When both Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho arrived in Manchester in 2016, many expected the duo to reignite their La Liga rivalry. It hasn’t worked out that way.
Antonio Conte raced ahead in 2016/17, leaving Guardiola and Mourinho – in the dust. Last time out, it was Guardiola’s turn to motor clear.
Mourinho’s United finished second but there was no meaningful challenge from Old Trafford and City’s scares were inflicted by Jurgen Klopp at Anfield.
There is respect from Guardiola towards Klopp and Conte, but City manager’s methods are most similar to his latest adversary, Maurizio Sarri.
Guardiola was hugely complimentary of Sarri’s Napoli side after beating them in the Champions League group stage last season. He described them as one of the best teams he’s ever faced.
He also cited the similarity between his ideals and Sarri’s; high pressing, attacking football, passing play.
It is that similarity that may see Chelsea get under City’s skin this season.
Guardiola’s City are further down the path than Chelsea – much further. The dithering over Conte’s removal has even robbed Sarri of more preparation time; meaning he will be charged with moulding the Blues in his own image on the fly.
Guardiola’s early struggles in England show that it may take a bit of time to get it right. But Sarri will have his sights set on beating Guardiola at his own game.
The arrival of Jorginho is a significant early blow, and Sarri’s approach may well allow Chelsea to land more on City before the season is out; starting at Wembley on Sunday.