Football: Manchester City are not unbeatable, insists Southampton boss Pellegrino

Southampton's Dusan Tadic celebrates his opener against Everton on Sunday. The attacking midfielder will carry the brunt of the responsibility of providing service for the Saints' strikeforce in a clash between two former team-mates in managers Mauri
Southampton's Dusan Tadic celebrates his opener against Everton on Sunday. The attacking midfielder will carry the brunt of the responsibility of providing service for the Saints' strikeforce in a clash between two former team-mates in managers Mauricio Pellegrino and his Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Southampton's Dusan Tadic celebrates his opener against Everton on Sunday. The attacking midfielder will carry the brunt of the responsibility of providing service for the Saints' strikeforce in a clash between two former team-mates in managers Mauri
Mauricio Pellegrino

Pellegrino believes he can outwit ex-Barca team-mate Guardiola and end leaders' unbeaten run

LONDON • They won Spain's LaLiga playing alongside each other at Barcelona during the 1998-99 season.

But Mauricio Pellegrino and Pep Guardiola will be in opposing dugouts at the Etihad Stadium today when Pellegrino's Southampton attempt to end the unbeaten record of Guardiola's Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Free-scoring City have produced some sensational performances so far this season, as they accumulated an unprecedented 37 points from their opening 13 games to open up an eight-point gap over second-placed Manchester United.

Guardiola's side, however, needed a late winner from Raheem Sterling to scrape past Huddersfield on Sunday, and Pellegrino believes that the game showed it is not mission impossible to beat the leaders.

"Nobody is unbeatable in football and in sport," said the former defender, who joined Barca on a season-long loan from Argentinian club Velez Sarsfield in 1998.

"Every single team has got problems, because Huddersfield were really close to getting something.

"We have to be on top if we want to have any chance. Hopefully it could be a nice day for us."

ON PELLEGRINO

We were together for one or two seasons. It was an amazing experience. He was so curious about football - he was always talking about tactics... On the pitch, he had a lot of courage. He was an intelligent player. We had a great relationship and I have a lot of memories of him.

PEP GUARDIOLA, Manchester City coach.

ON GUARDIOLA

Pep was one of those types of players, always looking for new ideas, asking how we were training in Argentina, in different places. And also he had a good reading on the pitch and it's something that after (he finished playing) he translated much better outside the pitch.

MAURICIO PELLEGRINO, Southampton coach

The Saints take on the leaders on the back of Sunday's morale-boosting 4-1 win over struggling Everton.

Pellegrino knows his players need to be at their best to get a positive result and has challenged his players to improve on their last away display in losing 3-0 against Liverpool at Anfield.

"We'll play against one of the best sides in the Premier League, it will be really tough for us and we will need to be 100 per cent with our performance, 100 per cent with our attitude if we want to have any chance," said the 46-year-old Argentinian.

"It's incredible how they can sustain their performance every single game, playing mostly with the same players. To be the top team, the first thing you need is to create a mentality to try and to do it. I think now they are in an amazing moment."

Pellegrino also admitted he did not expect Guardiola, who won three Spanish league titles, three Bundesliga titles and two Champions League trophies during prosperous spells in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich, to be so successful as a manager.

"I never imagined that he can achieve something like he did," said Pellegrino, who still has fond memories of his single campaign playing with Guardiola at the Nou Camp under manager Louis van Gaal.

City are on a club-record 11-match winning streak but Guardiola is leaving little to chance despite having to play their second game in four days.

He said: "I watched some Southampton games a few weeks ago. More specifically yesterday. We are preparing for a mentally tough game against Southampton."

The Spaniard is counting on in-form Sterling to improve on his goal tally of 12 in all competitions, a figure the England winger has never previously managed over an entire campaign.

"The way we want to play as a team helps individual performances. Like I said many times, Sterling is still young and there are a lot of things he can do better," said Guardiola.

Like Guardiola, City skipper Kompany warned that there is no room for complacency against the Saints.

"After 15 years at this level, the one thing you know and learn is you do not crown yourself champions in November," said the Belgian.

"The biggest challenge for us now is to say, 'The next game, let's do it again'. We have won nothing and achieved nothing and that's the key message here."

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MAN CITY V SOUTHAMPTON

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2017, with the headline 'City not invincible, insists Saints boss'. Print Edition | Subscribe