Belfast Telegraph

Pep Guardiola looking forward to pitting his wits against Sam Allardyce

Pep Guardiola says he will give Sam Allardyce a hug before pitting his wits against him this weekend.

When Guardiola was unveiled as Manchester City manager last July he named-checked Allardyce - referring to him as 'The Big Sam' - as he spoke of what made English football so appealing to him.

At that time Allardyce was still the manager of Sunderland, a side City were due to play in their first game of the season.

But soon after Allardyce was appointed England boss, meaning the pair never clashed in August as anticipated. Their meeting is now set to take place on Saturday as Allardyce's latest employers, Crystal Palace, host City in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Guardiola said: "I saw him once in my life. It will be the second time. I am delighted he is coming back. Tomorrow I will give Big Sam a big hug.

"After that he is going to fight to win and I am going to fight to win. It's a final for both of us."

The clash at Selhurst Park could see the return of City captain Vincent Kompany.

The injury-plagued defender was an unused substitute for last week's Premier League draw against Tottenham after overcoming the knee injury that has sidelined him for the past two months.

Kompany has not played a full match since April and there is a feeling he needs a good run in the side to prove he has a long-term future at the club under Guardiola.

With the 30-year-old having been hampered by injuries throughout his time at City - his latest was his 35th since joining the club in 2008 - it is important not to rush him back, but the time could now be right.

Guardiola said: "He is fit, that's the most important thing. He's been training for a long time and he feels good.

"He has not played for a long time so we will have to evaluate his physical condition but he has a lot of experience and he is going to handle that as best as possible.

"He hasn't been injured at all in the last month and sooner or later, we have to take a risk. In the next games, he is going to play."

City have been inconsistent in recent months and have fallen 12 points off the pace in the Premier League. Guardiola, however, feels there is much to look forward to in the second half of the campaign.

He said: "I am so happy. We didn't get all the things we deserve but it is stupid to say because you get what you deserve in the end.

"You analyse what you can do better in the second half of the season and keep going in every game."

Guardiola, speaking at a press conference to preview Saturday's game, dismissed the possibility of signings before next week's transfer deadline.

"No, I am so happy with the squad," he said, before hinting there could be outgoing activity.

"Maybe someone is leaving, I don't know. You cannot be sure 100 per cent."

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