Pochettino, Guardiola confounding expectations
In one dugout at Etihad Stadium today will be a manager enjoying a six-match winning streak with his second-place team. In the other, a manager reeling from the biggest loss of his career and down in fifth place.
Few at the start of the English Premier League would have predicted it would be Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino with the edge over struggling Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola.
However, the top of the standings is confounding expectations in the second half of the season. City host Tottenham with Guardiola's side trailing the second-place London club by three points and leader Chelsea by 10 points.
Having already ruled City out of the title race, Guardiola is now in a scrap just to secure Champions League qualification by finishing in the top four as he endures a difficult first season in English football.
It was against Tottenham in early October when Guardiola experienced his first setback at City, with Pochettino ending the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach's winning league start. Last weekend, he was humbled by a 4-0 loss at Everton, a career low for the Champions League-winning coach.
Has Guardiola lost the Midas touch?
"The coach has to adapt with the players, the players have to adapt with the coach," Eric Abidal, who played under Guardiola at Barcelona, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
"Tactically, and the methodology of Pep Guardiola is methodology from Barcelona ... he needs time. They will win trophies.
"I spoke with some players from (City), tactically they learn a lot," Adibal added at a Barcelona event on Thursday.
"But when you have a good coach and good players, a lot of teams want to beat you."