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Guardiola: I learn a lot from 'excellent' Conte

22:52 BST 04/04/2017
Antonio Conte Pep Guardiola
The Man City boss says he learns from watching his Chelsea counterpart, though he insists his side deserved to win their meeting earlier this season

Pep Guardiola says he learns from watching Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, who he says is "maybe the best" in the world, and insists his Manchester City side would be much better off in the Premier League this season had they beaten the Londoners in December.

The City boss identified Chelsea as title contenders last summer due to his huge admiration for their manager, and has praised the various ways they can inflict damage on the opposition.

City travel to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night 11 points behind the league leaders, and Guardiola says he can learn from Conte as he strives to make as big an impact at the Etihad Stadium as the Italian has had in west London.

"My opinion about my colleague Conte is that he's superb, maybe he's the best," the Catalan said on Tuesday. "He was able to make Italy play beautiful football, Juventus too, in a culture where it's so defensive. He's an excellent manager, I learn a lot when I see his teams - Juventus, Italy and now. I like to do that because you see what they want to do. Their teams control a lot of aspects. It's a good lesson for me to see his teams and learn."

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City lost 3-1 to Chelsea in December but Guardiola feels the result does not reflect the flow of the game, with his side spurning a number of chances at 1-0 up, allowing the Londoners to hit on the counter-attack.

And the Catalan believes that his side's whole season has hinged on that one result, as they would have gone one point behind Chelsea had they won.

"Believe me, I saw the game many teams," he added. "We were much, much better. I'm sorry Antonio but we were. We deserved to win. At that moment it was one point if we win, it goes to seven, then we go to Leicester without Sergio [Aguero, who was sent off against Chelsea], it's another three [points] and soon it's ten points [behind]. These are minimum details."

Despite Chelsea running riot on the counter in Manchester earlier this season, Guardiola dismissed the idea that that is the only way Conte's side can cause them further damage on Wednesday.

"All the teams want to make a counter-attack against us, it’s not just control this part of this game. Chelsea are good at set pieces and in the positional game, they are one of the best teams when it comes to using the third man and to set the ball in attack and runs in behind.

"David Luiz, [Gary] Cahill and [Cesar] Azpilicueta have the ability to play in the play direct to [Eden] Hazard, Willian, Diego Costa and with [Victor] Moses and Marcos Alonso too, they are so dynamic.

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"So they use the counter-attack, they are good at the positional game, they use all the aspects of the game. That is why they are one of the best teams in Europe by far. Of course the counter-attack with Hazard and Pedro and Willian, they are so so fast, they run with the ball and they are so so clever with the pass."

Guardiola does believe, however, that Chelsea have been aided by not playing Champions League football this season, and he also reserved special praise for Michael Emenalo, the Blues' transfer chief.

"I knew from the beginning they'd have a good season," he continued. "Through Emenalo, the sporting director, he's brought very good players. They started the season so so but after they settled the way they want to play - and the fact they have a week to work on many things - that helps a lot. It's a big advantage if you have time."