Pep Guardiola described Antonio Conte as “maybe the best coach in the world” ahead of their managerial battle of wits in Manchester City’s Premier League clash with Chelsea on Saturday.
Guardiola and Conte will face off for the first time as managers, with both having flourished since taking their talents to England.
City have secured 30 points from 13 games under Guardiola’s stewardship, a tally only bettered by Conte’s Chelsea, who top the pile on 31.
Conte enjoyed great success at Juventus, leading them to three Serie A titles, and his Italy side impressed en route to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, where the Azzurri lost on penalties to Germany.
And Guardiola said of his opponent in the dugout: “Conte is without doubt one of the best, maybe the best, coach in the world right now. [Chelsea] were contenders to win the Premier League from the beginning.
“Now, maybe more than before. It’s a good test for us; it is the first time we are going to face each other. It’s good to play against him.
“He did an exceptional job in Turin [with Juventus] and in the national job. It doesn’t matter if it is Serie A or the national team, you realise his strengths.
“He has started with maybe not good results, but they have won their last seven games, conceding one goal. That says a lot about how good they are.”
In addition to taking on Chelsea, City also face matches with Leicester City, Arsenal and Liverpool in December, which Guardiola described as a key month for his team.
“This month is so important. We’re going to see our level. I’m not thinking about what happens if we win or we don’t win the games,” Guardiola said.
“I’m most thinking about what will be our level and if we will be able to fight until the last moments of the season. I’m curious about how we compete, how our football will be against these three, four really good teams.
“After that we’re going to analyse, to keep going until the end. That is what I am concerned about most in this moment.
“I’m not just thinking about three points or drawing or losing the game. I want to see how my team react against the good teams. Against Barcelona for example, in the Champions League, we were okay, we were there, we played good. I’m curious to see my team against top players and top teams.”