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.