LONDON (Reuters) – Manchester City will be up against Europe’s second best side when they host Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, manager Pep Guardiola said on Friday.
The Spaniard told reporters before Saturday’s match against last season’s Champions League finalists that the North Londoners would be tough opponents.
“Since I came here to England they’ve been a real contender every season,” he said of a side that knocked City out of the Champions League quarter-finals last season.
“In the first season they finished second, in the last two seasons we won but always they were there and always they were tough games.
“I spoke many times around Tottenham and gave my words and my opinion on them. It’s the second best team in Europe. For me that’s enough.”
Guardiola’s first league defeat as City manager was to Tottenham, fourth last season, in 2016.
The boss laughed off recent suggestions by former Manchester United and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho that the only title contenders were champions City, ‘City B’, Champions League winners Liverpool and Tottenham.
City’s depth of talent was highlighted in their 5-0 opener against West Ham United last weekend when they had Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Joao Cancelo, Nicolas Otamendi and Phil Foden on the bench.
“I’m really impressed with Chelsea against (Manchester) United (in the league) and Liverpool (in the European Super Cup). They didn’t win but I was surprised with how good they played,” Guardiola said.
“We saw United with the quality they have up front. Arsenal bought good players with Nicolas Pepe and David Luiz, (Dani) Ceballos was a top player in Spain.
“They are all really good contenders.”
The Spaniard said Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho would be available for the Spurs game after missing the opening weekend.
France defender Benjamin Mendy was back in training but unavailable and winger Leroy Sane will have knee surgery at the weekend and be out until the New Year.
“The first target is be fit rather than to play,” he said of Mendy. “To train regularly for a month then he has a chance to play.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)