Man City vs Everton: Cruyff watches Guardiola and Koeman

The former Barcelona team-mates under the Dutch icon meet for the first time as managers in the Premier League

Pep Guardiola and Ronald Koeman
(Image credit: Getty)

The spirit of Johann Cruyff will be felt in the Premier League this weekend as two of his keenest disciples meet in a clash that pits league leaders Manchester City against fifth-placed Everton.

Both sides are managed by former Barcelona legends – Pep Guardiola and Ronald Koeman – who were team-mates at the Camp Nou under the Dutch manager and who meet as managers for the first time on Saturday.

The pair have history, says Guy Mowbray of the BBC. "Twenty six years ago, the late, great Johann Cruyff first encouraged a young Pep Guardiola to learn from his Barcelona team-mate Ronald Koeman, laying the foundations for his much admired football philosophies.

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"Now, as they meet for the first time as opposing coaches, will the mentor be able to outsmart his once very eager pupil? How very Star Wars."

The influence of Cruyff can be seen in the methods of both managers, says Peter Staunton of "If Barcelona is the centre for the religion laid down by Johan Cruyff then there is no doubt that his followers generally carry some of his commandments to whatever parish they end up."

Guardiola is a "direct descendent" of the Dutch master, whose teams "have all borne the Cruyff hallmarks of interchangeability, pressing and a relentless commitment to domination of possession", he says.

Koeman, though, "is less of an adherent on a tactical level" and has been more willing to work to the strengths of his players rather than the system. But "if Koeman's tactics aren't always faithful to the Barcelona way then the way he runs his squad certainly is", adds Staunton, noting that discipline has been tightened at Goodison Park since Koeman arrived. It appears to have done the trick and Everton, like City, have lost only once this season.

So who will come out on top? Much will depend on how City respond to their first defeat of the season, to Spurs, last time out.

"Ten days is a long time to stew over a bad result," says Simon Curtis of ESPN. "Now City must go out and prove that it was a flash in the pan and that the ten straight victories that preceded it were the real barometer."

Everton will be a tough challenge, however, as they aspire to everything City have achieved. "The history of these two sides ran parallel for great periods of the last century, with both clubs having periods of success but labelled as the secondary force in their respective cities," says Curtis. But while City are now top dogs in Manchester, Everton remain in Liverpool's shadow. "This is certainly part of the reason for the febrile atmosphere whenever the two sides meet."

Another source of tension will be the sight of defender John Stones in City blue for the first time against his old club.

"City always have a go and Everton will create chances, so it should be high scoring," says Paul Merson of Sky Sports, but he doubts that Everton will be able to hassle and harry City in the manner that Spurs did and predicts a 3-2 win for City.

However, Mark Lawrenson of the BBC is not so sure. He predicts "a frustrating afternoon for City" with Everton hanging on for a draw.

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