02 Dec Guardiola and Conte go head to head
Pep Guardiola has billed Antonio Conte as one of the best coaches in the world as the pair clash for the first time this weekend.
Manchester City boss Guardiola, a serial winner in his time with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, has never come up against the new Chelsea manager, whose previous jobs include Juventus and Italy.
That will end as City host the Premier League leaders in an eagerly-anticipated top-of-the-table clash on Saturday.
With both managers having made an immediate impact since arriving in England in the summer, the battle on the touchline will be an intriguing aside to the main contest.
Guardiola, speaking at his pre-match press conference, said: “Conte is without doubt one of the best coaches in the world right now, maybe the best.
“His statistics, his numbers, the way they play, are really good. It is the first time we are going to face each other and it’s good to play against him.
“He did an exceptional job in Turin with Juventus and with the national team. It doesn’t matter if it is Siena, Juventus, the national team or now Chelsea, you realise the strengths in his teams.
“He started here with maybe not good results but they have won their last seven games, conceding one goal. That says a lot about how good they are.
“They were contenders to win the Premier League from the beginning but now, maybe more than before. It’s a good test for us.
“We are going to take them on with ambition and see what we can do to win the game.”
Guardiola and Conte did cross paths as players during their time in Serie A and the City boss can see some of the Italian’s combative style in his teams.
Asked about their on-field meeting in 2003, Guardiola said: “You and me had hair in that time! Wow, it was a long time ago. I don’t remember but it was Juventus and Brescia.
“I don’t know him, I spoke with him once or twice on my life, but what I see in the bench is like him as a player. He was a fighter, arriving into the box and scoring goals. He was a good player.”
City, who go into the game third in the table and a point behind Chelsea, have drawn their last three in the league at home.
Preparations have been more relaxed than usual with Guardiola taking advantage of a rare lack of a midweek fixture to give his players two days off. He hopes that proves of benefit.
He said: “We don’t give a day off to the players when you have a lot of games in a row. That’s why they had two days off and we were training for three days to prepare for Chelsea.
“We all like to play football, that’s why we’re here, but sometimes you have four, five or six months of playing, playing, playing, so not playing one week is good, not only for the players, but for the staff to see their families.”