Pep Guardiola needs Champions League results this season

Manchester City knew who they wanted to lead them into a new era. They’d known for quite some time, even tailoring certain aspects of the club to ready themselves for the eventual arrival of their chosen one. Indeed, City’s pursuit of Pep Guardiola can be traced back years before his actual appointment.

There were a number of reasons they wanted Guardiola. The Catalan coach brought with him his famed philosophy has since turned Man City into the most dynamic, exciting team in the Premier League. But they also wanted Guardiola because of his European record.

Guardiola is a two-time Champions League winner and so when the time came for City to identify the man who could establish them as a true European force, they settled on the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss. Three years have passed since then, though, and Guardiola hasn’t been able to deliver the title the club’s ownership wants more than any other.

In fact, Guardiola hasn’t been able to take City past the quarter finals of the Champions League. They reached the semi finals the season before Guardiola took over. For all that the Catalan has undoubtedly developed and progressed the Etihad Stadium side, his European failures stand out.

The Champions League is the final frontier for both City and Guardiola. As things stand, there’s an argument to be made that they are the greatest Premier League team of all time, collecting 198 points over the past two seasons, but they have still to make a real impression in Europe, even after the best part of a £1 billion investment in the squad over a decade.

Guardiola needs Champions League results this season. City should have beaten Tottenham in the competition’s quarter finals last season and they should have beaten Liverpool the season before that and Monaco in the round of 16 the season before that. Guardiola still has a point to prove in Europe as City manager.

A kind group stage draw, which saw the Premier League champions drawn with Shakhtar Donetsk, Atalanta and Dinamo Zagreb, will give City a platform to build a challenge upon, but it’s in the knockout rounds where they must demonstrate progress. Otherwise Guardiola’s astonishing success at the Etihad Stadium will come with an asterisk alongside. With every season the Champions League trophy isn’t delivered, it gets bigger.

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Hope for other EPL clubs after Manchester City draw with Tottenham

The Premier League season has started and 20 clubs will fight against each other for the coveted league title but also for European places & survival. In the first top clash of the season, a home match, Manchester City was all geared up to face Tottenham. In the last season, European finalists Tottenham knocked Man City out of the Champions League in the quarter-final.

Thus, the pressure was more on Manchester City as they have to give payback but also prove their mettle. The dreams and hopes of the supporters of City, as well as the players, involve winning as many trophies as possible this season. People who do sports betting invest a lot of money on these clubs through the real money casinos.

Manchester City were unable to defeat Tottenham. The match ended in a 2-2 draw. City players and fans will feel hard done by. Pep Guardiola’s champions will not have an easy time ahead. No team beat City since last season when Spurs accomplished a 1-0 victory in the Champions League. Since that loss, Guardiola’s men won many important matches, including two games versus Tottenham- one in the Champions League return leg and another in the league.

Last Saturday, a resounding 5-0 win in West Ham proved Manchester City will be aiming for another league title. Before Saturday 2-2 draw with Spurs, City had played 15 Premier League matches and won all of them to remain undefeated in the league since they lost 2-1 on January 29 in Newcastle. In the Champions League, Spurs defeated City and showed the other clubs that this was a possible feat. This led to a frantic second leg with more goals and much drama.

Manchester City set a record by winning 18 matches in succession in the Premier Leagues during the 2017/18 season. Unfortunately for City, they will not be able to beat or even match that record following the 2-2 home draw against bogey side Tottenham.

While records are good to have, what really matters to City and their fans is winning trophies, among them the coveted Premier League title. However, fans would love to see City lift the Champions League trophy as well. The 2-2 draw against Spurs has once again showed other English clubs that it is possible to derail this extremely talented City side.

For other clubs and in particular Liverpool, they must keep pace and they need to vanquish all the top 6 rival teams to maintain their extraordinary form. Last season, they gathered 97 points keeping the incredible form intact and lost only once in the entire season. Due to this loss, they came in second and Manchester City emerged as the winner last season. They lost the match to Man City and ended up losing the league by a single point which was quite saddening for Liverpool and their supporters. Liverpool beat Norwich 4-1 on opening weekend and followed that up with a second win away at Southampton meaning they are currently are on six points to City’s four.

