Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola described his Chelsea counterpart Antonio Conte as “maybe the best coach in the world” on Friday ahead of their Premier League showdown on Saturday.
Chelsea have stormed to the top of the league after seven straight wins, during which they have conceded only one goal, but City are just a point behind them in third place.
“Conte is without doubt one of the best — maybe the best, maybe one of the best — coaches in the world right now,” Guardiola told a press conference at the City training centre in Manchester.
“His statistics, his numbers, the way they play are really good. It’s the first time we are going to face each other and it’s good to play against them.”
He added: “He made an exceptional job in Turin with Juventus and the (Italian) national team as well.
“He’s a coach, when you see his teams it doesn’t matter if he’s in Siena, Juventus, the national team, now Chelsea, you realise his (finger)prints in his teams.
“He started with maybe not good results, but in the last seven games, to just concede one goal and win all seven, shows how good they are doing.
“He’s a contender to win the Premier League from the beginning. Now maybe more than before, so it’s a good test for us.”
Guardiola said he had a clean bill of health for the game at the Etihad Stadium, where Chelsea lost 3-0 last season.
Captain Vincent Kompany remains sidelined with a knee injury, but Fabian Delph has overcome a groin problem and Raheem Sterling has shrugged off a knock sustained in last weekend’s 2-1 win at Burnley.
City have won their last three away games in the league, but have drawn their last three home games 1-1 against Everton, Southampton and Middlesbrough.