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Reunited: Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta comes up against his former boss at Manchester City, Pep Guardiola, tomorrow

Reunited: Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta comes up against his former boss at Manchester City, Pep Guardiola, tomorrow

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Contract up: Lionel Messi is still being linked with a move to Manchester City

Contract up: Lionel Messi is still being linked with a move to Manchester City

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Reunited: Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta comes up against his former boss at Manchester City, Pep Guardiola, tomorrow

Mikel Arteta believes his Arsenal side will be coming up against the best team in Europe when Premier League leaders Manchester City arrive at the Emirates Stadium tomorrow.

City have won a club-record 17 successive games and sit 10 points clear at the summit ahead of the weekend action.

Arteta, who worked as assistant to City boss Pep Guardiola for two-and-a-half years before returning to manage Arsenal, has been suitably impressed by his former club to label them as the continent's premier team.

"I think they are the best team in Europe at the moment," he said.

"The way they are performing, the football they are playing and the consistency of the results, take all that in and it makes them the best team.

"So we have a big, but as well, a very exciting challenge ahead of us on Sunday."

City have recovered from a stutter earlier in the season to now be heavy favourites to lift a third Premier League title in four years.

Their reaction to not hitting their marks was also noted by Arteta, who admits finding any weakness to exploit is a challenge at present.

"What they have done is react to a difficult moment," he added.

"A big team has to do that when everyone is doubting their ability to compete again and be the team that they are.

"They reacted in a a really convincing way, all united and doing what they do best - being very consistent and winning games very comfortably.

"Weakness-wise, they have weaknesses like every team but at the moment teams have struggled a lot to find any of that because I think, first of all, defensively they have been really, really strong."

With the City game coming in between a Europa League round-of-32 clash with Benfica, Arsenal have entered a run of tricky fixtures.

After their second leg against the Portuguese side in Athens next week, the Gunners then face Leicester, Tottenham, West Ham and Liverpool in four of their next five league games.

"It could define our season if we are unable to close the gaps to them but it can create momentum for us if we can get closer to them," Arteta replied when asked if beating the teams above them is key to progressing up the table.

"We know the margin for error is minimal with the season that we have had in previous months so we need to kick on."

Meanwhile, Manchester City have distanced themselves from claims they are negotiating with Lionel Messi over a summer move to the Etihad.

The Barcelona forward is out of contract at the end of the season and the Argentina international has been continually linked to a reunion with his former manager Pep Guardiola.

However, club sources insist no offer has been made to the 33-year-old, either last summer or since, and there are no talks taking place.

Messi has also been linked with Paris St Germain, probably the only other club likely to be able to afford the player's reported £120million-plus a year salary, with speculation about his future intensifying in the final year of his contract at the Nou Camp.

Belfast Telegraph


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