Getty Images

Guardiola hails Conte as “maybe the best” in the world

Leave a comment

There is sure to be a big hug between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola on the sidelines at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Conte’s dig at Tottenham?

Two managers who both arrived in the Premier League last summer for the first time brought big reputations and expectations with them.

Conte has so far lived up to that with Chelsea seven points clear atop the PL table as they prepare to host Guardiola’s Man City (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) on Wednesday.

Speaking ahead of that game, Guardiola believes that Conte may well be the best manager on the planet right now

“My opinion about my colleague Conte is that he’s superb,” Guardiola said. “He was able to make Italy play beautiful football – Juventus too – in a culture where it’s so defensive. He’s an excellent manager, I learn a lot when I see his teams – Juventus, Italy and now. I like to do that because you see what they want to do. Their teams control a lot of aspects. Maybe he’s the best.”

For Guardiola, who is widely-regarded as the best coach on the planet, to say this about Conte shows the level of respect between the duo. It’s hard to argue with Conte’s record as a coach as he led Juventus to three-straight Serie A titles before rejuvenating the Italian national team and now is on the cusp of winning the title with Chelsea in his first season in England as his distinctive brand of play not only gets results but often entertains.

The latter can certainly be said for Guardiola’s City team too, but too often this campaign they’ve made glaring defensive mistakes which is why they’re currently 11 points behind Chelsea. When it comes to the notion that Conte is the best manager on the planet right now, it’s hard to argue with that. Yes, Zidane has won the UEFA Champions League at Real Madrid and so has Luis Enrique at Barcelona, but taking nothing away from their coaching qualities, look at the players they have to work with.

Conte has spoke glowingly about Guardiola’s philosophy in the past and although their rivalry may intensify in the coming years with Chelsea and City set to battle it out for trophies, two of the greatest minds in the game today are being respectful towards one another and that’s quite refreshing.

It may not sell papers, but it’s nice to see.

Who else can lay claim to being the best current manager on the planet? Some would say Jose Mourinho with his incredible record of winning trophies, while others will point towards Diego Simeone, Carlo Ancelotti, Jurgen Klopp, Max Allegri, Mauricio Pochettino or perhaps even Arsene Wenger. Other than that, Conte and Guardiola are at, or near, the top of the tree.

For Guardiola, he could really do with beating Conte’s Chelsea on Wednesday to boost City’s top four hopes and put them eight points behind Chelsea in the title race with eight games to go.

In the earlier clash between these two teams this season Chelsea prevailed 3-1 after launching devastating counter attacks away from home. The game ended with red cards being shown to Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho as a scuffled broke out, so expect this encounter to be testy as Chelsea look to bounce back from a shock defeat to Crystal Palace this weekend and City aim to prove all of their doubters wrong.

Whatever happens on the pitch, we know Conte has a friend in Pep and vice versa.

CCL: Toronto wins; Wild Herediano comeback

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Leave a comment

On a single-digit Tuesday that severely limited the attendance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, where the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC dueled in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

Jonathan Osorio’s second half goal put the Reds in front and Sebastian Giovinco had a goal and an assist and the visitors take a 2-0 decision back to Ontario.

The best chance of a preseason quality first half saw Dominique Badji flub the best chance of the stage into the feet of Alex Bono.

Toronto took the lead, nabbing the away goal through Osorio’s header of a Sebastian Giovinco cross. And the Atomic Ant got on the board with a goal of his own off an Auro assist with 17 minutes to play.

[ MORE: Georgia teen heading to Schalke ]

Tuesday’s other first leg saw Herediano and Tigres play to a 2-2 draw in Costa Rica, with the Liga MX visitors taking a pair of away goals but shocked by a pair of stoppage time concessions.

Francisco Meza scored in the 15th minute and Lucas Zelarayan seemingly put it to bed with 15 minutes to play.

But Yendrick Ruiz converted a 90th minute penalty kick before ex-DC United forward Jairo Arrieta did this ahead of the Feb. 22 second leg in Mexico.

Another American heads to Schalke: Zyen Jones

@KingZyen
Leave a comment

Schalkamerica?

Bundesliga mainstays Schalke have added yet another American, this one 17-year-old Zyen Jones of Atlanta United. Jones is a forward with the U.S. U-17 national team.

Like Josh Sargent, who signed his deal with Werder Bremen on Tuesday, he’ll head overseas and sign a pro contract on Aug. 25, his 18th birthday.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Jones will join several potential USMNT teammates in Gelsenkirchen, including injured senior team midfielder Weston McKennie and youngster Nick Taitague (19). Forward Haji Wright is on loan at Sandhausen.

Report: Simon Dawkins making move to Minnesota

Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Loons are taking a flier on Simon Dawkins.

The London-born Jamaican international hasn’t done a ton since returning to MLS from Derby County, and turned 30 over the offseason, and Paul Tenorio says the player is on his way to Minnesota United.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Dawkins scored 14 goals between 2011-12 with San Jose, but scored just five times in his return to California and was blanked in 14 appearances last season. He registered just 10 shots in those matches.

The left winger would join an attack with Christian Ramirez, Kevin Molino, Ethan Finlay, and a pair of Generations Adidas forwards: Abu Danladi (2017 SuperDraft) and Mason Toye (2018).

Champions League Weds. preview: Sevilla-Man Utd, Shakhtar-Roma

Martin Rickett/PA via AP
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho says Manchester United is one round away from having legitimate hopes of winning the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

That makes the Round of 16 tie against Sevilla — beginning Wednesday in Spain — a bit of a dream qualifier for the Red Devils.

“I normally say that Champions League dreams start around the quarter-finals and not yet in the last 16,” Mourinho said on ManUtd.com. “Last 16 still looks a long way to go. When a team reaches the quarter-finals, I think it’s the moment where even the teams that are not favourites – which is our case – they start realising that anything is possible.

The injury-hit side got a bit of a boost on Tuesday in Sevilla, where Paul Pogba, Antonio Valencia, Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera all trained ahead of the first leg.

As for the hosts, manager Vincenzo Montella admitted that he hopes Pogba won’t play, and joked that he’d prefer to tie up and “padlock” Alexis Sanchez in a bid to defend against the Chilean star.

The final Round of 16 tie to start will be Roma’s pairing with Shakhtar Donetsk, with the first leg taking place in Ukraine.

Shakhtar hasn’t played in some time, but the great equalizer is the bitter cold at Donbass Arena, where the temperature is set to be between 21 and 28 degrees Fahrenheit come kickoff.

Don’t worry, Roma fans, Daniele De Rossi is busy breathing fire into any teammates angling for excuses:

“The cold weather could affect things a little because we’re not used to it but at the end of the day it comes down to how well you perform out there. We must be mentally ready from the get-go because the cold might hit us in the opening minutes.

“If it was that much of a factor, these teams would win the Champions League every year. You don’t go through because of the weather.”