Benitez neutralized the midfield space to force Man City to play wide, ensuring there were not too many gaps between defense and second line, and kept Guardiola’s players as far away from Newcastle as possible.
Claude Puel, who helped Leicester defeat Man City in the Premier League and drew them to the League Cup, has another priority. “You have to accept you don’t have the ball,” he said. “The first touch, the first pass after you regain the game, is very important. It has to be on the front line.”
Puel’s squad in the last two City games was not entirely the players who only chased and intercepted. He picked out people with good technical qualities to play “safely” under the terrifying pressure of City. Puel told the students not to risk losing the ball with long passes or lucky kicks, because those things only made them “suffer another attack.”
Instead, Puel said, he asked Leicester to play “two, three, four passes, one or two touches, fast and quality, to open up space,” in order to break the pressure from the City. It was not his favorite game. “I’m not interested in matches like that,” Puel said. “But adaptation, here, is the key to survival.”
This season, Man City promises to be even more perfect, because Guardiola is constantly looking for perfection. They will become a formidable opponent more than last year. Benítez and Puel colleagues will have to find a way to follow them.
Pochettino also with Tottenham eliminated Man City from the Champions League last season, in a crazy game in the second leg. But Pochettino also understands: defeating Guardiola in the Champions League and in the Premier League are two completely different things. He will have a headache before a rematch with Pep. There is so much to do, including … burning candles!