LONDON (AFP) – Mauricio Pochettino said it is “impossible” for Chelsea to think of themselves as underdogs as he prepares for the daunting task of facing Premier League champions Manchester City.
Tenth-place Chelsea have a terrible recent record against City – losing the past six games in all competitions without scoring a single goal.
But they go into today’s match at Stamford Bridge boosted by a dramatic 4-1 victory against nine-man Tottenham earlier this week.
Pochettino, in his first season in charge at Chelsea, had high praise for City boss Pep Guardiola and the club as a whole at his pre-match press conference on Friday.
“For me they are the best team, have the best coaching staff and the best manager,” he said. “We need to tell the truth – it is one of the best organisations in the world.
“When you have the results you are showing it’s because from the top to the bottom you are doing things really, really well.”
But the Argentine said his team had shown in their match against high-flying Spurs that they had the talent and character to compete with the top clubs.
“Chelsea never have that feeling of being an underdog,” he said. “The feeling is always ‘you are Chelsea’. It is impossible, the history is there. (But) I think we cannot go and say ‘we are the big team of the day’ on Sunday.
“We need to go there trying to be protagonists, with our personality, with our character.”
Guardiola, whose team are top of the Premier League, said he was wary of the threat posed by Chelsea, who are looking for their fourth win in six games in the league.
“Chelsea remain one of the most important teams in England,” he said. “They won the Champions League under (Thomas) Tuchel against us (in 2021). It’s true they were not close to winning the Premier League in these seasons but they are one of the strongest teams, no doubt.
“I’ve seen the last games. They are alive, they have a good spirit, they’re aggressive and have good patterns. The quality is there. It’s one of the toughest games we have during the season.
“At the same time we will go there optimistic… we have to try to maintain the level of our game but sooner or later Chelsea will be there fighting for titles, no doubt about that.”
City defender John Stones will miss the match with a muscular problem but Guardiola said the injury was not as bad as first feared.
He also delivered a positive update on midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who could return before the end of the year following surgery on a hamstring injury he suffered in August.