ederson is much better but Kyle and John are out,” the Spaniard said. “It is what it is. “For Kyle it will be more tougher than John [in terms of recovery], but I don't know for how many games he will be out.”

Guardiola's side remain in contention for a repeat of last season's treble, as they take on Real Madrid in the last eight of the Champions League and Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals.

City are on a superb run of form themselves and are currently enjoying a 22-game unbeaten streak in all competitions, dating to the start of December that also saw them win the Fifa Club World Cup for the first time.

Their 4-0 thrashing of Brazilian side Fluminense in Saudi Arabia made it a remarkable five trophies for City in 2023, having also beaten Sevilla in the Uefa Super Cup.

“It's good to be here and in contention for three titles after what happened last season,” Guardiola added. “We made incredible work.

“Right now every game is so important. If we are able to do it [against Arsenal], the next game will be important as well.

“We played really good the last month but the international break, the first game after you think what will happen? Yesterday we trained good and we have two more training sessions and will be ready for it again.”

Updated: March 30, 2024, 6:05 AM