(Reuters) - Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said he was impressed with the quick overhaul of Chelsea’s playing style under Maurizio Sarri although the new manager will need time to bed in his philosophy completely.
Sarri, who replaced Antonio Conte in the close season, has turned Chelsea from a counter-attacking side into high-intensity team with that can dominate possession and Guardiola said he was a fan of the Italian’s work.
“The job he has done so far, from my point of view, is excellent. Some people do not know how difficult it is to create a special way to play. You need time,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday, ahead of the meeting between the teams on Saturday.
“Maybe they are not playing 90 minutes but when they play good for 50, 60, 70, 75 minutes, they are excellent.”
Sarri’s side went unbeaten in their opening 12 matches but two defeats in their last three games have seen them fall behind City to sit fourth in the table with 31 points.
“Tomorrow we have a huge, demanding test. How we play against one of the best teams on one of the biggest stages. How will they react after losing two games,” Guardiola added.
“I can imagine how intense, how aggressive and how committed they will be to not accept three defeats in a row. That is why it is a good test for us.
“It is always difficult at Stamford Bridge. Most of the time I lose there. The stadium, the history of Chelsea in the last 20 years and because they are a really, really good team.”
City striker Sergio Aguero and midfielder Kevin De Bruyne will miss the match due to injury.
Aguero has missed the last two games with a muscle problem, while De Bruyne has not played since November due to a knee problem.
Champions City remain unbeaten in 15 matches and top the table with 41 points.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; editing by Louise Heavens