Pep Guardiola’s strive for greatness brings the best out of Raheem Sterling

“The boy who grew up in the shadow of the Wembley arch.” A tattoo on his left forearm depicts a young Raheem Sterling wearing his favourite No. 10 shirt, holding a football and looking at the famous Wembley arch. To the Englishman, this place has always been home. It’s only fitting that Sterling bagged a brace in his first FA Cup final for Manchester City. Continue reading

Jurgen Klopp has eradicated Liverpool’s inferiority complex

What value can be put on belief? It is one of those great sporting intangibles, along with team spirit and character, but anyone who doubted its worth at the elite level of football had their views challenged by what happened at Anfield on Tuesday night.

Statistics tell the tale of a game Liverpool deserved to win. They had more shots than Barcelona on the night and claimed a greater share of the territory despite the Catalans boasting a larger share of the possession. But what Jurgen Klopp’s side did on Tuesday night cannot be quantified in such a way. It was down to something else. Something that’s a bit more difficult to grasp.

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For years, decades even, this great intangible seemed to be against Liverpool. Even when Anfield bore witness to great teams, like the ones assembled by Rafael Benitez and Brendan Rodgers, there was a gnawing sense of fatalism that all to frequently seeped into the players on the pitch. Their challenges almost always ended in glorious failure.

Of course, might contest that Liverpool’s recent successes have come as the result of a never say die attitude – see Istanbul and that Steven Gerrard stunner against West Ham in the FA Cup final. But even in these moments, Liverpool possessed an inferiority complex. If anything, these comebacks only served to accentuate further their complex. They saw themselves as underdogs.

There was something different about Liverpool’s Champions League semi final turnaround against Barcelona, though. Klopp’s men felt slighted by the heavy defeat suffered in the first leg. They believed themselves to be Barca’s equals and that shone through in the way they took the game to the Catalans on Tuesday night.

In the context of this season’s Premier League title race, Liverpool are still underdogs. They have pulled off countless comebacks, scoring several late goals to keep themselves within touching distance of Manchester City at the top of the table. With just one game left, Liverpool are just one City slip up away from being crowned English champions for the first time in a generation.

Liverpool already have a Champions League final against Tottenham Hotspur to look forward to. In that game, they will be favourites. In years gone by, that might have posed them a problem, given their inferiority complex. Under Klopp, however, Liverpool have eradicated that mindset.

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Vincent Kompany reminds us all of Man City’s narrative

After Manchester City’s crucial win over Leicester City on Monday night, a win which put Pep Guardiola’s side within touching distance of a successful Premier League title defence, a debate broke out on social media. It focused on what is widely perceived to be a bias from the mainstream media against City. Or rather, to be more accurate, towards Liverpool.

To say there is a bias, that journalists, reporters and broadcasters are actively rooting against City, is false. However, it’s true that Liverpool’s story has received more coverage this season. That is purely because as defending champions Man City’s tale isn’t as compelling as Liverpool’s, who are chasing a first league title in 29 years. Journalists are always biased towards a good story.

Vincent Kompany

However, with tears rolling down his cheeks having struck a thunderous winner against Leicester City, Vincent Kompany, City’s man of men as commentator Peter Drury labelled him, reminded us that the Abu Dhabi-owned side are also working on a narrative of their own.

By winning against Brighton on Sunday and then against Watford in the FA Cup final, Man City would become the first ever English team to win a domestic Treble. In any other season, that would be the defining narrative playing out in the mainstream media, on the back pages and in the news bulletins.

For Guardiola, it would be a crowning achievement. Not so long ago, many claimed that the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss would find things tougher in England. That he wouldn’t be able to dominant in the way he did in Germany and Spain. Guardiola’s struggles in his first season as City boss backed this theory up.

Since then, though, he has made a mockery of these suggestions. There might not be the romanticism to City’s story that there is about Liverpool’s, but Kompany’s emotion after his winner on Monday night served as a reminder to all that the Anfield side aren’t the only ones with an historic achievement on the line.

The sheer efficiency of Guardiola’s Man City side means the coverage of their success is somewhat more level-headed, but that doesn’t mean there is any less respect for them when placed alongside Liverpool. What City have done over the past two seasons has been unprecedented, but perhaps for a moment we should allow ourselves to get syrupy about their achievements just as Kompany did on Monday night.

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EPL Game of the Weekend – Newcastle vs Liverpool

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When you are still in the race for a league title, the pressure is of course on. At this late stage of the season, with a single point deficit and an away day to consider, one could be forgiven for feeling a little added pressure on your day job. When you are Liverpool, with the weight of the expectations of millions of fans across the globe resting heavily on your shoulders and facing an uphill battle to reclaim the crown once so familiar, an away day at Newcastle United is one of the last things you would fancy. That is not a knock on Newcastle at all, of course – but with such a rich history of clashes between the two sides, and with reining champions Man City watching on with interest, anyone connected with the Reds could be forgiven for feeling somewhat pressured.

