Two of the Premier League's best teams highlight this weekend's action, as league leaders Chelsea travel to take on title-favorites Manchester City at the Etihad in Saturday's early kick-off. The two teams are separated by just one point, feature the two best goalscorers (Costa and Aguero level on 10 goals apiece), two of the best attacks overall (both teams have scored 29 goals, good for second best behind Liverpool), and two of the best defenses as well (Chelsea level with Spurs for best in the league at 10 conceded, City level with Southampton for second best in the league at 12 conceded).
Needless to say, they also feature two of the best coaches, with both Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte taking their first foray into English football. Conte is the toast of Chelsea thanks to the seven-match (and counting) winning streak while Guardiola seems to have put the struggles of October behind and is currently working on a six-match unbeaten run in all competitions, including a 3-1 win over Barcelona.
The Conte vs. Guardiola narrative is just one of the storylines for this weekend, but it's one that has apparently been on the mind of the Manchester City boss for some time. In an interview with the Manchester Evening News, Guardiola's biographer Marti Perarnau reveals that Pep was seeing Conte as his biggest threat since before the start of the season.
"In private, Pep's gone as far as identifying Chelsea as one of the favourites to win the league this year. The team has a superb coach, excellent players, and a preferential calendar without any European competition and therefore lots and lots of time to concentrate on training and preparation for each game."
"He may well be proven wrong, but before the league kicked off Pep certainly saw Conte as one of his biggest threats."
Apparently Guardiola has been keeping an eye on Conte for over a year at least, with Perarnau writing in his latest book that the former Barcelona and Bayern manager had identified Conte (alongside BVB's Thomas Tuchel) as the coach(es) with the greatest potential.
"He sees a lot of himself in Conte: his passion, his aggression, work ethic and determination to have the ball as much as possible, the intensity of his game and his competitive drive."
"Conte plays positional football too. It's very different from my own, but it's a game of position and he does it very, very well."
-Marti Perarnau; source: M.E.N.
It's nice to see more mutual respect playing out between rival managers, even if Pochettino did get a bit silly last weekend with his lecturing about whatever perceived affront he had identified.
Oh, and apropos of nothing, if you need one more thing to get you excited for this weekend -- not that you should -- we'll also be getting a tunnel cam from City's YouTube channel, which remains best in class.