For many managers, the prospect of facing one of Pep Guardiola’s teams is something to fear.
Yet, Mauricio Pochettino has always considered it to be ‘special’. “He’s one of the best coaches in the world and it’s a challenge to play against him and the team that he is coaching,” an optimistic Pochettino said. “It is a fantastic challenge.”
The Argentine coach has had the dubious honour of going up against Guardiola more often than any other manager in his career. A friendly rivalry between two disciples of Marcelo Bielsa began when they shared the same pitch on opposite sides of the Catalan derby in the mid-1990s.
Over the subsequent three decades, the duo have repeatedly gone head-to-head across the top flights in Spain and England as well as the Champions League.
Here’s a full breakdown of every special challenge Pochettino has faced against Guardiola.
The first leg of this Copa del Rey quarter-final turned out to be a 0-0 draw – not the most entertaining of matches to kick off what would go on to become an intense rivalry.
A much younger Lionel Messi was a substitute that day but even he was unable to break the deadlock.
Barcelona won 3-2 in a highly entertaining second leg which saw Guardiola’s side progress through to the last four of the competition.
Bojan Krkic scored a brace before Gerard Pique added a third, putting the La Liga giants in a comfortable position. At least that’s what they thought.
Pochettino’s Espanyol showed great spirit, almost fighting back to parity. Coro and Jose Callejon scored in the second half to close the deficit but it wasn’t enough to avoid elimination.
The teams would meet again just a month later, this time in league competition. Espanyol started the day bottom of La Liga but were to have their revenge at the home of the division’s leaders when Ivan de la Pena netted a brace just after half-time.
Barcelona’s Yaya Toure pulled one back for Guardiola’s side but Pochettino had the last laugh that day, earning Espanyol’s first derby victory in 27 years.
This particular fixture between the two was decided by a first-half spot kick.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has since described Guardiola as ‘the most immature’ coach he has ever worked with, converted to earn his boss all three points.
Once again, Pochettino’s side were able to frustrate Guardiola’s superstars by holding them to a goalless draw in the league at the business end of the season.
Dani Alves was sent off for a second yellow after the break as Espanyol battled out a draw which delayed Barcelona’s title celebrations – a victory in some ways for Pochettino‘s side.
Guardiola’s side finally registered a victory over Pochettino reflective of the gulf in quality between their two squads in front of a packed Cornella as Barcelona thrashed Espanyol 5-1.
Pedro scored twice, David Villa also bagged a brace and Xavi got in on the act. It was a night to forget for Pochettino’s men.
Sitting pretty at the top of the league, Barcelona inflicted another defeat on their local rivals in the derby. This time it was a 2-0 win courtesy of goals from Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique.
It was starting to feel like Pochettino would never taste victory over Guardiola’s mighty Barcelona again – at least not while he was in charge of Espanyol.
Pochettino would go on to take one more point from Guardiola as Espanyol boss when his side scored a late equaliser through Alvaro Vazquez after Cesc Fabregas had put Barça in front inside a quarter of an hour.
Vazquez’s 85th-minute goal sent the crowd of approximately 35,000 inside Cornella into wild celebrations. The roar at full time was even more deafening, cranked up by the relief of surviving a late onslaught and clear penalty.
The pair were to meet one more time as managers of these fierce rivals, but La Blaugrana made light work of Espanyol who were down in 13th place in La Liga at the time.
Pochettino discovered the talents of Messi first-hand as he scored all four of Barcelona’s goals. It took his tally to 50 in the league alone.
After more than four years apart, Pochettino and Guardiola locked horns again, this time in the Premier League.
Although the former Barcelona boss enjoyed the superior record during their time in Spain, he won’t have been pleased to see his old adversary get the better of him with a 2-0 win for Spurs.
Following six consecutive wins to start his Premier League career, Guardiola’s first top-flight defeat in England was claimed by Pochettino.
Guardiola avoided successive defeats against the former Espanyol boss when they met later on in the season but was denied three points despite his side taking a two-goal lead.
