Arsenal pain pushing title run: Xhaka

Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Granit Xhaka said Sunday he has harnessed the pain of losing last year’s Premier League title with Arsenal in this season’s Bundesliga bid.

Leverkusen beat 10-man Wolfsburg 2-0 at home to restore their lead over second-placed Bayern Munich to 10 points with nine games remaining, putting Xabi Alonso’s side on course for a first-ever top-flight title.

Xhaka joined Leverkusen from Arsenal in the summer. Last season, Arsenal at one point had an eight-point lead atop the Premier League table but were eventually caught by Manchester City.

“It is honestly difficult to describe the feeling in words, when you’re in front for so long but then still get caught, like last year with Arsenal,” said Xhaka.

“I hope it doesn’t happen again -– we’ve got nine games, we haven’t won anything yet. We need to keep working, stay ready.

“We know that the coming weeks will be brutally important for us.”

Xhaka has been a steadying force for Alonso’s young Leverkusen team.

The Switzerland captain misplaced just two of his 165 passes on Sunday.

Xhaka came off the bench with Leverkusen 2-0 down away against Qarabag in the Europa League on Thursday and helped his side snatch a draw to keep their unbeaten record alive this season.

England captain Harry Kane scored a hat-trick as Bayern thrashed Mainz 8-1 on Saturday, but Xhaka said his side did not feel the pressure.

“We’ve had pressure since our first game. Whether the others win or not, we need to do our job,” he added.

“There’s nine games to go, today we took the first step. Now, we’ll turn our focus to Thursday and Freiburg.”

Leverkusen host Qarabag in the Europa League on Thursday, knowing victory would send them into the quarterfinals – SuperSport.

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