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Mind Game: Pep, Arteta on Tonight’s Encounter

Both Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta say this game will not decide the Premier League title race– but the data suggests they may be wrong.

This will be the ninth time in Premier League history that the top two have met after 33 or more games (for the league leaders) with five points or fewer between them.

Only once did a team lose that game and win the title – when Chelsea beat Manchester United 2-1 in 2008, but Sir Alex Ferguson’s side finished first by two points.

The last time there was a title showdown like this, back in 2014, neither team won the league. Chelsea beat leaders Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield, but City – who had games in hand – were crowned champions on the final day.

Data analysts Nielsen Gracenote currently rate City as having a 79% chance of winning the title. An Arsenal victory, though, would see them become the favourites with a 55% chance, while that would drop to 11% with a City success.

Arsenal’s Arteta

“When you live in these kind of situations, in October, November, you can’t have that feeling. Especially after winning back-to-back Premier Leagues. For our first Premier League, we started the season like every game was a final, every game was a final.

“I remember it perfectly, seeing it from the outside that Arsenal had that feeling this season, every game is a final. This season for us, after back-to-back Premier Leagues, every game wasn’t a final at the start.

“But now in the last few months with the Champions League, FA Cup, Premier League, we see it like that because the end is really close. Now we know exactly what we are playing for.

“It’s many months to get to this point, and now we have the chance in our hands. Of course it is in theirs too because if they win, it depends on them – but if we do, then the destiny is up to us with seven games to go.

City’s Pep

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says his side’s Premier League game against Arsenal is “really important” but “not decisive”.

“Arsenal had that feeling this season, every game is a final. For us, after back-to-back titles, it wasn’t like that at the start”

He said: “I’ve said many weeks ago, getting towards the end of the season we know if we lose games the situation will be over.

“It’s really important, not decisive because there’s many tough games left for both sides. But we cannot deny how important it is.”

“If we win tomorrow night we haven’t won the league, that’s for sure. It will shift the percentages a little bit, but with five games left after this, it will still be very tricky.
“We wanted to close that gap as much as we could and we’re toe-to-toe with them. We knew we had to go to the Etihad. Is it going to define the season? The answer is no.

“Mentality plays a huge part. Obviously, the belief is there. When I look at how they train and the way they’ve reacted, the mood in the dressing room and the way they defend each other, we really want it.

“We’re going to show that again tomorrow night. But we have to deliver in the right moment with the right performance and it has to be perfection because that’s what this last level demands – absolute perfection.”

“They’ve been in this incredible form but if you look at the table, it shows we have been too,” added Arteta.

“It’s going to be a tough night and challenge, but the opportunity is an incredible one for us. We have to go to Man City and we have to beat them. If we want to be champions, we have to win these matches. It’s as simple as that.”

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