They used to be title rivals in Spanish football’s El Clasico – now Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are fighting for the Premier League crown.
People laughed when I said Tottenham were genuine title contenders this season, but in his first game since signing a new contract as Manchester City manager, Guardiola may be about to find out if Spurs are the real deal.
My opinion of Pep has not changed. He is a genius, and his influence on English football spreads far beyond the Premier League.
Teams at every level have adopted his method of playing out from the back – some more successfully than others – and his coaching has turned high-class players like Kevin de Bruyne into world-class acts.
The way he has handled Phil Foden, from promising kid to the emerging talent who scored two fine goals for England in midweek, has also been a masterclass of management.
So Guardiola’s new deal is great news for City and the English game in general – but it’s bad news for his rivals eyeing the title or the Champions League.
Over the next two years, I believe he will devote special focus to Europe. The Champions League is his final frontier with City, the one competition where he has come up short.
But he could not have wished for a harder start to his new deal than Tottenham away because I really believe Mourinho’s Spurs need to be taken seriously this season.
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Show me their weaknesses – have they got any? Is there currently a better front three anywhere than Harry Kane, Heung-min Son and Gareth Bale?
Of course, City have a serious front line, too – and they are likely to return Mourinho’s fire with Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres (who scored a hat-trick for Spain against Germany in midweek).
But Tottenham have genuine strength in depth when they can leave England midfielders Dele Alli and Harry Winks out of their starting XI.
Hugo Lloris has been one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the Premier League for years, and their new left-back Sergio Reguilon seriously looks the part.
What is your score prediction for Tottenham versus Manchester City? Have your say here.
We may have laughed when Mourinho said his greatest achievement at Manchester United was finishing runners-up, 17 points behind City, with 81 points, but in the cold light of day it looks as if he was right.
Pep v Jose will always be a spectacle because they are two proven winners.
And although it’s too early to be decisive in the title race, one way or another, what happens at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this weekend could go a long way towards one club lifting the trophy and the other missing out.
For years, Manchester United v Arsenal was the shoot-out which decided who would be champions. Then it was United against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. And in recent seasons it’s been City v Liverpool.
But this game takes me back eight years to a dramatic, and controversial, game at the Etihad, where City won 3-2 and Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham fell just short in the title race.
Pep and Jose, two winners going head-to-head in what could be the most open title race for years.
What a fantastic prospect.
Pep’s got a brand new contract, but Jose’s got a banging team.
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