Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti has called Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola a genius before their New Year’s Day encounter. Ancelotti takes his revitalised team to face the Premier League champions at the Etihad on Wednesday, and the Italian praised his opposite number before the match.
“Pep is a fantastic manager,” Ancelotti said. “I have a really good relationship with him and a lot of respect. He is a genius because he’s always tried to do something special on the pitch.”
City are 14 points behind leaders Liverpool but Ancelotti believes the reigning champions will help gauge Everton’s revival, which has brought consecutive victories since the 60-year-old took charge from caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson.
“Against City this is a fantastic test to see where we are at,” added Ancelotti, whose side will face Liverpool in the FA Cup on Sunday. “Maybe City are not at the same level as last year, but Liverpool won all their games except one, that is the difference.
“City remain a fantastic team, with a fantastic manager, and it will be really tough to compete with them but we can have confidence to do our best. I think at this moment it is good to have this kind of test.”
Ancelotti also said he is not surprised by his winning start and paid tribute to the groundwork done by Ferguson before his arrival.
“I am not surprised because of the spirit in the team,” he said. “The work that Duncan did was really good. He increased the spirit of the team and so I found players with character and good attitude. This was the reason I didn’t change a lot. We also haven’t had time to change a lot of things.
“It’s not the period to make changes, we have to focus on the games. It can be dangerous to change a lot because players can be confused. We have changed a little bit defensively, and the players have adapted really well. I hope the players can continue because the games will be getting difficult.”
In his own pre-match press conference Guardiola backed Ancelotti to achieve success at Everton and welcomed his return to the English game.
“Carlo is one of the smartest guys,” Guardiola said. “He is always able, it doesn’t matter the team, to make them work. They have had good results in the last two games so it is a difficult test for us. I think it is incredible news for English football he is back and I think he can make an incredible job there.”
However, asked about Ancelotti calling Guardiola a genius, the Spaniard simply said: “I am not.”