Leroy Sane and Kevin De Bruyne put City into a commanding position but goals from Alli and Son Heung-min salvaged a point for Pochettino’s charges.
It proved to be third time lucky for Guardiola against Pochettino in the Premier League. City ran out comfortable 4-1 winners thanks to goals from Ilkay Gundogan, De Bruyne and a Raheem Sterling double.
This was the first of the two meetings between the two sides in the 2017/18 season – a campaign in which the Cityzens went on to be crowned champions, achieving a record points tally of 100.
The second meeting between Guardiola and Pochettino in the league that season saw the Spaniard triumph over his old rival once again.
Gabriel Jesus, Gundogan and Sterling scored in a 3-1 victory while Christian Eriksen netted Spurs’ consolation.
Guardiola went on to register his third consecutive victory over Pochettino when the two sides met on matchday ten in the Premier League the following season.
This time, it was a narrow 1-0 victory at Wembley thanks to Riyad Mahrez’s fourth goal of the 2018/19 campaign.
Pochettino and Guardiola came face to face in the 2019 UEFA Champions League quarter-final.
It was the perfect time for the Spurs boss to get one over his old rival and put a stop to his losing run. The Londoners won 1-0 thanks to Son’s goal and had a lead to take into the decisive second leg that was to follow eight days later.
The highlight of Pochettino’s career to date has to be taking Spurs to the 2019 Champions League final, and eliminating his old adversary en route must have been sweet.
It was a thrilling encounter with late drama. The second leg ended 4-3 in City’s favour, but the Lilywhites progressed courtesy of the away goals rule.
Three days later, the two managers met again, this time in the Premier League. Phil Foden scored the only goal for Guardiola’s men but even that wouldn’t have remedied the heartache they suffered just days earlier.
Pochettino had been beaten by Guardiola again but with a Champions League semi-final on the horizon, he may not have been feeling so down in the dumps.
There was a distinct sense of deja vu as Pochettino enjoyed a number of controversial VAR calls falling his way against Guardiola.
In victory, the Argentine was able to take a philosophical view of the narrow margins. “I was a little bit critical of VAR but now we have to accept the rules,” Pochettino said. “Now it benefits us. No doubt it won’t benefit us at other times. It’s a rule we need to accept.”
With Pochettino now at Paris Saint-Germain, the two managers faced off for the first time in just under two years when the French giants hosted City in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals.
Pochettino’s PSG swept City away in the first half at Parc des Princes, with Marquinhos giving them the lead. But City rallied back after the break with strikes from De Bruyne and Mahrez.
Les Parisiens had been rattled, and Idrissa Gueye was sent off for a nasty challenge on Gundogan late on.
PSG needed a big performance to overhaul that first-leg defeat, but it never looked likely, especially when Riyad Mahrez fired City into a 3-1 aggregate lead in just the 11th minute of the second leg.
Pochettino’s side huffed and puffed but just couldn’t find the all-important away goal before Mahrez grabbed another, with Angel Di Maria sent off later as the visitors imploded.
City were beaten by Chelsea in the final in Porto.
After that semi-final heartbreak, Pochettino’s side had the opportunity to exact some revenge when the two clubs were drawn together in the 2021/22 Champions League group stage.
While City had plenty of chances to win this game in France, Idrissa Gueye’s brilliant drive gave the hosts a lead they would not relinquish.
The Parc des Princes crowd erupted when Lionel Messi scored his first PSG goal against his former manager, giving Pochettino his first victory over Guardiola since 2019.
Pochettino’s final meeting against Guardiola while at PSG was played under a fog of rumours suggesting that the Argentine would be joining his old rival in Manchester.
In the wake of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s resignation from Manchester United, Pochettino was incessantly linked with a move to Old Trafford and had to deny claims that these loud whispers affected his side’s 2-1 loss at the Etihad. Pochettino ultimately saw out the season but admitted: “We need to improve in all aspects, all the areas.”
Pep Guardiola vs Mauricio Pochettino H2H record