Belfast Telegraph

Pep Guardiola v Antonio Conte focus

Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte met for the first time as managers as Manchester City hosted Chelsea in a top-of-the-table Premier League clash. Here, Press Association Sport analyses their performances.


Conte has had little reason to alter his winning formula over the past two months but had a change enforced this time as the influential Nemanja Matic was ruled out. Cesc Fabregas returned after more than two months out of the picture. Guardiola made six changes from the side which won at Burnley. Some of them, such as the return of the rested John Stones and Ilkay Gundogan, came as no surprise but the selection of Leroy Sane was unexpected and, ultimately, unsuccessful.


Chelsea had some early chances but City's pressing soon enabled them to gain control. They dominated the first half and should have had more to show for their efforts than just the one goal at the interval, even though that in itself arrived in fortuitous circumstances. City ramped up the pressure early in the second half but could not make chances count and Chelsea, who had missed the discipline of Matic, began to gain a foothold in the game. They started to hit City with counter-attacks and the hosts' defensive vulnerabilities proved their undoing.


Guardiola's plan appeared to be working well for most of the first hour in all but one crucial respect - not scoring enough goals. Conte's decision to send on Willian after 50 minutes paid dividends as City's tempo dropped. The Brazilian's energy was a constant concern for the hosts and was a big factor as the complexion of the game changed. Guardiola tried to rescue things by bringing on Yaya Toure and Kelechi Iheanacho but it was to no avail.


Guardiola said before the game he did not know which of the two managers noted for their animated touchline behaviour would wave their arms the most, and it was difficult to tell. Neither could keep still for long. Conte was almost constantly gesturing and shouting while Guardiola was calling Stones over for instructions after just two minutes. Both managers wore their hearts on their sleeves throughout with Guardiola even taking a leaf out of Conte's book by trying to rouse the crowd in the second half. It proved to no avail and Guardiola had to get involved to try to calm emotions as a late scuffle broke out between players of both sides.


For an hour this looked like being a Guardiola victory but Chelsea's fightback, instigated by Conte's prompting, secured a big statement victory. Given the way the game ended, the seeds of an intriguing rivalry could have been sown.


From Belfast Telegraph