Pep Guardiola has urged Manchester City not to let the destiny of the Premier League title slip out of their hands in a potentially decisive clash at the top of the table against Arsenal on Wednesday.
City trail the Gunners by five points, but have two games in hand and home advantage when the sides meet at the Etihad as they aim for a third consecutive title.
Guardiola questioned his side’s hunger to continue dominating English football earlier this season, but they are now closing in on a treble of trophies.
City face Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals next month and will take on local rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup final on June 3.
“When we started this season, first game, second game, third game, after (winning) back-to-back Premier Leagues, it is not a final,” said Guardiola at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
“Now the last few months I have had that feeling with the FA Cup and Champions League and Premier League, that is the truth because we see the end is real, real close.”
Arsenal’s blistering start to the season put them in pole position to win the Premier League for the first time in 19 years.
But Mikel Arteta’s men have shown their inexperience in recent weeks as three consecutive draws have allowed City to close in down the home straight.
“After the first round (19 games) of the Premier League, (with what) Arsenal have done, it’s difficult to think we are here in that moment,” added Guardiola.
“Now we know exactly what we’re playing for. We have had many months to arrive at this part of the league to have the chance in our hands.
“Of course, they have it in their hands too, because if they win it depends on them. The destiny will be in their hands.
“But if we win, definitely the destiny will be in our hands.”
Arteta, who worked for three-and-a-half years as Guardiola’s assistant at City, denied the top-of-the-table clash will be decisive in the title race.
Guardiola agreed with his protege, but did not play down the importance of landing a major blow to City’s title rivals.
“It’s a really, really important game because we can get points and our biggest opponent this season cannot,” said Guardiola.
“It’s really important, not decisive because there’s still many tough games for both sides. We have more games to play but we can’t deny how important it is.”
The two Arsenal players with Premier League title-winning experience collected their medals at City.
Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus return to the Etihad having played a major role in Arsenal’s rise from finishing fifth last season into title contenders.
But Guardiola insisted there is no regret at having let the pair go.
“Everyone agreed. The players wanted to leave, the club wanted to sell and the club wanted to buy.
“It’s more than just one person. They were happy and we’re happy. We have no regrets.”
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