LONDON: Antonio Conte is a “master” tactician and has already changed the way clubs play in the Premier League, Pep Guardiola said ahead of Monday’s much-anticipated Manchester City vs. Chelsea clash.
Conte won the title in his debut season in England last year but the London outfit are currently struggling down in fifth place, 22 points behind Guardiola’s runaway leaders City.
Chelsea are also five points behind Tottenham in the race for a top-four finish that will ensure qualification for next season’s Champions League.
But rather than pile the pressure onto his opposite number ahead of kick-off, Guardiola praised the Italian.
“I think Conte is going to leave something to English football. I am sure of that,” Guardiola said.
“What Antonio has done here in the Premier League, maybe the people don’t realize.
“He introduced another way to attack with five at the back, another system. A lot of teams, even Arsenal, had to do a lot of imitating to do that. Tactically, he is a master.”
Guardiola’s side will go into the match on the back of a 3-0 victory over Arsenal on Thursday, which came on the back of winning their first trophy of the season. The League Cup win came courtesy of another 3-0 victory over the Gunners in a performance that said much about City’s utter dominance over all of their big rivals this season. Ahead of last night’s Liverpool-Newcastle clash, City enjoyed a mammoth 16-point lead over second-place Manchester United.
Their victory over Arsenal on Thursday was won at a canter and with the free-flowing, attacking football that has become their hallmark this season.
But Guardiola refused to take victory at home today for granted.
“Right now, as we sit here, they are the champions,” the Spaniard said.
“We want to take this crown but, not too long ago, they made amazing things. They can do it again. They have the same manager, almost the same players.
“They work all week preparing for the game, so it is another challenge.”
BLUES ADMIT TO TOUGH TASK
Conte claimed Manchester City are “unstoppable” as the Chelsea manager prepared for Monday’s much-anticipated clash. The current champions are facing their likely successors at the Etihad, with it being only a matter of time before City are crowned champions. And the Blues boss acknowledged their rivals’ quality makes them almost impossible to beat.
“In this moment they seem unstoppable,” Conte said. “We must have great admiration for this team because they are having a fantastic path in this season. Sometimes it’s very difficult to find a weakness in this team.”
City finished third, 15 points behind Chelsea, in Guardiola’s first season in charge, but now are champions elect. Asked the reason for the turnaround in such a short space of time Conte, hinting at his frustration with his Chelsea bosses over transfer policy, said: “When you work very well and there is a great feeling between the manager and the club, you can work in the way you want to try and improve your team in the best way.”
Pep Guardiola praises Antonio Conte ahead of City-Chelsea showdown