Belfast Telegraph

Puel inspired by Guardiola's style of football

Claude Puel has revealed the extent to which Pep Guardiola inspired him the first time he encountered him as a manager, when Barcelona overcame Lyon in 2009.

Guardiola and Manchester City visit Puel's Southampton on Saturday, eight years after they eliminated Lyon from the Champions League to progress to the quarter-finals in the process of winning an exceptional Treble.

Puel was the French club's manager during their 6-3 aggregate defeat, which included Barca going 4-0 up before winning the second leg 5-2, and though this season is proving Guardiola's most difficult he remains convinced by his credentials.

The 2008/09 season was the Spaniard's first as Barca's manager, and came before he was considered one of the finest in the world. That reputation has been questioned more frequently since his arrival at City, but Puel's view has not changed.

He believes the high-intensity, pressing style of football widely favoured across the Premier League and in Europe is a legacy of the success Guardiola brought to Barca, and is also confident the City manager will soon succeed in England.

"We played in the Champions League before," said Puel, who oversaw Southampton's 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium in October.

"I knew Pep when he started with Barcelona. I played against him while I was at Lyon.

"He was a young trainer then, but his team was fantastic. We drew at home, and unfortunately lost 5-2 at Barcelona, but it was fantastic to see his team, his players.

"They had a good recovery of the ball, high up the pitch. Pep Guardiola changed all football and gave more opportunities for a trainer to think about football; the recovery of the ball.

"We can see all the teams trying to play like this, and have good possession. I have a lot respect for Pep."

Southampton are pursuing their third consecutive victory at a time when Puel continues to divide opinion.

There has been criticism of their inconsistency, but - perhaps partly because of Guardiola's influence - they are playing an attractive brand of football in which young players such as James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond have excelled.

He again has Manolo Gabbiadini and Steven Davis fit for selection, while Martin Caceres - a Barca substitute that evening against Lyon - is expected to again be on the bench, but Charlie Austin is yet to recover from an injured shoulder.

"(City) like to have the ball, good possession, good play, have good players in attack, but we will have opportunities also," said Puel, 55.

"The most important thing for us is to keep the good feeling between ourselves; then we can go up against this team.

"The opportunity to play a great manager is very interesting. He has a good philosophy. It's always technical players, intelligent players.

"The aesthetic of football is very important for him. He's an example for a lot of trainers, he can win Spanish and German leagues, and in the future England."

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