Pep Guardiola praises Antonio Conte ahead of City-Chelsea showdown

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Updated 04 March 2018
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Pep Guardiola praises Antonio Conte ahead of City-Chelsea showdown

LONDON: Antonio Conte is a “master” tactician and has already changed the way clubs play in the Premier League, Pep Guardiola said ahead of Monday’s much-anticipated Manchester City vs. Chelsea clash.
Conte won the title in his debut season in England last year but the London outfit are currently struggling down in fifth place, 22 points behind Guardiola’s runaway leaders City.
Chelsea are also five points behind Tottenham in the race for a top-four finish that will ensure qualification for next season’s Champions League.
But rather than pile the pressure onto his opposite number ahead of kick-off, Guardiola praised the Italian.
“I think Conte is going to leave something to English football. I am sure of that,” Guardiola said.
“What Antonio has done here in the Premier League, maybe the people don’t realize.
“He introduced another way to attack with five at the back, another system. A lot of teams, even Arsenal, had to do a lot of imitating to do that. Tactically, he is a master.”
Guardiola’s side will go into the match on the back of a 3-0 victory over Arsenal on Thursday, which came on the back of winning their first trophy of the season. The League Cup win came courtesy of another 3-0 victory over the Gunners in a performance that said much about City’s utter dominance over all of their big rivals this season. Ahead of last night’s Liverpool-Newcastle clash, City enjoyed a mammoth 16-point lead over second-place Manchester United.
Their victory over Arsenal on Thursday was won at a canter and with the free-flowing, attacking football that has become their hallmark this season.
But Guardiola refused to take victory at home today for granted.
“Right now, as we sit here, they are the champions,” the Spaniard said.
“We want to take this crown but, not too long ago, they made amazing things. They can do it again. They have the same manager, almost the same players.
“They work all week preparing for the game, so it is another challenge.”

BLUES ADMIT TO TOUGH TASK
Conte claimed Manchester City are “unstoppable” as the Chelsea manager prepared for Monday’s much-anticipated clash. The current champions are facing their likely successors at the Etihad, with it being only a matter of time before City are crowned champions. And the Blues boss acknowledged their rivals’ quality makes them almost impossible to beat.
“In this moment they seem unstoppable,” Conte said. “We must have great admiration for this team because they are having a fantastic path in this season. Sometimes it’s very difficult to find a weakness in this team.”
City finished third, 15 points behind Chelsea, in Guardiola’s first season in charge, but now are champions elect. Asked the reason for the turnaround in such a short space of time Conte, hinting at his frustration with his Chelsea bosses over transfer policy, said: “When you work very well and there is a great feeling between the manager and the club, you can work in the way you want to try and improve your team in the best way.”


A HAT-TRICK OF HOPES: What the UAE and Saudi Arabia should be looking for from their friendly

Updated 20 March 2019
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A HAT-TRICK OF HOPES: What the UAE and Saudi Arabia should be looking for from their friendly

  • Can the Whites and Green Falcons find the back of the net more often?
  • Both teams need to set the tone ahead of the important World Cup qualifiers.

LONDON: Ahead of Thursday’s friendly between the UAE and Saudi Arabia Arab News looks at the main priorities for both sides as they embark on their new eras after the Asian Cup and ahead of the all-important the World Cup qualifiers.

FIND THOSE SCORING BOOTS

For the past 18 months both sides have struggled for goals. Under Alberto Zaccheroni the UAE scored just 10 goals in the past nine matches — five of those coming against lowly Kyrgyzstan and India — and likewise the Green Falcons have also struggled to find the back of the net. Heading toward the World Cup qualifiers, now is the time to find those scoring boots.

PUT ON A SHOW

Both sides have technically gifted players, can keep the ball and at times trouble opposition defenses. But both have been too defensive, too safety-first and, at times, too dull. Football is supposed to be entertainment, and the friendlies ahead of the World Cup qualifiers might be no bad time to throw caution to the wind and see what the players can do in the final third.

SET THE TONE

As the modern cliche goes, a week is a long time in football. With all the sackings and player movements, it is not hard to see the kernel of truth in that overused saying. But, conversely, time can also move very fast in the “Beautiful Game.” It may be six months before the World Cup qualifiers begin, but it will be September before the coaches and players know it. Set the tone and tactics now and triumphs will be easier to come by then and, more importantly, further into the future.