London: After a ding-dong 3-3 draw with Celtic in the Champions League, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola anticipates another breathless encounter in this weekend’s Premier League showdown with Tottenham Hotspur.
With six wins from six matches, City are the league leaders and early title favourites, but Tottenham, four points back in second place, are enjoying their best start to a top-flight campaign since 1965.
Guardiola and his Spurs counterpart Mauricio Pochettino employ an aggressive, high-pressing style and the City manager thinks the fans at White Hart Lane on Sunday could be in for a treat.
“What I like is teams who are active and you see that when they play, they want the ball,” said Guardiola, who could become the first manager to win his first seven Premier League matches.
“They want to keep it and they are so aggressive without the ball. I like to see that and Liverpool and Tottenham are both teams in that way.
“I think it’s fantastic what happened in Glasgow. One attacked, then the other did, it was 3-3 and the fans enjoyed it and the people here watching did too.
“The fans for Man City were disappointed because they didn’t win, but were happy with what they saw. They saw until the last moment they tried to win.
“That is what I am after. Until the last minute, try to win the games, it doesn’t matter what happened.
“At the end I went to the locker room and the players were tired. They were exhausted. So much so that they couldn’t talk and that is what I want from my players.”
Pochettino’s managerial career has been closely entwined with Guardiola’s, the two men having started life as top-level coaches in the same city and during the same season.
In his first game as a head coach, former Argentina centre-back Pochettino saw his Espanyol team hold Guardiola’s Barcelona to a 0-0 draw in a Copa del Rey tie in January 2009.
A month later, Espanyol sensationally won 2-1 at Camp Nou to end a 27-year wait for a derby victory and give Pochettino his first win as a manager.
It was Barcelona’s first league loss in six months and one of only three home defeats that Guardiola suffered in a maiden season that concluded with a league, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble.
Kane, De Bruyne absent
Guardiola and Pochettino were effusive in their praise of each other in Friday’s pre-game press conferences.
The Spaniard called Pochettino “one of the best football managers in the world”, while Pochettino branded Guardiola “the best manager in the world”.
But underpinning the mutual affection is a keen awareness of the threat posed by the other and with Spurs already four points adrift of City, Pochettino is desperate not to lose further ground.
“It’s very early to start to speak about whether it’s an important game to prove something,” he said.
“It’s only the beginning, but we know three points is already important to reduce the gap. It’s a very important game for us and them, but it’s only a game.
“At the beginning of the season, we play against City, who are unbeaten in the Premier League. It’s first against second in the table, a very tough match, and very important for both teams.”
Spurs recorded a league double over City last season, cruising to a 4-1 home win in the equivalent fixture a year ago.
Pochettino hopes to have Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele and Danny Rose back after hamstring injuries, while Moussa Sissoko is expected to overcome a bang to the head sustained during the 2-1 win at Middlesbrough.
Striker Harry Kane, a scorer in last season’s 4-1 win over City, remains sidelined by an ankle injury, with Vincent Janssen due to deputise again.
Guardiola reported no new injury problems. Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne and Fabian Delph all have muscular injuries and are only expected to return following the international break.