MANCHESTER – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes the progress made by Mauricio Pochettino and his Tottenham side have proved him wrong to have labelled Spurs “the Harry Kane team” last season.
A throw away comment by Guardiola last year seemed to cause Pochettino offence with what he saw as the suggestion that Spurs are a “one-man” team.
City travel to Wembley on Monday night in fine form as they try to replicate a record-breaking 100-point march to the title that saw them easily dismiss Spurs twice last season.
But despite fears of World Cup fatigue taking its toll on Kane, a host of injury problems and being forced to wait to open the club's new stadium until at least the new year, Spurs are only two points behind the champions.
“They show me how wrong I was,” joked Guardiola. “I think he is already a top coach, not the next (generation of coaches). For many years, he is training at a high level.
“He did an incredible job at Espanyol and Southampton and especially here at Tottenham. I have a lot of respect for the job he has done in his career so he is already a reality as a manager, no doubt.”
Guardiola even suggested Pochettino would again be in the frame should the Real Madrid job become available in the near future with Julen Lopetegui under severe pressure.
“He has been linked many times with Real Madrid. He can answer that question but I don’t know what happens,” added Guardiola, who played for and managed Madrid's eternal rivals Barcelona. “What I think is (Tottenham chairman) Mr. (Daniel) Levy is not an easy guy to negotiate with.”
Guardiola claimed on Friday he believes Spurs are among a group of five title contenders separated by just two points at the top of the table before the weekend began, also featuring Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal.
“When you play against the contenders it’s almost six points,” added Guardiola.
“I don’t know what’s happened in the past but it’s true that the strong teams are making a lot of points, they are not dropping points easily.
“That’s why maybe the games against the contenders are becoming so important. We’ve started with three games away against them. That’s why it is so important to take those points.
“Southampton is next at home – the same points than against Tottenham - but when you win (the other title rival) doesn’t win.
“The first year we dropped a lot of points against contenders. Except Anfield (away to Liverpool) and Man United at home, we won everything in the second season.”
Tottenham and Pochettino were the first team to hand Guardiola a defeat in English football, beating City 2-0 at White Hart Lane in October 2016.
Guardiola now concedes that match was a harsh lesson to him about the realities of the Premier League although he believes Spurs have been hampered by a season-and-a-half away from their home ground.
“In White Hart Lane it was completely different from Wembley, Tottenham feel more comfortable at home,” he said. “That is going to happen in your stadium. We are more comfortable here at the Etihad Stadium.
“When I analysed this game, I realised this is the Premier League. I felt ‘wow!’
“People said in that period, ‘City are going to win the Premier League’ and in that game I realised, when I saw how physical they are, how good they are, how (they play) high press, how many good things they do - this is a team.”
Agence France-Presse (AFP)