Mauricio Pochettino acknowledges he is a completely different coach to the fresh-faced tactician who enjoyed early career successes against Pep Guardiola.
Pochettino’s Tottenham host Guardiola’s Manchester City at Wembley on Monday, with the Premier League champions nine games into an unbeaten start to their title defence.
Despite an underwhelming Champions League campaign to date, Spurs have been similarly impressive domestically this term and victory at England’s national stadium would see them leapfrog City in the standings.
A 2-0 win in the same fixture at White Hart Lane in 2016 saw Pochettino hand Guardiola his first defeat in English football but it was not the first time he had got the better of the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss.
Taking over relegation-threatened Espanyol on the other side of town in January 2009, Pochettino’s first game in charge was a daunting Copa del Rey quarter-final against Guardiola’s Barca.
They held out for a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou before losing the second leg 3-2, but the Argentine tactician’s first win arrived a month later – 2-1 away from home in the Catalan derby.
“I am completely different now,” he told Sky Sports.
“It was nearly 10 years ago and, to be honest, I’ve improved a lot, I’ve changed a lot.
“Football is always about improving. It is about learning. Every day learn. Every day improve.”
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) October 27, 2018
Pochettino’s most recent encounters with Guardiola do not make for such good reading, with City running out 4-1 and 3-1 winners last season on their way to a dominant title triumph.
As such, the Spurs boss understands his team’s status as underdogs looking to spring a surprise.
“I think we are on a different level – but that doesn’t mean we cannot beat them in one game,” he said.
“I think it is always about performance. We have to perform better than them – and, of course, have a little bit of luck in a decisive moment.
“But it will be a tough game because Manchester City is one of the best teams, not only in England but in Europe.
“We put our own pressure on because I think we are ambitious and we want to win all the games but if someone puts external pressure onto us, it’s difficult to understand.”
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