Pep Guardiola and Maurizio Sarri’s teams last season played out two of the Champions League’s most entertaining matches when Manchester City and Italian side Napoli met in the group stages of the competition.
Guardiola’s free-scoring City side came out on top in both matches by an aggregate score of 6-3, but with Sarri now in the Chelsea dugout he will be seeking revenge as he attempts to win his first piece of silverware as a manager.
There are certainly similarities in the way the two managers like their teams to play, and after City’s 2-1 win over Napoli at the Etihad Stadium last October, this was something which Guardiola eluded to as he was full of praise for Sarri’s team.
“It was an amazing game. Both teams had a similar idea, high pressing, a lot of passes and attack after that. Both with huge personality to play even against high pressing so one of the best teams I have faced in my career – maybe the best,” Guardiola said about Sarri’s Napoli.
It would be foolish to expect anything like the frantic pace of the City-Napoli games last year as both sides are missing key players who are still on their extended holidays following the World Cup, and Sarri has been in charge at Chelsea for just a couple of weeks.
In Sarri’s short time in charge of the Blues in friendlies against Perth, Internazionale and Arsenal, new signing Jorginho, whom he coached at Napoli, has been a key figure for his new side.
The Brazilian-born Italy international is Sarri’s equivalent of Fernandinho, who played expertly as a defensive-midfielder for Guardiola last season as Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso had done for him at Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Jorginho, who was reportedly close to joining City a few weeks ago, is expected to anchor Chelsea’s midfield on Sunday, playing alongside Cesc Fabregas who worked under Guardiola at Barcelona during the 2011/12 season.
Both Jorginho and Fabregas will likely have key roles to play for Sarri in the upcoming year as the pair are comfortable on the ball and in keeping possession – something which is especially important in Guardiola’s playing style as we have seen in Spain, Germany and now England.
Midfield trio Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva were instrumental in Guardiola’s 4-3-3 system last season, and were a huge part of the Spaniard’s winning formula which saw them lift the Premier League title as well as the League Cup.
When N’Golo Kante reports back from World Cup duty, he will no doubt be a part of Sarri’s set-up with Jorginho and Fabregas as the Italian uses the same system Guardiola does, engineered towards keeping the ball when in possession and retaining the ball back quickly.
It may sound simple, but in football simplicity produces the most beautiful football and for Guardiola and Sarri this was certainly the case last season as their teams racked up 191 points between them in the Premier League and Serie A – with Napoli narrowly missing out on the Scudetto to Juventus.
If both managers can get their teams to play as they did last season, then the 2018 edition of the Community Shield and Premier League matches involving City and Chelsea will serve up quite a treat for football fans.
For Guardiola, it is about building on his domestic success of last season but perhaps his primary objective will be to win the Champions League.
This could open the door for other teams to prioritise the league and challenge City for the Premier League crown – one of these teams being Chelsea.
Antonio Conte won the Premier League and FA Cup during his two seasons in charge at Stamford Bridge, but his successor Sarri will introduce new methods of playing at Chelsea – similar methods to the ones used by Guardiola.
English football’s first rendition of ‘Sarriball’ will be on show in the Community Shield as the man who admits he has been influenced a lot by Guardiola’s teams, will attempt to prevent the current City boss winning his 24th piece of silverware as a manager.