Villas-Boas aims to outwit Guardiola in City clash

Villas-Boas aims to outwit Guardiola in City clash

MARSEILLE • Andre Villas-Boas loves Marseille and the Ligue 1 giants’ supporters love him for ending their seven-year absence from the Champions League, in which they host Manchester City today.

There was a once a time, a decade ago now, when “AVB” and Pep Guardiola were the two most coveted coaches in Europe, both winning European trophies in the same 2010-11 season in charge of Porto and Barcelona respectively.

The Portuguese then shared some of the same reference points as the Spaniard.

Both crossed paths with Jose Mourinho in the early years of their careers and Bobby Robson was a mentor to both, giving Villas-Boas work in the scouting department at Porto and then making Guardiola a central part of his team at Barcelona.

While Guardiola led Barca to win the Champions League in 2011, Villas-Boas won four titles with Porto, including the Europa League.

The pair could have crossed swords the following season, but Villas-Boas was sacked by Chelsea, with the Blues going on to beat Barca in the semi-finals en route to their maiden Champions League crown that campaign.

His career has not quite scaled the expected heights after that, having also been fired by Tottenham, while Guardiola has gone on to claim multiple trophies at Bayern Munich and City.

However, their paths will now meet, and Villas-Boas is hoping to outfox Guardiola.

Marseille are up against them after losing to Olympiakos last week, while City beat Porto to lead Group C. But Villas-Boas still feels a top-two finish to guarantee a spot in the knockout phase is up for grabs.

“We can compete in this group,” the 43-year-old said. “I like to aim high. We dreamt of being in this competition, so now we are targeting the last 16.”

Marseille remain the only Ligue 1 team to have won the competition in 1993 and having already beaten French champions Paris Saint-Germain in the league for the first time in nine years this term, Villas-Boas is considering a contract extension. “The most important thing is that I am very happy here. I am emotionally attached to this club, to its history, the players who have played here, its impact in Europe,” he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MARSEILLE V MAN CITY

Singtel TV Ch110 & StarHub Ch214, tomorrow, 3.55am