Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola admits he was wrong to refer to Tottenham as “the Harry Kane team” as the two teams prepare to face off at Wembley on Monday.
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino claimed Guardiola was disrespectful to the London club when he used the term last year as it implied the England talisman was their only significant player.
Guardiola insisted he did not mean that and the reference was intended as a compliment to Kane but he accepts it came out badly.
In any case, he feels Spurs have proved him completely wrong by making a fine start to the season while Kane’s form, despite yielding five Premier League goals, has been sporadic.
Spurs head into Monday’s clash between the two sides at Wembley trailing impressive champions City by just two points.
“They show me how wrong I was,” Guardiola said when asked about his previous comment.
Given the tightness at the top of the table, Guardiola, whose side cancelled out Liverpool in a goalless draw earlier this month, sees it as another game City can ill afford to lose.
He said: “When you play against the contenders it’s almost six points, isn’t it?
“These are important. I don’t know what’s happened in the past but it’s true that the strong teams are making a lot of points, they are not dropping points easily.
“That’s why maybe the games against the contenders are becoming so important. We’ve started with three games away against them. That’s why it is so important to take those points.”
This is a message Guardiola certainly got across to his players last season.
City were beaten by Liverpool and Manchester United during their record-breaking campaign but, in the latter case, the title was all but secured by then.
Guardiola said: “The first year we dropped a lot of points against contenders. Except Anfield and United at home, we won everything in the second season.
“The reality is what we’ve done last year you have to be focused on everyone. That we had 100 points is because we were focused on all the games.”
Guardiola feels his team have largely maintained last season’s standards but he remains concerned about the number of chances they are not converting.
He said: “I think it is quite similar, the rhythm, to last season, more or less. We control part of the game, we create more chances, concede few.
“When that happens, it is a solid team but to win games, especially important games like in the Champions League or Tottenham or Monday, you have to be so solid at the back and our conversion rate in front must be a little bit higher.
“Against top teams we don’t have too many chances.”