EPL

Mikel Arteta says Pep Guardiola ‘best coach in the world’ ahead of Man City game

By Sports Desk March 29, 2024

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has hailed Pep Guardiola as “the best coach in the world” as the close friends prepare for a potentially seismic game in the Premier League title battle this weekend.

Manchester City play host to their title rivals at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday having won the last seven home meetings between the two sides.

Arsenal finally managed to record a rare victory over City when they won the reverse fixture at the Emirates Stadium earlier this season and go into the weekend top of the table – above Liverpool on goal difference with Guardiola’s reigning champions a point further back.

The two Spaniards are good friends, Arteta having worked under Guardiola at City between 2016 and 2019 and played his part in two Premier League title wins.

Now though, they will once again be in opposite dugouts as Arteta prepares to lock horns with a manager he believes is without rival.

Asked if his relationship with Guardiola was different now, Arteta replied: “It had to change.

“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.”

Having sparred for the title last season, before City ultimately pipped Arsenal for the trophy en route to winning the treble, Arteta is keen to go one better this term.

“Probably I would prefer to do it against someone who I don’t have those feelings for but that’s not a choice,” he added.

“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 Gabriel Magalhaes is also expected to be fit enough to start.

The challenge for Arsenal is not only end a nine-year wait for a league win at City but to also emulate their rivals in establishing themselves as a major power in European football.

“They have raised the bar in this league and football in general to levels that haven’t been seen before,” he added on City’s success.

“That’s the beauty of this sport because it makes you better and challenges you more. You have to keep up with that pace and that’s what we’re trying to do.

“It’s a massive game for both teams. It will give us a huge boost again if we go there and win it. Still there is a long, long, long way after to make the ground to win it.”

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    Xabi Alonso's Bundesliga champions had not suffered defeat since the final game of last season against Bochum, but succumbed to their next loss in the decisive moment against Atalanta in Dublin.

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    A 3-0 defeat ensured Leverkusen will have to settle for, at most, a domestic double as they look to bounce back on Saturday in the DFB-Pokal final.

    Yet Xhaka insisted Alonso's side never had the undefeated streak in their minds as soon as kick-off arrived at the Aviva Stadium.

    "Honestly, we're not interested in the unbeaten record," the former Arsenal midfielder said to RTL. "We didn't care about that from the start.

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    "We said yesterday that it would be a difficult game. Compliments to Atalanta."

    Leverkusen's unbeaten streak spanned nine months and 51 games this season, starting their 2023-24 campaign with a first-round DFB-Pokal thrashing of lowly Teutonia Ottensen in mid-August.

    Alonso's impressive men triumphed in 42 of those matches during their historic unbeaten run across all competitions, drawing the other nine as Leverkusen coasted to their first Bundesliga title in history.

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    Leverkusen are the first league-title winners to lose the UEFA Cup/Europa League final in the same season since Benfica in 2013-14, and the first German side to do since Borussia Dortmund in 2001-02.

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    European heartbreak marked Leverkusen's first loss this season, with their last defeat coming to Bochum on the last day of the 2022-23 Bundesliga campaign, as Alonso's side were finally stopped.

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