The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

City boss Guardiola wary of Chelsea threat ahead of Bridge clash


Pep Guardiola expects Chelsea to be back challengin­g for the title in the near future.

Chelsea last won the Premier League during Guardiola’s first season at Manchester Cityin2016-17.

Since then it is City who have dominated the competitio­n, taking the crown in five of the past six campaigns.

Chelseadid­edgeoutCit­yinthe2021 Champions League final, but there has been plenty of turbulence at the London club since, and they currently sit 10th in the table.

Guardiola, who takes his side to Stamford Bridge today, said: “Chelsea remain one of the more important teams in England.

“It’s true that in the Premier League they werenotclo­setowinnin­gitinthese­last seasons but they’re still one of the strongest teams, there’s no doubts about that.

“I see that in the last games they are alive, they have good spirit, they are aggressive, they have a good pattern. The quality is there.

“It’s one of the toughest games that we have during the season. Sooner or later Chelsea will be there fighting for the titles, and I guess sooner than later.”

Chelsea have had a rocky start to the campaign under new manager Mauricio Pochettino, but Guardiola has no doubt they will come on strong.

He said: “It’s normal. They are getting better. Every manager needs his time – it’s a new club, new players, but they’ll be a top contender because the quality in all department­s is there.”

Two of Chelsea’s better performers this season have been the former City pair of Cole Palmer and Raheem Sterling.

City academy product Palmer switched clubs in August having grown frustrated at a lack of opportunit­ies at the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola said: “The reason why was that he wanted game time. Now he has it, so congratula­tions. He’s a guy who came from the academy and if he is having success it’s good for him and we wish him the best. I’m really pleased for him.”

Sterling won four Premier League titles and the FA Cup at City and Guardiola recognises him as a dangerman this weekend. He said: “He’s playing really good, he’s back in his best

Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino.

moments, best performanc­e, (from) what I’ve seen lately. He always creates incredible dangers for the opponents.”

Pochettino claimed it is easier for new players to settle at Manchester City than at Chelsea due to the huge upheaval at Stamford Bridge during the last 18 months.

Eight of the 11 that started Chelsea’s 4-1 win at Pochettino’s former side Tottenham on Monday have joined since owner Todd Boehly bought the club in May 2022, with a further nine named amongst the substitute­s.

Only three of the side that began Chelsea’s 1-0 victory over City in the 2021 Champions League final are still at the club – Reece James, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva – while all 12 of the subs from the game in Porto have departed, along with manager Thomas Tuchel.

Few of the players signed by Chelsea under Boehly have enjoyed an instant impact despite a combined total transfer outlay of over £1billion, whereas City have seamlessly incorporat­ed new recruits into their side, most notably Erling Haaland who netted 52 times during his debut season.

Ahead of today’s meeting at Stamford Bridge, Pochettino said much of that contrast in fortunes is down to City already having in place the kind of settled culture that he is starting to build at Chelsea.

“When you arrive at a club and in a team that is very confident and solid in how they operate and in their structure, always it’s easier,” he said. “If you arrive at a club that is in a process of building something – (City) are ahead (of Chelsea).

“When a player arrives in a very consistent organisati­on, it’s only about performing. But the possibilit­y of a player signed by City to perform is higher than if we sign a player here, at the moment.

“We are trying to find the best organisati­on, the best way to operate, the best way to play, to know each other. At City, you arrive and Pep... doesn’t need to talk too much. The player knows everything they need to do and how they need to behave.

“They know how it works, the club. But here we are all new. Too many players (are new) and the organisati­on is in a moment where it is evolving and developing, and trying to find the best way to work.”

One player who has impressed since arriving at Stamford Bridge is Palmer.

The 21-year-old has been a standout performer during the improved form that has seen Chelsea win three of their last five in the league and discover an attacking fluency that was conspicuou­sly absent last season.

“It’s not fair to say it surprised me (that City let Palmer go) because now he’s performing and he didn’t play too much at City,” said Pochettino. “We’re two different clubs with different visions and different objectives.

“Maybe Chelsea fits really well for Cole, but maybe it would have happened with different players.”

Asked if there was a player whom Palmer reminds him of, Pochettino added: “(Angel) Di Maria, no? It’s difficult find someone to compare.”

The Argentina winger struggled after swapping Real Madrid for Manchester United in 2014 and never settled in England, a problem Manchester-born Palmer has not faced.

“He’s from Manchester,” said Pochettino. “It’s not easy for a Manchester boy to come to London and to adapt and to settle here.

“It’s easy for him to adapt a new club.”

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