Manchester City must be “almost perfect” between now and the end of the season if they are to catch Premier League leaders Arsenal, according to manager Pep Guardiola.
Arsenal dropped points for just the third time this season in Tuesday’s goalless home draw with Newcastle United, but they are still eight points clear of second-placed City.
The reigning champions play their game in hand away at Chelsea on Thursday, though Guardiola accepts Arsenal may well be uncatchable on current form.
“The way you have to reduce the gap is to play good and win games,” Guardiola said at Wednesday’s pre-match press conference.
“They have an average and they’re going to do 100 points or more if they carry on, and we won’t catch them. We will have to be almost perfect.
“We’d expect from here to the end of the season they’d drop a little bit in terms of their performances, but they were excellent against Newcastle, so we’ll see what happens.”
City were held to a 1-1 draw by Everton on Saturday and have taken only four points from the past nine on offer either side of the World Cup break.
However, Guardiola’s side have won their past three games against Chelsea without conceding a goal, including a 2-0 win in November’s EFL Cup third-round tie.
“It is always difficult when you travel to Stamford Bridge,” Guardiola said. “It is a tough game against a tough side who are well managed.
“It doesn’t matter the position you are when you travel there – it’s always difficult. At the same time, we’re looking forward to it and the next few weeks in different competitions.”
City face Chelsea twice in the space of three days, first in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge and then at the Etihad Stadium in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday.
Guardiola confirmed Ruben Dias remains absent for at least the first of those games, while a late decision will be made on fellow centre-back Aymeric Laporte.
Bernardo Silva is line to retain his place in attack, despite again suggesting this week that his future lies away from City beyond this season.
Asked about Silva’s latest comments, Guardiola insisted the Portugal international – under contract until June 2025 – remains an important part of his plans.
“He’s a key player, so important on and off the pitch,” said Guardiola, who has lost just seven of his 34 Premier League games in London, three of those against Chelsea.
“He’s a guy who can talk, always with a nice conversation and always you learn about his humanity, his vision for the club and the league.
“He’s an incredible player against top sides, in decisive games he’s always there. Nothing has changed about his future.”
City have won their first Premier League game in each of the past 10 calendar years, stretching back to a 1-0 loss at Sunderland in 2012.
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