That being said, for the coming three months, Liverpool may not be able to get close to the team of Guardiola again. This is because of the fixtures that are in front of them. Keeping the title race alive will be quite compelling just like it was last season. Manchester City was defeated last season by Newcastle and this simply showed how even struggling teams can play well and defeat the giants. 

Newcastle’s victory may be repeated by Norwich, Bournemouth or Brighton but it will be an extremely difficult feat against the talented and deep City side. Despite the 2-2 draw, it can be said that City’s players will have the opportunity to win match after match in the upcoming weeks and perhaps even build a small lead at the top before the trip to Anfield. Liverpool and Klopp are perhaps the only ones capable of stopping City from winning a third consecutive league title, However, watch out for Spurs would could still derail City when the two teams face each other in London.

Business as usual as Manchester City and Liverpool get off to flying starts in the Premier League

So the Premier League has kicked off and it seems that it is business as usual as both the title favourites Manchester City and Liverpool got off to flying starts. Not only did they win their respective games they scored 9 goals between them.

Liverpool got the ball rolling (pardon the pun) when they beat Norwich 4-1 at Anfield on Friday night. It was always going to be extremely difficult for Norwich who have just been promoted from the Championship to take on the European champions and last seasons runners up in the league and so it proved. With ease Liverpool scored 4 goals and Norwich showed their naivety.

At the same time it wasn’t all plain sailing for Jurgen Klopp’s team and Norwich played some tidy football and created quite a few clear cut chances. If Liverpool who have arguably one of the best defences in Europe defend like they did on Friday night against a top 6 team they will suffer. Plus Alisson went off injured and Klopp will be hoping that his Brazilian goal keeper is only out for a limited time. Still it was a great start for Liverpool who will be looking to win their first league title since 1990.

The next day at lunchtime ended up being a miss match, when champions Manchester City went to West Ham and didn’t break sweat as they scored 5 goals with no reply. Raheem Sterling was deservedly the man of the match after he started his campaign with a fantastic hattrick. West Ham were toothless and unlike Norwich gave no fight and no hope as to how they will pick up points this season. Of course the Hammers have had some hyped arrivals in the likes of Pablo Fornals and Sebastian Haller and even though Fornals only came on from the bench in the 2nd half, he made almost no impact except for a teasing cross.

City were simply breath taking on the ball and the pace and fitness was evident compared to West Ham who are set for another frustrating season. The only other story to take from the game is VAR. It was used no less than 3 times and on each occasion got the decision right but there has to still be a question of is VAR good for football? Wasn’t the game supposed to be a simple one, that would include human error? After all England would not have become world cup champions in 1966 had VAR been in place.

True there has been shocking decisions in football, but it can work for and against your team. Maybe VAR takes that moment away in football.  Now when your team score, you will celebrate but perhaps have one eye on the referee and his assistants just in case. What will happen this season is penalties being retaken. It happened in the West Ham game when players encroached the area and it will happen when the goalkeeper leaves his line, and we can expect many penalty problems as a result.

The one damning verdict of West Ham’s defeat was the roar the fans gave as if they had scored a goal. They hadn’t, instead VAR had ruled out a City goal. Is that what teams outside the top 10 will be cheering about in the future?

 

 

Why does it feel like Pep Guardiola still doesn’t trust Leroy Sane?

He is considered one of the best young wide attackers in the European game. Indeed, Leroy Sane has become a star during his time at Manchester City, winning back-to-back Premier League titles and a domestic Treble last season. The German has more justified his place at the Etihad Stadium.

And yet there is still a lingering sense that Sane is not fully trusted by Pep Guardiola. There have been suspicions of friction between the pair and this had led to suggestions that the German international could leave Man City this summer as he seeks a club where he will be guaranteed of a starting spot.

