Pep Guardiola scoffed at the idea his friendship with Mikel Arteta could be impacted by Manchester City and Arsenal’s title challenge.
The Premier League title rivals face off in a huge encounter at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
Arsenal have drawn their last three games meaning a win for City – who have two games in hand on the Gunners – would see their lead cut to just two points.
Arteta left Guardiola’s coaching staff to join Arsenal in 2019, but City’s boss has nothing but admiration for his close friend.
“Nothing changes,” said Guardiola when asked if his friendship with Arteta gave the match an “extra dimension”.
“Nothing has changed on what I think about him. We talk less, that’s normal, but the rivalries have always been there and it will always be the same.
“It’s not the first time in sport history. I was a player, I had a lot of friends in other teams and it remained the same. You do your maximum to win but in the end, the personal relationships remain.
“I think the development of Arsenal since Mikel took over is obvious. I am a trainer, not a manager. I have a feeling that Mikel changed the structure of the club. Made a lot of decisions, changed a lot of players, with support from the hierarchy of the club, and that’s why the success is there.”
While City have been in brilliant form and Arsenal have had a wobble, Arteta sees no reason to be negative.
“[City] build up this incredible form and look where we are in the table still, so that means we’ve been as well in incredible form, and that’s why we are where we are,” the Arsenal boss said.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Manchester City – Erling Haaland
Haaland has scored 32 Premier League goals for City this season, the joint-most ever by a player in a 38-game campaign in the competition. Twenty of these goals have come at the Etihad Stadium, the most home goals by a player in a season since 2007-08 when Cristiano Ronaldo (Old Trafford) and Fernando Torres (Anfield) each scored 21.
Arsenal – Gabriel Martinelli
Martinelli has been involved in 11 goals in his last 10 Premier League games for Arsenal (eight goals, three assists). Overall, he has 15 Premier League goals this season, the joint-most by a Brazilian player in a single campaign, along with Roberto Firmino in 2017-18.
MATCH PREDICTION: MANCHESTER CITY WIN
City have won eight of their last nine Premier League games, including their last six in a row. At home they have won 17 of their last 19 league games (D1 L1), though their last four defeats at the Etihad Stadium have been against London sides (Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Tottenham and Brentford).
Arsenal have scored just three goals in their last 10 Premier League games against City, failing to score on seven occasions. They had only failed to score in six of their previous 37 against the Citizens in the competition.
Indeed, the Gunners have lost their last 11 Premier League games against Man City, their longest losing streak against an opponent in their league history.
OPTA WIN PROBABILITY
Manchester City – 62 per cent
Arsenal – 15.3 per cent
Draw – 22.7 per cent