Football

Pep Guardiola has been a big admirer of the Chelsea boss - even before the Italian took over at Stamford Bridge in the summer.

Pep Guardiola identified Manchester City's biggest title rivals during pre-season

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Pep Guardiola had a lot to learn and adapt to during the summer, when he arrived at Manchester City from Bayern Munich for his first spell in charge of a Premier League club.

The Spaniard had to get to know new members of staff, the facilities, the city and, most importantly, his playing squad - although the managerial genius no doubt already knew plenty about his inherited squad.

While it was undoubtedly a hectic summer for the City boss, it didn't take the former Barcelona manager very long at all to realise who his side's biggest challengers were going to be for the title.

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At Barcelona, Guardiola typically had just Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid as his genuine title rivals, while it was mainly Borussia Dortmund who posed the biggest threat to his title credentials in the Bundesliga.

But in the Premier League, it would be fair to presume that Guardiola would have found it much tougher to identify who will be City's biggest threat. Any of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or Tottenham could genuinely contend for the title this campaign, but the 45-year-old has seemingly long known who will be his biggest challenge this season.

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As per the Manchester Evening News, Guardiola's biographer Marti Perarnau revealed that the coveted manager identified Chelsea as his biggest rival contenders for the title this campaign; having long been an admirer of Antonio Conte - even before he moved to Stamford Bridge.

If there's a man to quiz about who has the greatest potential to become a world-class manager, it was Guardiola, and that's exactly what Perarnau did.

Passion and aggression

“I remember asking him in 2015 to name two coaches with the greatest potential and, without a second’s hesitation, he said, ‘Tuchel and Conte,’” said Perarnau.

“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.’

Antonio Conte Awarded the October Manager of the Month

“In private, Pep’s gone as far as identifying Chelsea as one of the favourites to win the league this year.

“He may well be proven wrong, but before the league kicked off Pep certainly saw Conte as one of his biggest threats.”

And if there is a time we can presume to see City at their very best, we can expect it to be this weekend when Conte's men travel to the Etihad for a huge lunchtime kick off between the Premier League title chasers.

Top form

Only Liverpool separate the two sides, with Chelsea a point above the Reds and City at the top of the table. But City's players will have to showcase top form, with the Blues having won seven league fixtures in a row.

Conte's immediate success at Stamford Bridge has come as no surprise to Guardiola, despite the club finishing 10th last campaign and 31 points below league champions Leicester City in 2015/16.

FBL-ENG-PR-CRYSTAL PALACE-MAN CITY

And the Italian is already proving that he could potentially be mentioned in the same breath as fans' favourite Jose Mourinho, who was sacked last December following an atrocious start to their title defence.

But while Saturday's big game will not decide whether the title heads to the north west or south east of England, a win for Guardiola could give his team some much-needed momentum for a gruelling month ahead.

The Citizens have already wrapped up their qualification for the Champions League knockout stages and can turn their attention solely to a daunting December fixture list which kicks off with Chelsea, before facing fellow title rivals Arsenal and Liverpool, alongside reigning Champions Leicester.

Who will be Pep Guardiola's biggest obstacle in the Premier League this season? Will it be Chelsea? Give your opinion in the comment box below.

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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Diego Costa
Manchester City
Sergio Aguero
Chelsea
John Terry

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