Bayern Munich have been very open in their pursuit of the 23-year-old, with Niko Kovac publicly describing him as their “dream player.” Bavaria would be a good place for Sane to end up with the Bundesliga champions currently looking for wingers following the departure of Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben at the end of last season.

Guardiola insists that he wants to keep Sane. “I like him a lot, I think he has an incredible chance to be better, incredible in terms of being connected in the game,” he said. “I think I said two times or three times, we want to keep him. We want him to stay, that’s the reason why for more than one year he has an offer waiting to talk with his agent to extend the contract.

“It’s not in our hands or in my hands. He has to decide if he wants to stay and if our agreement is good. If he’s going to leave we will be sad, but what can we do? Hopefully he stays.”

This isn’t the first time that the Catalan coach has made the case for Sane to stay, but when it comes to the big games Guardiola often omits the German. There remains a feeling that the Man City boss doesn’t fully trust Sane and that could result in the 23-year-old leaving the Etihad Stadium sooner rather than later.

From the outside, such a stance makes little sense. Sane gives City a different dimension to the likes of Riyad Mahrez who prefers to cut inside and make things more compact in the centre of the pitch. Bernardo Silva had an excellent season last term, but he does the same. Sane surely deserves to be shown a little more faith.

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A week to forget for Manchester City

Let’s face it, it’s not been the best week for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City. Their Premier League Asia Trophy final loss to Wolves topped off a dismal time in China as part of their pre-season tour which looked destined for failure from the get-go, with the performances of Kevin de Bruyne and new signing Rodri the only things to shout about. Continue reading

The 2019/20 Premier League title looks destined only for Manchester City and Liverpool

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The Premier League season is literally only over a month away until it kicks off again which seems incredible as the last one only feels like it has ended. Unlike most seasons though this one could feel very predictable at least where the league title is concerned and it feels like it will be a two horse race between champions Manchester City and last seasons runners up Liverpool.

Liverpool don’t like coming 2nd two years in a row- just look at how the Reds under Jurgen Klopp responded to the disappointment of losing the 2018 Champions League final to Real Madrid in a game they lost 3-1. They came back fighting the next year despite being involved in an epic domestic league title and got back to the final and then beat Tottenham 2-0 to win their 6th European Cup overall. That is this Liverpool team and it seems built in their DNA.

So far Klopp has been quiet in the transfer market and has bought only Sepp van den Berg the Dutchman from PEC Zwolle for just over £1m. The likes of Daniel Strurridge and Danny Ings have been released and sold, with Ings going for £18m which was seen as great business.

Liverpool have not really dipped big into the transfer market but it seems that it is only a question of when and not if. At the same time one only has to look at the first team where there is quality all over the pitch to realise that they don’t need much improving with such a brilliant goalkeeper in Alisson and perhaps the best defence in Europe, attacking midfielders and strikers like Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, why would you be looking elsewhere?

As for Manchester City, the champions showed incredible mental strength to win the league last season, simply not blinking and winning every one of their games for the last 3 months of the season, it was incredible and manager Pep Guardiola has rightly said that it was his best title to win and certainly most hardest.

City are strong of course and have also like Liverpool been quiet on the transfer front. They have only bought goalkeeper Zack Steffen from MLS side Colombus Crew for a reported £7m. But City and Pep usually do spend money and it would be a surprise if they didn’t invest in some quality players before the window closes.

It is unlikely that City will give up their title easy but at the same time one could question if Liverpool will be the hungrier of the two teams as City really want what Liverpool have- the Champions League and Liverpool really want what City have the league.

With the teams below them having their own troubles and being so off the pace last season, this one coming up looks like it will be a straight fight between these two teams, and no other team looks like stopping that.

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Did Pep Guardiola really show Brazil great Ronaldinho the back door at Barcelona?

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A story has emerged which claims that Pep Guardiola sold on both Ronaldinho and Deco at Barcelona because he allegedly thought they were bad influences on the up and coming Lionel Messi, could this be a true story?

Where did the story start? Well it has come from an ex Barcelona and Arsenal player Alexander Hleb who has come out with the claim 13 years after it happened.

