Pep lav­ishes praise, Jose ac­cepts ‘poi­soned gift’

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PEP GUARDIOLA is not sur­prised Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur are Manch­ester City’s clos­est pur­suers in the early Premier League ti­tle race hav­ing pre­vi­ously been out- wit­ted by Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino, who he de­scribes as one of the best man­agers in the world.

Lead­ers City will take their 100% record to White Hart Lane tomorrow but sec­ond- placed Tot­ten­ham are also un­beaten after six games and will be buoyed by hav­ing done the dou­ble over the Cit­i­zens last sea­son.

For­mer Barcelona coach Guardiola was still in charge at Bay­ern Mu­nich then, but he knows Po­chet­tino well from when the Ar­gen­tine was in charge of Barca’s lo­cal ri­vals Es­panyol. Po­chet­tino’s side beat the Cata­lans 2- 1 at Nou Camp in 2009, their first win in the derby for 27 years.

“We played against each other as play­ers, then coaches, and I don’t just think he’s one of the best man­agers in Eng­land, he’s one of the best in the world,” Guardiola, whose side drew 3- 3 with Celtic in the Champions League on Wed­nes­day, said yes­ter­day.

“There are sim­i­lar­i­ties with Es­panyol the way Spurs play. It was so ag­gres­sive ( at Es­panyol) there was high press­ing and many things and still the way they played is quite sim­i­lar.

“And the qual­ity of the play­ers at Tot­ten­ham is good. He’s do­ing an amaz­ing job in Lon­don at Spurs. The way they play I like a lot – they’re ag­gres­sive and have a lot of qual­ity.

“They’re in sec­ond po­si­tion so it will be a tough game. We will try to do our job,” he added.

Guardiola en­joys Spurs’ pro- ac­tive style and their de­sire to play on the front foot. “They want to cre­ate their own game. That’s why I like them,” he said, ad­ding that he will send out his own side to try and seize the ini­tia­tive.

City will be with­out in­jured Kevin De Bruyne, Vin­cent Kom­pany and Fabian Delph, but Guardiola says the in­ter­na­tional break will help ease the sit­u­a­tion.

● Manch­ester United man­ager Jose Mourinho has de­scribed next month’s fix­ture list as a “poi­soned gift” fol­low­ing Thurs­day’s Europa League 1- 0 win over Zo­rya Luhansk.

After the in­ter­na­tional break, United travel to Liver­pool on Oc­to­ber 17, host Turk­ish club Fener­bahce in the Europa League three days later be­fore trav­el­ling to Chelsea for a league fix­ture on Oc­to­ber 23.

“Well, we could play Liver­pool on the Satur­day, we could play Liver­pool on the Sun­day. We play Liver­pool on the Mon­day,” Mourinho said after United’s slen­der win over the Ukrainian side. he added of tomorrow’s strug­gling league op­po­nents at Old Traf­ford.

● An­to­nio Conte has called for pa­tience as he at­tempts to im­ple­ment his style of play and bring an end to Chelsea’s strug­gles that have seen them suf­fer back- to- back de­feats against po­ten­tial Premier League ti­tle ri­vals.

After a promis­ing start to the cam­paign, the Blues’ progress un­der Conte has been un­der­mined after they were thor­oughly out­played by Liver­pool and Ar­se­nal re­cently to leave them in eighth place on 10 points from six games, al­ready eight points be­hind City. They will ex­pect to stop the rot when they travel to face an out- of­sorts Hull City to­day.

“Never it is good when you lose two games. I think in these games we saw and we learned a lot of im­por­tant things, Conte said.

“Don’t for­get the past be­cause it is there, and very clear. We fin­ished in 10th last sea­son... it means we had prob­lems. We are try­ing to solve this sit­u­a­tion but we need to work.

“We need to un­der­stand we don’t have a magic wand to change the sit­u­a­tion in three or four months. We need to change the sit­u­a­tion and we are do­ing this to­gether.”

Chelsea cap­tain John Terry will sit out again with a nig­gling an­kle in­jury, along with John Obi Mikel. – Reuters

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