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Guardiola vs Pochettino: A rivalry renewed in Manchester – but how long for?

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Guardiola vs Pochettino: A rivalry renewed in Manchester – but how long for?

The pair will face off at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday in what could be a precursor for a cross-city conflict if Manchester United get their way

Both Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain will almost certainly qualify for the Champions League knockout stages, irrespective of the result at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

Despite it being a mouth-watering clash between two of the best and most entertaining sides in Europe, there is very little jeopardy at this stage of the competition, with top spot in Group A the only real tangible reward on offer.

It does provide, though, the opportunity for two clubs that are yet to win the competition to deliver a serious message of intent in their bid to lift the trophy they covert more than any other.

PSG did just that in September with their first ever win over City in six attempts, as Lionel Messi’s exquisite strike wrapped up a 2-0 victory at Parc des Princes.

City – who dominated in the French capital – will be out for a revenge, but despite the plethora of star players who will be on show, all eyes may well be on the touchline come kick-off.

As revealed by GOAL on Sunday, Mauricio Pochettino is Manchester United’s top target to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Old Trafford, meaning he could once again be coaching in the same city as Pep Guardiola, just as the pair were when they were employed by Espanyol and Barcelona, respectively

It is ironic, then, that Pochettino should be in Manchester just days after Solskjaer’s sacking, forced to face questions from the English media on his and United’s future.

While the former Tottenham boss insisted he is happy in Paris and pointed to his contract, which runs until 2023, failing to completely to rule out a move back to England will only add to the expectation that he will end up at United, either in the next few weeks or at the end of the season.

We cannot talk about that,” he in Tuesday’s press conference, “I think with respect to my club Paris Saint-Germain, and my respect to another club.

“I need to be focused on Paris Saint-Germain. What another club is doing is not my business, it’s not my problem.”

He later added: “I think that I was clear. I said to you, I said to you all that my contract is 2023 – this season and one season more. I don’t say anything different.

“I am really happy at Paris Saint-Germain and that is a fact. Nothing to think. The fact is I am happy in Paris.”

While David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Solskjaer have all failed in the aftermath of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, Pochettino is seen as having the desire and knowhow to transform United into title challengers, despite only having won the Coupe de France in 12 years as a coach.

“You can be a top manager without titles of course,” Guardiola said of his rival. “The managers who have the chance to win titles are at top, top clubs with good investment and exceptional players. Otherwise it’s impossible to win.”

The City boss was full of praise for his opposite number, even if some mischievously claimed that his comments were a small jibe at Pochettino failing to win Ligue 1 last season with a budget and star-studded squad that vastly out-matched any of their rivals.

“I’m pretty sure the managers get better every year,” Guardiola said. “Every season we go through, you have a lot of learning every season. I’m pretty sure he’s an excellent manager.”

Mauricio Pochettino PSG quote GFX
It was back in January 2009 when the pair first met as managers – a goalless draw in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey before Espanyol lost the second leg 3-2 at Camp Nou.

They have gone onto go head-to-head on 19 more occasions, Pochettino only having won four times, and suffered defeat home and away in the semi-finals of last season’s Champions League.

But despite being brought to PSG to end their wait for European success, that defeat reflected more on the ill-discipline of his players than his tactics.

Idrissa Gueye was shown a straight red card for a dreadful tackle on Ilkay Gundogan as City overturned an early deficit at Parc des Princes, while six days later, Angel di Maria was sent off for kicking Fernandinho off the ball while Marco Verratti and Presnel Kimpembe were lucky not to follow him.

Pochettino could only look on ashen-faced as PSG lost their heads while Neymar laboured to make any impact without the injured Kylian Mbappe alongside him.

Mauricio Pochettino PSG GFX
Superstars and their egos would still be an issue at Old Trafford, but there seems more of an eagerness from above to bring structure to a squad that is struggling to compete against the best.

And after his strong track record at Tottenham, there are grounds to believe he has the quality to challenge Guardiola’s City, as well as Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

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Chief among those reasons was knocking City out of the Champions League quarter-finals in 2019 on Spurs’ way to reaching the final, as they triumphed on a tense and nerve-shredding night in Manchester.

Pochettino had already shown he was not afraid to stand up to the City boss, biting back at Guardiola when he referred to Spurs as “the Harry Kane team”, saying it was “disrespectful” and that the Catalan “struggles to keep his position and be a gentleman”.

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