LONDON • Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is travelling to Manchester for the second consecutive week and, unlike his occasional disdain for United's Jose Mourinho, the Italian had only good words for City's Pep Guardiola.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow's Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium, Conte praised his counterpart for overseeing City's huge improvement this campaign.
"I think last season City was always a fantastic team. But after one season the manager tried to improve the quality of the starting XI, of his squad," he said at a press conference yesterday.
"This is the result. I think we must have a great admiration for this team because they are having a fantastic path this season.
"I think when you work very well and there is a great feeling between the manager and club, you can work the way you want to improve the way you want.
"To see an advantage against Man City is very difficult. You have to prepare the game in the right way, to hope to have the players in good form and fight for a good result. In this moment they seem unstoppable."
With fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur at home to Huddersfield Town today, Chelsea - with three defeats in their past four league games - could be five points outside the top four before they kick off at City tomorrow.
Last weekend's 2-1 defeat at United was another bitter blow and Conte knows returning to Manchester to face red-hot City is hardly the ideal fixture for Chelsea to get back on track.
Chelsea's players are reportedly unhappy with Conte's intense personality and physically demanding training sessions.
And, asked how damaging it would be for Chelsea to miss out on the Champions League, Conte's answer hinted at frustration with his players' efforts.
"I am repeating the same concept many times but, in this league, to find a place in Champions League is not simple," the 48-year-old said.
"There is this risk to stay out of the Champions League. This could be a possibility for sure.
"We must be ready to fight, to be concentrated and to understand that this target is an important target for us but it won't be easy.
"There are many teams very strong and we must be ready to fight and get a place in the next season in the Champions League."