Pep Guardiola believes four teams are in the Premier League title race as Manchester City prepare to face leaders Arsenal in the biggest game of the season so far.
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Arsenal and Man City are separated by just three points ahead of Wednesday’s showdown at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners, who are bidding to win their first Premier League title since 2004, have won 16 of their 21 league games this season.
Manchester City’s form this term has ranged from scintillating to somewhat alarming but Guardiola’s side will overtake Arsenal if they win the north London encounter.
Arsenal and Man City are threatening to pull away from their domestic rivals, with Manchester United already five points behind the Gunners having played two games more.
Newcastle United occupy the final Champions League spot but Eddie Howe’s side have drawn four of their last five games to slip 10 points adrift of the Premier League leaders.
Despite this, Guardiola still views Man United and Newcastle as title contenders and says the title race will not be decided until the final ‘eight to ten’ games of the season.
Asked if he considers third and fourth-place United and Newcastle as title rivals, Guardiola said: ‘Yeah, they are there. There are a lot of points to play for.
‘We don’t know what can happen in the next weeks. I always have the feeling, especially now with European competitions back and FA Cup around the corner, the last eight to ten games are going to decide the title.
‘We have to try to be there in that moment and then have to make the last effort to try to achieve it.’
While Manchester City currently trail Arsenal and have played a game more, Guardiola says the title is still ‘in our hands’ and has dismissed the notion that their rivals will be more motivated given their lack of silverware.
‘The biggest motivation is that I don’t want to drop the Premier League just because we are not who we are,’ the Man City boss added.
‘If they beat us because they are better then this is sport, I’ll be the first to congratulate them, as I’ve always done. But not because we are not there.
‘You want it? OK, fight. Take it. It’s in our hands. We’ll defend this title until the last day.
‘This is what I’d like, to fight to the maximum to try to retain the title. If we don’t, accept it. But we need to give our best. My players have to feel that every day.’
Arsenal need to bounce back from two poor results – a 1-0 defeat to Everton and Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Brentford – while Manchester City beat Aston Villa 3-1 last time out.
Star striker Erling Haaland is expected to start for City despite his injury scare at the weekend, while Arteta could name the same Arsenal team for the seventh time in a row in the Premier League.
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