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Guardiola wary of Tottenham title challenge

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Manchester City’s coach Pep Guardiola (R) gestures as his midfielder Rodri looks on during the match against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the 2019 Premier League Asia Trophy football tournament final at the Hongkou Stadium in Shanghai on July 20, 2019. (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP)

Tottenham Hotspur may have finished fourth in the Premier League last season, far behind champions Manchester City and Champions League winners Liverpool, but City manager Pep Guardiola has branded Spurs the “second-best team in Europe” ahead of the two sides’ meeting on Saturday.

Guardiola was referring to the fact that Tottenham knocked out City on their way to a first-ever Champions League final last season before losing to Liverpool in Madrid.

“I know how good Tottenham are,” said Guardiola. “It’s the second-best team in Europe. For me, that is enough.”

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However, bar their 1-0 defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the first leg of that Champions League quarter-final, City has won five of the last six meetings between the teams and finished 27 points above them in the league.

Since Tottenham’s last trophy –- the English League Cup in 2008 -– City have won ten major trophies.

But if anyone is going to bridge the huge gap that City and Liverpool opened up at the top of the league last season, Mauricio Pochettino’s men appear best placed to do so.

“Tottenham is really, really, good contenders,” he states. “Since I came here to England, every season Spurs was a real contender.

“In the first season, they finished second. We won in the last two seasons, but they were always there.”

However, Guardiola also believes Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal will pose a threat to prevent City and Liverpool fighting out a two-horse race for the title like last season.

“I am impressed with how Chelsea played in two tough matches against top teams,” said the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager. “I was really surprised by how good Frank Lampard’s team played.

“We saw Manchester United and the quality they have up front in that first game. While Arsenal bought good players, especially like David Luiz and Dani Ceballos, who was a top player in Spain, and they have people upfront like (Alexandre) Lacazette and (Pierre-Emerick) Aubameyang.”

The second match of the season is early to be facing one of your direct rivals for the title, but Guardiola has no complaints about the timing.

“Last season, our first fixture was at the Emirates against Arsenal,” he adds. “The schedule is the schedule, so welcome to the Etihad Stadium.”

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