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

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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.

PL AT HALF: Chelsea battering West Brom; Liverpool, Man City up

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Goals? Where we’re going there are loads of goals.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

West Bromwich Albion 0-3 Chelsea

Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard assisted each other to give Chelsea a 2-0 lead, and Marcos Alonso‘s too back post goal off a Cesc Fabregas free kick has the boo birds out at the Hawthorns.

Leicester City 0-1 Manchester City

Claude Puel would’ve been pleased with the Foxes’ muster against the Premier League leaders, who lost John Stones to an apparent hamstring injury. But the 45th minute saw a terrific team goal from Man City, as Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling moved the ball through traffic for David Silva, who slid across for Gabriel Jesus and 1-0.

Burnley 2-0 Swansea City

Jack Cork scored against his old side to complete a week which saw him earn his first England cap. Ashley Barnes has a goal and an assist as the Clarets are cruising at Turf Moor.

Crystal Palace 2-2 Everton

James McArthur and Wilfried Zaha gave Palace leads. Everton sandwiched a Leighton Baines penalty goal in between the Eagles’ markers thanks to an Oumar Niasse dive, then Niasse scored before half to level the score line.

Liverpool 2-0 Southampton

Mohamed Salah has two, including a wonderful 31st minute goal from distance to put the Reds in front of Saints at Anfield.

Bournemouth 2-0 Huddersfield Town

Callum Wilson has a pair as the Cherries continue their up turn in form.

Wenger believes Ozil, Sanchez will stay at Arsenal

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LONDON — Fresh from Arsenal’s first Premier League victory over North London rivals Tottenham since 2014, there was a spring in Arsene Wenger‘s step as he strode into his post-match press conference.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Arsenal’s boss saw his attack-minded lineup dominate Tottenham at home  as the Gunners secured an 11th-straight home win and sixth-straight of the 2017-18 season to breath new life into their season.

With a dangerous three-pronged attack of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette destroying Spurs’ usually rock-solid defense on numerous occasion, Arsenal gave a taste of what can be achieved this season.

Consistency is key for Arsenal but keeping Sanchez and Ozil is more important. Their futures at Arsenal remain uncertain with the duo free to talk to non-English teams in  January about a free transfer on July 1, with both likely to see what other clubs can offer them outside of the Premier League.

Speaking to the media afterwards, Wenger reaffirmed his belief that Sanchez and Ozil want to stay at Arsenal beyond the end of their contracts next summer despite the situation being totally out of his hands.

“The quality of the contract of the contract has to be good and enough for them as well, you know. I am convinced they love the club, they love the team but all the rest will be decided, when? I don’t really know,” Wenger said. “I’m not alone to master that. [Quality of the contract] is part of it. The whole thing has to be right, they have to be happy. I believe they love the club and they want to stay but there are other top clubs out there who offer good contracts as well.”

So, Wenger is bracing himself for Sanchez and Ozil to be offered big contracts from European giants as soon as Jan. 1 rolls around, then a barrage of transfer offers from other PL giants as they believe the duo will be available in cut-price deals. At this point, the Gunners must keep hold of the duo until the end of the season, even if it means they leave on a free.

With Sanchez scoring a cheeky goal, racing free on numerous occasions and forcing Hugo Lloris into numerous saves, his signature on a new deal is essential for Arsenal to haul themselves back into the top four on a consistent basis.

His desire and hunger was evident and he even had time to joke around in the second half, diving on his stomach to the delight of the home fans as he tried to slide towards a loose ball in the pouring rain in north London.

You can never question the Chilean’s desire but his displays have become more erratic over the past 12 months with this contract saga hanging over his head. Sanchez’s goal against Spurs was his first in 12 games against the so-called “big six” in the Premier League.

Ozil’s display yielded an assist and numerous eye-catching balls as Lacazette’s runs allowed Arsenal’s two contract rebels to have plenty of space in front of Spurs’ back three.

Wenger pointed to the fact that he has never once questioned their commitment and although Ozil and Sanchez’s futures remain uncertain, he believes they will continue to put their bodies on the line for the Arsenal cause.

“I know them well and I know when it is their turn to go on the football pitch they want to win a football game. They’ve shown their commitment again today. I’ve never questioned their commitment,” Wenger said. “They can have bad games but the problem is, but the problem is that when a player goes to the end of a contract and has a bad game everybody says ‘of course, because he goes.’ Their interest is to play anyway.”

Man City: John Stones limps off with leg injury

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One Man City center back took a yellow card in the third minute, while another is in even more trouble on Saturday at King Power Stadium.

John Stones pulled up with an apparent hamstring injury in the 28th minute of Man City’s visit to Leicester City.

[ MORE: Arsenal 2-0 Spurs | 3 things ]

Running stride for stride for Demarai Gray, Stones grabbed at his upper left leg and crumpled to the pitch.

Eliaquim Mangala replaced the improving English big back, and City will hope Stones’ absence isn’t as long as some hamstring ailments.

Defiant Pochettino: “Football was fantastic” in loss

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Mauricio Pochettino is defiant following Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-0 loss at Arsenal in the North London Derby on Saturday.

The Spurs manager thinks his team was pretty good in the loss, and it’s true that both Petr Cech and Shkrodan Mustafi intervened critically for the victors.

[ MORE: Recap | 3 things ]

But overall Arsenal was better on the day, which makes Pochettino’s almost buoyant post-match interview a bit awkward.

“It was an even game in terms of shooting, on target, possession,” Pochettino said.

“I’m disappointed for the rest of my team. You saw what happened. I’m disappointed because the small details went against us. … It’s true that they scored and we didn’t but I’m very proud cause the football was fantastic.”

We won’t go as far as to say we watched different games — Pochettino knows a bit more about the game than us — but that’s quite a spin we doubt his players will buy. Back to work for Spurs with a visit to Dortmund before West Brom visits next weekend.