Pep Guardiola looked to avoid the wrath of Mauricio Pochettino before Manchester City’s Champions League showdown with Tottenham – insisting his next opponents are “not just Harry Kane”.
Pochettino branded Guardiola disrespectful when he referred to “the Harry Kane team” while listing expected Premier League title contenders last season.
The City boss has since admitted he was wrong to do so and was glowing in his admiration of Spurs ahead of Tuesday’s all-Premier League quarter-final first leg.
“No I can’t say that, Mauricio will be angry with me, I don’t want it,” he said when his infamous remarks were raised during a pre-match news conference at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
“I think my colleague misunderstood me during that period. It was to express an opinion about Tottenham, Harry Kane scoring eight goals in three or four games.
“I could say ‘[chairman] Daniel Levy team’ or ‘Mauricio Pochettino team’. I know, guys, that Tottenham Hotspur is not just Harry Kane. For a long time ago, the club is strong.
“They have a lot of potential things: how they make movements in behind, how strong they are physically in all departments, in the build-up, in set pieces, the switch of play, the play in the middle, the play outside. It’s an incredible team, I said this about them maybe 1,000 times since I came here to England.
“But, of course, Harry Kane, who can deny that he – the number nine for the England national team – is an incredible striker. Everybody knows it. He has everything.”
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 8, 2019
Guardiola has enjoyed the better of tussles with Pochettino since the respective former Barcelona and Espanyol coaches were reunited in the Premier League.
But the Argentine tactician also handed Guardiola his first defeat in English football, when Tottenham won 2-0 thanks to a sparkling performance at White Hart Lane in October 2016.
“I remember from that game when we lost there, I said to my staff, ‘Now I understand how tough the Premier League will be to win’,” Guardiola recalled.
“We were leading the Premier League and I said to my staff how difficult it would be to qualify for the Champions League.
“It was our first season together. We are a better team than in that time.”
Guardiola also believes City are a better team than the one that slid to a 3-0 half-time deficit at the same stage of this competition against Liverpool last season, although he acknowledges a Spurs team roared on at a buoyant new stadium have the capacity to inflict similar damage.
“We lost 3-0 [at Anfield], a bad result. But the way we played was not. The second half was so good, the way we played. It was a game when many things happened,” he added.
“The first three shots on target, they scored three goals. This competition is in this way because the opponents have incredible quality.
“Tomorrow: [Christian] Eriksen, Son [Heung-min], Dele Alli, Kane – if you leave them there they can score a goal, with three shots, three times. The level in this competition is higher.
“But I don’t forget what happened last season, it could happen this season – maybe yes or maybe not.”
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