Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola insists he has nothing but the utmost admiration for his Tottenham counterpart Mauricio Pochettino.
The pair, whose sides face each other at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, have a perceived rivalry dating back to their respective times in charge of Catalan rivals Barcelona and Espanyol a decade ago.
That supposedly intensified in 2017 when Pochettino was irritated by Guardiola’s description of Spurs as “the Harry Kane team”, although the City manager later admitted regret at the phrasing of that intended compliment.
Guardiola has actually expressed his respect for Pochettino repeatedly over the years, and he was keen to point that out as he prepares to meet the Argentinian again.
Asked about the job Pochettino has done at Spurs, Guardiola said: “Overwhelming, extraordinary – I said (that) many, many times.
“I don’t know if Pochettino receives many compliments from other managers like me. I don’t think so.
“My opinion about him is high standards, even if he doesn’t believe me, so he’s a top, top, top, top manager.”
Pochettino’s Spurs inflicted Guardiola’s first defeat as City manager in October 2016 while they also knocked the Premier League winners out of last season’s Champions League at the quarter-final stage.
Guardiola said: “About Tottenham, I think my colleague can speak better about his team.
“But I said from the beginning, the first day, when we played against them at White Hart Lane and lost 2-0, I said words in terms of the capacity, quality and possibilities of this team, the manager and the club. They are a strong team, a good team.”
City opened their title defence with a 5-0 thrashing of West Ham last weekend with Raheem Sterling scoring a hat-trick.
The England forward, who scored 25 goals for City last season, also struck in the Community Shield a fortnight ago and Guardiola sees no reason why the 24-year-old should not aim for 30 this term.
He said: “When he’s in front of the goal, he puts it in the net. So, he can do it, yes.
“He scored 24 (actually 25, last season) and 24 to 30 is only six goals.
“But I never spoke with Sergio (Aguero) or Gabriel (Jesus) or Raz, with any of the people up front, about what are their dreams and targets are.
“I think they are happy when they are scoring goals. I wouldn’t judge him if he scored 30 goals or 35 or 20. When he scores goals, I’m happy, but if he does what he has to do for him and the team, it’s enough.”
City will be without Leroy Sane for a prolonged period after the German winger ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in the Community Shield. Guardiola has confirmed he is due to undergo surgery this weekend.
It has emerged that Sane – who was linked with Bayern Munich throughout the summer – will be treated in Austria by Professor Christian Fink, rather than Dr Ramon Cugat, the Barcelona-based specialist often used by City.
This is understood to have been a personal decision by the player, who knows Professor Fink through the German national team.
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Here, PA looks at the key talking points as the action gets under way.
A renewed Arsenal attack?
Arsenal’s first home game of the season could see them aided by some fresh faces and the return of familiar ones. Gunners boss Unai Emery has confirmed that Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac are both ready to return to action after an attempted car-jacking in London that meant they missed the first weekend due to security concerns.
Emery’s offensive options are further strengthened by summer signings Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel Martinelli, and he could also unleash Brazilian centre-back David Luiz for the first time since acquiring him from Chelsea. After defeating Newcastle in an uncharacteristically strong opening display, last season’s fifth-placed finishers host Burnley at home and can approach the fixture with confidence having beaten the Clarets 3-1 in both league encounters last season.
Lampard’s floundering fortunes
Frank Lampard has endured a less-than-ideal start to his first season as Chelsea boss. His squad suffered a resounding 4-0 defeat by Manchester United in their opening fixture, followed by a Super Cup final loss on penalties to Liverpool. This time Chelsea line up against Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester, and Lampard will be hoping his squad can produce a result that will silence the critics and swerve a hat-trick of defeats.
Forced to turn to academy graduates due to a transfer ban, Lampard could once again include 20-year-old midfielder Mason Mount, while hoping Tammy Abraham, 21, is not crestfallen after his Super Cup final penalty was blocked. The striker has since received racist abuse via social media.
Business as usual for Manchester City?
