Pep Guardiola’s considers Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel as “one of the few” managers he still learns from.
Guardiola’s Manchester City play host to Tuchel and the Blues on Saturday in the standout match of the weekend’s Premier League schedule.
City head into the game with a 10-point lead over second-placed Chelsea – only four times before have the Premier League leaders had a bigger lead over their nearest challengers after 21 matches.
On each of those occasions, the team with the lead has gone on to win the title, and victory over Chelsea could see City end the weekend with a 13-point advantage as long as Liverpool do not beat Brentford.
City will certainly be considered favourites given the impressive job they did on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in September, only winning 1-0 but outplaying Tuchel’s side practically throughout.
Despite that wobble from Chelsea and the fact City have a healthy lead at the summit, Guardiola still counts Tuchel among the few rivals he looks to for inspiration.
“He’s so creative, one of the few managers I learn constantly from, to become a better manager myself,” Guardiola told reporters.
“Excellent in all departments. I enjoy since he was in Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, always I enjoy watching his teams and the way he’s playing, the approach.
“I think he’s dignified and he makes world of football better. When you find a manager who always wants to be positive in the way they play, it’s good.”
Earlier in the day, Tuchel revealed his regret at Chelsea going too defensive in their clash with City at Stamford Bridge.
City were the far greater threat, attempting three times as many shots as Chelsea (15 to five), who did not test Ederson once.
Chelsea accumulated just 11 touches in the opposition’s box compared to City’s 34, while the visitors’ 1.47 expected goals (xG) suggested Tuchel’s side were somewhat fortunate to concede just once.
Tuchel’s comments would hint at Chelsea turning up in Manchester with a more positive approach, and that appears to be what Guardiola is preparing for.
“I can’t imagine what is going to happen. If he didn’t like how they played at home, they play different away,” he said.
“Seeing the Liverpool game and both Tottenham games, I saw Chelsea as completely different at Tottenham than they played at Stamford Bridge.
“I don’t know if the plan was like this, or they couldn’t do it. With this quote, I presume the approach that Chelsea will have tomorrow.
“Every game is completely different, [our] performance was really good, minimising the Champions of Europe when all players were fit and there.
“It was really exceptional. In that moment we were below them, knowing the difficulties if we didn’t get the points. Our commitment with and without the ball was exceptional.
“We won unfortunately with a small margin, we couldn’t score much more. We had three one-on-one situations, but the victory was nice.
“[Saturday] will be completely different. We learned from that, like how we can be better especially in attack, [so] they will change, like their manager said, their approach. They know they need points to be still there [in the title race].”
The debate around coronavirus-enforced postponements reared its head again after Burnley had their game with Leicester City called off, but Guardiola – who confirmed his side have had more positive COVID-19 cases – did not want to get into it.
“It’s a Premier League decision,” he said. “I don’t get involved. COVID is all around the world. The situation is there, in the next two or three months it will still be there, hopefully it will decrease step by step.”
On City’s cases, he added: “Some people are coming, some are positive again. When you test once, twice negative, then you come back, otherwise you stay at home.
“It happened in the last two-three months affecting all the clubs. We have some new cases, they want privacy so I can’t say who.”