Pep Guardiola has told his Manchester City players not to give up their Premier League title without a fight.
The champions have the chance to get the best of Arsenal when they face the Gunners in a crunch clash at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
Arsenal have led the table for most of the season but have slipped in their last two games, with a win at Everton and a home tie against Brentford.
Second-placed City’s own form has been erratic but they returned to winning ways after being beaten by Tottenham with a comfortable win over Aston Villa on Sunday.
That reduced the gap at the summit to three points and Guardiola is determined not to let this latest opportunity slip away.
The City manager said: “The biggest motivation is that I don’t want to lose the Premier League because we are not who we are.
“If they beat us because they are better, this is sport, I will be the first to congratulate them, as I have always done. But not because we are not there. Do you want it? OK, fight. Take it. It is in our hands.
“We will defend this title until the last day. This is what I want. To fight to the maximum to try to keep the title. If we don’t, accept it, but we have to do our best. My players have to feel that every day.”
Guardiola is hoping Arsenal will bounce back after being left disappointed by their 1-1 draw with Brentford.
Ivan Toney’s equalizer should have been disallowed for offside but a mistake was made in the VAR review.
Guardiola said: “They will be dangerous. When you drop points and aren’t used to dropping points, you have something special in the next game.
“Looking at the two games, I don’t feel they have dropped the way they are playing.
“I think Arsenal have reached a level that means the opposition always adapts to where they are. When you reach that level it is because you are a good team and you have reached the level you need to be champions. I have a feeling he’s got Arsenal this season.”
City will come up against former midfielder turned left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko. The Ukraine international proved popular at the Etihad Stadium and was an inspirational signing for Mikel Arteta’s side.
“I’m happy for him, he’s doing well,” said Guardiola. “I think everyone here loves him, he was an important person in our club.
“The thing I like most about Oleks is that we wanted to move him from here in the early years because we thought he wasn’t going to play much and he said he was going to fight for his job.
“He trained very well, never had a bad face, played sparingly and always behaved well. Usually when you’re not playing you’ll see players who don’t want to do it in the gym or in extra time but it’s always been there.
“In the circumstances of life, many injuries in one place, he took the opportunity. That’s a good feeling.”