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Ahead of our trip to Manchester City in the FA Cup fourth round on Friday, Mikel Arteta feels we will be taking on the best team in the world right now.

As we continue to go toe to toe with the reigning Premier League champions at the top of the table, the first clash between the two this term will come in the cup at the Etihad Stadium, with the long-awaited World Cup match. – up

Mikel is under no illusions about the size of the game, and indeed has been given the task at hand to win the knockout rounds and next month’s Premier League encounter on the horizon, but he relishes the challenge.

“It’s a great match, and a great test for us against, in my opinion, the best team in world football,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it, because it will tell us a lot about where we are.

“I think it’s going to be two very different games.” [between the FA Cup and league matches]and to place similitudes in them is very false. Maybe because of the cast, but also the context is very different.

“Let’s see – of course it’s important to win and play well. More importantly, it gives you more confidence and prepares you better for the next match, and that’s our focus on Friday.

Going up against what he considers to be the leading lights in world football, Mikel also feels he is going up against the best manager on the planet in his friend and former boss, Pep Guardiola.

Despite the two pals seeing the teams first and second in the league, Mikel admitted that their friendship and respect for each other remain incredibly strong, and nothing can affect the fact that despite missing the league and the cup at the expense of the other.

“I always hoped that” [a title challenge between the two] it was going to happen one day, and this time it happened, Mikel chuckled. “But that’s not going to change the friendship or the moments, how much it is in my life or how much it is in my profession.

“We both want to beat and defend our clubs as best we can, and that’s always been the case from day one.

“This league challenges you incredibly. You have the best coaches in the world, and the best coaches in the world. To be at that level, you have to find other ways to try and compete with them and where the opportunities come.

“We are on this road, but we understand that we have not done anything yet, and there is still much to improve.”

Watch or read the entire pre-match press conference

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