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  • By Charlie Stong at Wembley Stadium

Guardiola calls for "Manchester to be blue" ahead of showdown with "best team in England" so far

Pep Guardiola admitted Arsenal have been the “best team in England” so far this year and said his Manchester City side would need the support of the Etihad crowd in Wednesday night’s Premier League title showdown to get the better of the Gunners.

Three successive draws for the north Londoners have let City back into the title race - Arsenal now stand five points ahead of the Cityzens having played two games more than the reigning champions.

City are now odds-on favourites to win their fifth Premier League title in six years, with Arsenal needing to win at the Etihad on Wednesday to keep the destiny of the Premier League trophy in their own hands.

Speaking after his side’s 3-0 Wembley win over Sheffield United on Saturday set-up the first ever all-Manchester FA Cup Final, Guardiola said: “Momentum is of course very key for the final we have on Wednesday against a team who have been the best team in England so far.

“They are five points ahead of us. Hopefully the whole of Manchester will be blue. We need them to come to support us and we need that incredible noise from the first until the end because I know against which opponent we are going to play.

“Even though they drew the last three games the way they play in big parts of the game is difficult to stop. It is a massively important game for us. We know that winning will go a step to putting it completely in our hands. We want to take this opportunity.”

Guardiola refused to be drawn into talk of a wobble from the London side. The Gunners were pegged back to draw 2-2 at Anfield after leading Liverpool 2-0, missed a penalty to go 3-1 up at West Ham before also drawing that game 2-2 – and relied on two goals in the final few minutes to salvage a point against basement boys Southampton at the Emirates on Friday night.

But the Spaniard is still wary of the threat the Gunners could yet pose. For all the talk of the title pendulum swinging, a win for Arsenal on Wednesday would put them eight points clear at the top – and in charge once again.

Guardiola said: “I saw the first half against Liverpool and they had the momentum. I saw the first 20, 25 minutes against West Ham and they had the momentum. I know how difficult it will be. They are huge competitors, starting from the manager.

“Going to Anfield to get a result is not easy. We have won (there) one in six or seven years that I am here.

“Then teams like West Ham who are fighting for survival it is difficult. All the results in the Premier League now are tight. Everyone plays for Champions League, Europa League, to stay in the Premier League.”

A Riyad Mahrez hat-trick gave City a comfortable win over the Blades, and after Manchester United beat Brighton on penalties in the other semi-final yesterday, a first all-Manchester final looms – on June 3.

Guardiola said of the performance on Saturday: “We did really well. Everyone was perfect and I am really satisfied after many years to be in the FA Cup Final.

“(Mahrez) is always very grumpy if he doesn’t play. He is an exceptional player, a big-game player. His composure for the penalty was brilliant and after also for the second and third.

“I am so satisfied for him. He loves to play football. He has given us many things this year and hopefully more in the future.

“Three years in a row in the semi-final, out, out, out and now to be in the final is very satisfying.”


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