LONDON • Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola described his Chelsea counterpart Antonio Conte as "maybe the best coach in the world" yesterday, ahead of their Premier League showdown today.
Chelsea have stormed to the top of the league after seven straight wins, during which they have conceded only one goal, but City are just a point behind them in third place.
"Conte is without doubt one of the best - maybe the best, maybe one of the best - coaches in the world right now," Guardiola told a press conference at the City training centre in Manchester.
"His statistics, his numbers, the way they play are really good. It's the first time we are going to face each other and it's good to play against them.
"He's a contender to win the Premier League from the beginning. Now maybe more than before, so it's a good test for us."
Guardiola said he had a clean bill of health for the game at the Etihad Stadium.
Captain Vincent Kompany remains sidelined with a knee injury, but Fabian Delph has overcome a groin problem and Raheem Sterling has shrugged off a knock he suffered in last weekend's 2-1 win at Burnley.
Conte said the match against City is a good chance for Chelsea to show they have rediscovered their best form following last season's problems.
Chelsea, who finished 10th in May, retained their place at the summit with a seventh successive league victory over Tottenham Hotspur last weekend.
"I think it's a really tough game (against City). It is a great test for us, for our formation, to continue this way," Conte told a press conference. "We know that it won't be easy because we face a really great team, with a great idea of football.
"I think tomorrow is another step to show if something has changed compared to the start of the season."
Chelsea have scored 19 goals and conceded just one during their winning run and Conte is unlikely to make changes to his starting line-up at the Etihad Stadium.
"I'm pleased for all the players that are playing. Those on the bench understand. There is the right atmosphere," the Italian said.
City's Kevin de Bruyne, who left Chelsea in 2014, has emerged as one of the world's finest attacking midfielders since falling out of favour with then-manager Jose Mourinho.
"He's a great player. It's a pity now he is playing for another team because he's a fantastic player. I wish for him the best... after our game," Conte said.
British media reported that Chelsea's Steve Holland is wanted by manager Gareth Southgate as part of England's backroom set-up and Conte said he was happy with his assistant's commitment amid speculation.
"The situation is very clear. Steve is one of my assistant coaches and working very well. He is working for Chelsea for many years. I'm very happy for his commitment, attitude and work rate," Conte said.
"I don't know what happens in the future. This matter is for the FA. But now I am pleased to have him."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE