This weekend, we will witness a match that will signal the beginning of a new rivalry in football. This will be the most anticipated match since the beginning of the season; the match between Manchester City and Chelsea, or the battle for top spot, as I like to call it. Effectively, it will be Guardiola vs Conte.
Has this happened before? Nope. But I sure look forward to the tactical chess game. What, you thought this was going to be a normal game? No sir, this is going to be a tactical battle similar to the mind games that Guardiola played with Jose Mourinho during their time in Spain. But then, Guardiola deals with mind games. That’s his forte. Forget the formations, forge the star players. Guardiola always has something up his s has something up his sleeve that no one can predict. For example, in his early days at Barcelona, in the middle of a match he moved Lionel Messi from the right flank to the false 9 position. This was something no one had ever seen before; it won the game for Barca, as Lionel Messi became the best player in the world that day.
This has given Pep G the reputation of a tactical illusionist. There’s always a third layer to his plans; when you mark the striker, the defenders score the goals. Even the goalkeeper is important in the Guardiola plan; Claudio Bravo got dragged to City just because he is good with his feet.
However, the Guardiola vs Conte storyline is going to be an interesting one. This is because Conte is a tactical genius in his own right. The Italian dude came to Chelsea and started with a 4-4-2 plan; it produced mixed results. Then Arsenal came along and kicked the pants off the Blues. What did he do to salvage his quickly plummeting reputation? He switched to a 3-4-3 formation. Since then, they have scored 17 goals and conceded just one. Guess who’s topping the charts right now?
The Guardiola vs Conte game is going to pit a tactical chameleon against a brick wall. What’s the end result going to be? Will Guardiola conjure some genius tweak that will trounce Chelsea at last? Or will Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 prove to be too much for him? We’ll find out this weekend. Stay tuned.