LONDON: In track and field parlance Arsenal would have hoped their relentless pace over the last few laps of the Premier League race might have taken the sting out of sprint finish specialists Manchester City as the bell approaches. Arsenal’s seven-match winning run in the league allowed them to maintain their lead over their pursuers but they have simply not been able to crack Pep Guardiola’s side. And this weekend they might well start to feel City’s hot breath on their backs with the gap most likely to be cut to three points by the time they kick off at relegation-threatened West Ham United on Sunday. Reigning champions City have countered every Arsenal move in recent weeks and appear to be reaching top gear at the perfect time, just as they usually do. Arsenal’s squandering of a 2-0 lead to just about escape with a 2-2 draw at Liverpool last weekend means City will host a demoralised Leicester City side on Saturday with the chance to really ratchet up the pressure on the Londoners. For 19th-placed Leicester’s newly-appointed interim manager Dean Smith it could hardly be a worse scenario as he attempts to pull the club out of a death spiral of seven defeats in their last eight league games. Smith must find a way to halt a City side who have won nine successive games in all competitions, scoring 34 goals and conceding three in the process. The way City demolished Bayern Munich on Tuesday to all but secure their place in the Champions League semi-finals would have sent a shudder down the spines of Arsenal fans. Guardiola said he aged 10 years during the 3-0 win over Bayern in which Erling Haaland set a new record for goals in a single season by a Premier League player. But it is Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta who might well be feeling the strain this weekend as he tries to deliver the club’s first English title since 2004. Arsenal were superb in the opening 35 minutes at Anfield, so much so that victory looked assured. By the end, however, there was a slight sense of panic as Liverpool surged all over them and would have won but for some stupendous stoppage-time saves by Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale. West Ham’s win at Fulham last weekend left them three points above the relegation zone and they could be an awkward obstacle for Arsenal although Arteta’s side have proven to be the masters of away London derbies this season, winning all five. Third-placed Newcastle United kick off the weekend with a trip to in-form Aston Villa who have risen into sixth place. Newcastle are level on 56 points with fourth-placed Manchester United who visit third-from-bottom Nottingham Forest on Sunday without injured Marcus Rashford. Fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur’s top-four hopes remain intact despite the despondency at the club and the sacking of Antonio Conte and victory over Bournemouth on Saturday would keep them in the hunt for Champions League qualification. Time would appear to be running out for bottom club Southampton who are four points shy of the safety zone and who welcome a resurgent Crystal Palace on Saturday. Everton, clear of the relegation zone on goal difference, can relieve some pressure with a home game against a faltering Fulham side who have lost four league games in a row. Frank Lampard seeks his first win since returning as interim manager to Chelsea with a home game against Brighton and Hove Albion although his focus may be more on next Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against Real Madrid.