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Pep Guardiola feels it will take a major slump in Arsenal’s performance levels for Manchester City to catch them at the top of the Premier League.

Champions City have a chance to move back within five points of the Gunners when they travel to Chelsea on Thursday after the leaders were held to a draw by Newcastle on Tuesday.

Yet Guardiola was still impressed by what he saw from Mikel Arteta’s side and feels City will have little margin for error over the remainder of the campaign.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, left, and Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, left, hopes Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal falter (John Walton/PA)

“The way to reduce the gap is by playing good and winning games,” said Guardiola at a press conference to preview the trip to Stamford Bridge.

“But they (Arsenal) are going to do 100 or more points the way they have gone so far. If they continue this way, we will not catch them.

“We have to be almost perfect, I would say, from here to the end of the season and hope they drop a little bit in their performance, because yesterday they were excellent. We will see what happens.”

Chelsea have won just one of their last seven Premier League games heading into Thursday’s encounter but Guardiola is not expecting a straightforward evening.

The game is the first of two back-to-back encounters with the Blues, as Graham Potter’s men visit the Etihad Stadium in the FA Cup on Sunday.

Guardiola said: “It’s a tough game, (against) a tough side, well managed. Stamford Bridge – what can I say? It doesn’t matter what position you are when you travel there, it’s always difficult.

“But, at the same time, we looking forward to this week, and these next two weeks, for the different competitions and especially the Premier League.”

In the coming month City’s fixtures also include a Carabao Cup quarter-final, a Manchester derby and two games against Tottenham.

Rico Lewis, right
Rico Lewis has impressed for Manchester City (Tim Goode/PA)

Youngster Rico Lewis will hope to retain his place after catching the eye since the resumption of top-flight football following the World Cup.

The 18-year-old has shone at right-back having been selected ahead of returning England defender Kyle Walker.

There have been reports the Academy graduate could be offered an improved contract but, while Guardiola would not comment on that, he admits he has been very impressed.

Guardiola said: “On the contract, I’m not the person, I don’t know the decision of the club.

“But what he’s done in last three games against top sides, under big pressure, how good he played, was beyond my expectations. When we review the games, everything is well done.

“He is such an intelligent player and can play in different positions. We are delighted the Academy has produced another top player and we hope he can stay for a long time.”