Hleb said: “Ronaldinho and Deco came to training drunk that’s why Ronaldinho and Deco were sold in 2008. Because Barcelona were afraid that they would bring down Lionel Messi.”

At that time in the mid to late 2000s both Ronaldinho and Deco were seen as great players of their generation, especially Ronaldinho who was seen as the player who lifted Barcelona up again after their started the decade miserably. Under the brilliant Brazilian Barcelona regained their swagger and confidence and Ronaldinho quickly turned into a legend for the club, winning titles, including the 2006 Champions League and scoring some of the most outrageous goals for the club.

However it has also been claimed that Ronaldinho liked to throw his hair down and like some other Brazilian players before him relax when not playing football. Could it really be that Pep Guardiola could see this and did it really happen?

On one side there is no reason for Hleb to lie and make up a story from 2008, if we consider it to be true then it only emphasises how great Guardiola believed that Messi would be even at 21. The vision was already there from the club that the Argentine player would be with them for over 10 years and everything would have to be built around him, and that is the way it has turned out. Again if true then Guardiola did the right thing, but that is an incredibly brave move to make, less so for Deco who could turn it on sometimes but more so for Ronaldinho who genuinely was a superstar.

But Guardiola knew that Messi was going to be a triple superstar- and sacrifices were needed. It is an interesting story by Hleb given the fact that big name players have left the back door of Barcelona quietly shuffled on in the past- Romario and Rivaldo before Ronaldinho as an example.

One telling fact is that neither Guardiola, Deco or Ronaldinho have come out and spoken in defence of what Hleb has said.

One thing is sure if Guardiola did want to protect Messi then he did a great job of it.

 

Rodri the signing Manchester City need

Just days after Manchester United spent £50 million on Aaron Wan-Bissaka, it appears as though neighbours Manchester City are about to land their first multi-million-pound transfer target in Atletico Madrid midfielder Rodri. Although not yet official, Atletico practically confirmed the deal after unveiling new signing Marcos Llorente in Rodri’s No. 14 shirt. Continue reading

Man City mustn’t stand still in this summer’s transfer market

Manchester City have set a new precedent at the top of the English game over the past two seasons, registering a combined 198 points over the 2017/18 and 2018/19 campaigns, collecting two Premier League titles. No team has dominated the English top flight like they have of late.

It’s difficult to envisage how Pep Guardiola’s side can possibly improve on what they have achieved over the past two seasons. And yet there are still some deficiencies to be addressed this summer. In terms of personnel, they could afford to strengthen in some areas before the start of the new season.

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There have been rumours. Atletico Madrid Rodri was deemed to be their number one target. Tanguy Ndombele has also been linked with a move to the Etihad Stadium this summer, although Tottenham Hotspur now seem to have skipped ahead of City in the race to sign the Lyon man.

Ben Chilwell has been mentioned, as has Aaron Wan-Bissaka as doubts around Man City’s current full back options persist. More recently, it has been reported that Joao Felix is edging closer to the Abu Dhabi-owned outfit, with City thought to be willing to loan the teenager back to Benfica for at least one season.

Despite all this speculation Man City have yet to make a single move this summer. The clock is already ticking with the Premier League’s transfer deadline two weeks before the rest of Europe’s. Some have started to suggest that City don’t need to make a signing or two before that deadline passes.

That would be a mistake, though. With Liverpool only getting better with every season under Jurgen Klopp Man City cannot afford to stand still this summer. The Etihad Stadium side have done that before as Premier League champions, both under Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, and have been made to pay the price.

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that history could repeat itself if City start the 2019/20 season with the same squad, especially if Liverpool spend big again this summer. What’s more, Guardiola is still to deliver on the objective he was hired on the basis of on the first place. City are still some way from being European champions.

The best teams always seek to improve on past results no matter how impressive they are. Man City’s results over the past two seasons could barely be more impressive, but that doesn’t mean that they will continue to be impressive indefinitely. City, as they have done in each of the past few years, must spend.

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