Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola insists he has nothing but the utmost admiration for his Tottenham counterpart Mauricio Pochettino.
The pair, whose sides face each other at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, have a perceived rivalry dating back to their respective times in charge of Catalan rivals Barcelona and Espanyol a decade ago.
That supposedly intensified in 2017 when Pochettino was irritated by Guardiola’s description of Spurs as “the Harry Kane team”, although the City manager later admitted regret at the phrasing of that intended compliment.
Guardiola has actually expressed his respect for Pochettino repeatedly over the years, and he was keen to point that out as he prepares to meet the Argentinian again.
Asked about the job Pochettino has done at Spurs, Guardiola said: “Overwhelming, extraordinary – I said (that) many, many times.
“I don’t know if Pochettino receives many compliments from other managers like me. I don’t think so.
“My opinion about him is high standards, even if he doesn’t believe me, so he’s a top, top, top, top manager.”
Pochettino’s Spurs inflicted Guardiola’s first defeat as City manager in October 2016 while they also knocked the Premier League winners out of last season’s Champions League at the quarter-final stage.
Guardiola said: “About Tottenham, I think my colleague can speak better about his team.
“But I said from the beginning, the first day, when we played against them at White Hart Lane and lost 2-0, I said words in terms of the capacity, quality and possibilities of this team, the manager and the club. They are a strong team, a good team.”
City opened their title defence with a 5-0 thrashing of West Ham last weekend with Raheem Sterling scoring a hat-trick.
The England forward, who scored 25 goals for City last season, also struck in the Community Shield a fortnight ago and Guardiola sees no reason why the 24-year-old should not aim for 30 this term.
He said: “When he’s in front of the goal, he puts it in the net. So, he can do it, yes.
“He scored 24 (actually 25, last season) and 24 to 30 is only six goals.
“But I never spoke with Sergio (Aguero) or Gabriel (Jesus) or Raz, with any of the people up front, about what are their dreams and targets are.
“I think they are happy when they are scoring goals. I wouldn’t judge him if he scored 30 goals or 35 or 20. When he scores goals, I’m happy, but if he does what he has to do for him and the team, it’s enough.”
City will be without Leroy Sane for a prolonged period after the German winger ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in the Community Shield. Guardiola has confirmed he is due to undergo surgery this weekend.
It has emerged that Sane – who was linked with Bayern Munich throughout the summer – will be treated in Austria by Professor Christian Fink, rather than Dr Ramon Cugat, the Barcelona-based specialist often used by City.
This is understood to have been a personal decision by the player, who knows Professor Fink through the German national team.
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