Manchester City looked as dominant as ever when trouncing West Ham in a 5-0 victory at the London Stadium. A hat-trick from Raheem Sterling, a 25th-minute strike by Gabriel Jesus and a penalty from Sergio Aguero left the Hammers entirely out of contention.
This weekend provides stiffer competition, however, as Pep Guardiola’s side take on Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium. Having omitted key goal scorer Aguero and the established Bernardo Silva from last weekend’s starting XI, it will be telling to see if they are reinstated as City move up a gear in their bid to win a third consecutive title.
Manchester United wary of Wolves
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United hit their stride in the season opener by putting four goals past Chelsea, who failed to respond. Their trip to Molineux to face Wolves may prove a tougher test, however, as United were unable to get the better of Nuno Espirito Santo’s side last term.
Able to rattle several top-flight sides last season, Wolves have proved that it is unwise to underestimate their squad. While Solskjaer will be hoping to maintain their winning momentum, Wolves will be looking to collect three points after drawing their opening fixture with Leicester and are unlikely to fold as easily as Chelsea did.
Championship heroes on home turf
All three newly promoted sides will play in front of a home crowd for the first time this term. The opening weekend produced mixed fortunes for the debutants, with only Sheffield United emerging with a point having drawn against Bournemouth.
Now fans will see their teams perform on home turf for the first time since their successful Championship campaigns, a factor the trio are surely hoping will aid them in securing their first Premier League wins since promotion. Norwich host Newcastle and Sheffield United take on Crystal Palace, while play-off winners Aston Villa face Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth.
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Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino insists the contract situations of his players are not affecting his team selection.
Pochettino raised eyebrows for the opening game of the season last week when he left Christian Eriksen on the bench and did not include Jan Vertonghen in his matchday squad against Aston Villa.
Eriksen’s future is the subject of intense speculation – and Pochettino has said he does not know whether the Dane will be here after the European transfer window shuts in September – after he expressed a desire to leave while Vertonghen is in the final year of his contract.
Pochettino revealed that Eriksen, who came on and changed the game in a 3-1 win over Villa, is still struggling with fitness following summer surgery and said Vertonghen’s surprise omission was a tactical decision.
The Argentinian insists politics do not come into play and there are no personal issues.
“For me, it is the same if a player has a year or five years,” he said. “The selection is not because of the length of the contract, it is about the performance.
“I will take the decision based on the performance, not the contract or personal situations.
“My point is to help and support all the players until they decide to take a different way in their career. And show respect to all.
“One thing is my decision but that human relationship cannot be based on if you play or not play.
“I am happy with all the players. My personal relationship is good with all the players. It was a football decision.
“Of course it is painful when a player is out of the squad but that is a football decision.
“Sometimes you are confused in general that the players when they play are so happy and the coaching staff are the best coaching staff in the world, then if you decide that they don’t play, or are on the bench, or are out of the squad, you are the worst person in the world.
“It’s not like this. My decision is always is always in trying to be professional. The club pays me to take professional decisions. Of course I add my quality, like a human being, because I love to manage the team in this way.
“One thing is being fit, another is whether is going to be included in the starting XI or the squad.”
Both players are in contention for a daunting early-season trip to Manchester City, who have won their last 15 Premier League games.
Deadline day Giovani Lo Celso, who has been in the country just over a week, could also be in the squad, though Pochettino has confirmed he will not start.
“We need to assess him,” Pochettino said. “A lot of things have happened in his life now.
“He arrived with no pre-season, of course he is trying to adapt himself, his physical condition, tactically, settle in a new country in a new philosophy and it is not easy.
“I can tell you he won’t be in the starting XI, but if he is going to be involved or not we need to assess today. We need to see how he is and see the balance on the bench.”
Pochettino was the first manager to beat City boss Pep Guardiola in this country back in 2016 and Spurs were also the last side to inflict defeat on City when they won their Champions League quarter-final first leg in April.
Nothing will be decided at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday evening, but it will give a good insight into where Spurs are at.
“I am so happy to compete against him again,” Pochettino added. “That is fantastic. One season more to have the chance to compete against a team like City and Pep is one of the best of the best managers in the world.
“That means we are in the same race and that’s so important for myself.”
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