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Sunday 18 February 2018

Pep Guardiola aims to achieve new heights at Manchester City

Pep Guardiola has conducted his first press conference at Manchester City
Pep Guardiola has conducted his first press conference at Manchester City

Pep Guardiola believes the challenge of facing Jose Mourinho - and other top managers in the Premier League - can inspire him to reach new heights.

The new Manchester City boss is poised to clash with his old adversary, recently installed at rivals Manchester United, at close quarters this season.

The pair fought numerous battles during their time in Spain, when Guardiola led Barcelona and Mourinho was in charge at Real Madrid.

Speaking at his first press conference since his arrival at the Etihad Stadium this summer, Guardiola said: "I think Jose said pretty well in his press conference, that it is not about him or me. We are not focused on each other. The other one is going to win some. It is so tough to win the games here.

"But we played many times against each other. I can only say, as a coach, big coaches help me to reach another level and Jose is one of them.

"My experience against him and, for example, against Jurgen Klopp at Dortmund, and a lot of coaches in Spain and Germany, they made me better.

"(Antonio) Conte is a master tactician, a great signing for Chelsea. It is going to be very interesting competing with him and Klopp, (Claudio) Ranieri and (Ronald) Koeman also, loads of coaches come to mind."

Guardiola arrives at City with a huge reputation and a glittering array of success behind him, including two Champions League titles and three LaLiga crowns from his time at Barcelona and three Bundesliga titles from Bayern Munich.

He accepts the challenge he faces at City, who finished a disappointing fourth in the Premier League last season, could be his biggest yet.

The Spaniard said: "Every stage is a big challenge. It could be the biggest because City have not won as many titles as Barca or Bayern but I don't know. The challenge is coming to a new country and trying to prove yourself.

"I know how difficult it is in England to find a team to win four, five, six games in a row. It is not easy. Maybe that is the challenge, to try to be more consistent in our game.

"But I think in my career people are always going to demand from my teams in the way they are going to train to try and win the maximum as possible. In the end that is good. It is better to live under that pressure."

Guardiola has overseen three signings since his appointment in Ilkay Gundogan, Nolito and Oleksandr Zinchenko but was unwilling to discuss further targets.

The 45-year-old said: "I think all the clubs in the world try to make the best squad as possible. Here is maybe not the right place to explain about the new players.

"I realise how good journalists in England are, you are going to discover what are our targets and say ask what you want for next season - but of course are going to try and move a little bit the squad."

One current player Guardiola appeared to give his backing to was Yaya Toure, whose future has been the subject of speculation.

Toure was sold by Barca to City while Guardiola was at the Nou Camp.

Guardiola said: "I have known Yaya a long time. He did very, very well in Barcelona and here as well. He is a huge star and all the players who are here now count to me. After that, we will see what happens. Yaya is here. I connect with him."

As for City's influential but injury-plagued captain Vincent Kompany, the message was simple.

Guardiola said: "My dream for Vincent Kompany is to be fit. In the last two years he played not too many games. The captain has a lot of experience and is a magnificent central defender but of course he has to be fit.

"We spoke to him and said just focus on your body, forget about other things. After that Vincent will again show his qualities."

Guardiola also hopes to restore the confidence of England duo Joe Hart and Raheem Sterling, who were both criticised after their side's lacklustre performances at Euro 2016.

He said: "I heard what happened, especially with Sterling. Of course he has a little problem with the money they paid and that is in the mind of the people, but I am encouraged and I am looking forward to working with him to help and try to show him how good a player he is; not just Sterling but Joe Hart and the other English players."

Press Association

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