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Sticking with Benjamin Mendy could see Man City stagnate

Manchester City missed Benjamin Mendy last season. With the Frenchman suffering a season-ending injury early on in City’s 100-point Premier League campaign, Pep Guardiola’s side were given a weakness. Fabian Delph did an admirable job at left back, but he is, by trade, a midfielder. He was the kink in Man City’s armour, even as they strolled to the title.

Mendy has struggled with injury for a second successive season, but even when he has been fully fit, Guardiola has overlooked the Frenchman. There have been questions over Mendy’s commitment, with the left back once filmed in a nightclub just two days before a City game. Guardiola shrugs those suggestions aside, but he hasn’t always been one for masking his true emotions.

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Subsequent reports that City should look to sign a new left back this summer were therefore unsurprising. A player under Guardiola is nothing if he doesn’t have the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach’s trust and it appears Mendy, for one reason or another, has lost that.

Ben Chilwell appeared to be City’s number target to fill the troublesome left back spot, with the Leicester City full back doing enough to impress Guardiola this season. Those reports have dried up in recent weeks, though, with City now seemingly content with Oleksandr Zinchenko as their first choice left back.

Zinchenko has undoubtedly impressed at Man City. There is much to be admired about the way the Ukrainian, initially signed to be loaned out and then ultimately sold, has forced his way into the fold at the Etihad Stadium, earning Guardiola’s trust in a way Mendy has yet to. But is he really good enough to take City to the next level?

Mendy has the ability to be the player Guardiola needs at left back, but if his mindset is not right he must be moved on. A replacement must be signed this summer just like a replacement, Ederson, was quickly signed for Claudio Bravo when it became clear that the Chilean wouldn’t satisfy Guardiola.

It’s this ruthless drive that has kept Man City at the top of the English game. They cannot afford to get complacent, particularly with Liverpool improving year-on-year. Mendy should have been a central part of Guardiola’s team, but he isn’t. City must find someone to replace him rather than just make do with an inferior deputy.

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Euro Fantasy League Podcast – #32 – Roma’s Drake Ban, Barcelona Win La Liga

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The lads are back for another installment of the Euro Fantasy League Podcast! This time out, Jamie and Dave take a look at the title run-ins, relegation battles and European hopefuls. Barcelona have won La Liga once again, and Roma’s ban on Drake is also covered. Get in touch with us on Twitter (@eurofantasypod) or e-mail us (eurofantasypod@gmail.com). Remember to subscribe, rate and review when you are able – it’s all free!

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EPL Weekend Picks – Week 36

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With only three or four games left in the Premier League season depending on which side you are following, things are starting to get serious! The title race looks all set to go down to the wire, while the relegation battle appears closer than many thought possible just a few weeks ago. Cardiff and Brighton appear the two sides most immediately in danger of claiming 18th and the final relegation place, though Southampton are not yet mathematically safe. Title contenders Liverpool and Man City both have games where you would fancy them to win, with City’s arguably the slightly tougher game. With that said, let’s go for a 4-3-3 again and see which players are worth keeping an eye on and including in your fantasy squads this weekend.

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EPL Best XI – Week 35

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With the Premier League season continuing whittling itself down to what seems destined to be a thrilling conclusion, nothing more was decided during this past weekend’s action. The battle to avoid being the last side to be relegated from the top flight this season remains far from over, while various intricate races / challenges at the top of the table appear nowhere nearer to being resolved. Liverpool remain two points ahead of Man City at the top of the league with City having a game in hand, Everton impressed many by beating Man Utd 4-0 at Goodison Park and Crystal Palace pulled off a great 3-2 win over Arsenal at the Emirates. With all that said, let us now adopt a 4-3-3 formation and take a peek at which players performed the best this weekend.

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EPL Weekend Picks – Week 35

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With just a few games left in the Premier League campaign, things are starting to take shape and will continue to do so with this weekend’s round of matches. There is no Friday night fixture this week, but instead we have a big card of games on Saturday with three coming on Sunday and one on Monday evening, with games every day next week except for Thursday as matches in hand are played. Man City taking on Tottenham in Saturday’s lunchtime kickoff looks to be the biggest game of the weekend, but there are plenty of games in store to keep us guessing. Bournemouth host relegated Fulham hoping to build on their impressive 5-0 win at Brighton last weekend, while Newcastle host Southampton in Saturday’s late game. Let’s go for a 4-3-3 here!

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EPL Game of the Weekend – Liverpool vs Chelsea

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Sport has many different forms, of course – competitive, friendly, amateur, professional – as well as different disciplines of course such as tennis, rugby, basketball and of course football. One thing every sport shares is that it really takes that special something to crown a champion. Patty Berg – record holding female PGA golfer – once stated “what does it take to be a champion? Desire, dedication, determination, concentration and a will to win.” Apt words indeed, and words which could well be applied to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side as they maintained their pursuit of a first-ever Premier League title by beating Chelsea 2-0 at Anfield on Sunday. The Reds have looked sublime this season, but this game showed a grit and determination lacking in recent years.

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