Tottenham reach their Mount Everest in stunning Champions League win over Manchester City

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Admit it, who really thought that Tottenham would see a way past Manchester City- a club who have poured hundreds of millions of English pounds into their team to win the Champions League- but that is what Tottenham did. The very same Tottenham who bought no players in either transfer window this season and then lost Harry Kane to injury.

This week which saw the fall of Juventus and their £100m Ronaldo gamble to the youth of Ajax and the grace and sheer class of Lionel Messi’s one man show for Barcelona against Manchester United, there was an even bigger story that will live on in the hearts of football fans everywhere.

Tottenham playing Manchester City was always going to be a big draw- indeed any two teams from the same country playing each other in the latter stage knock outs of the Champions League means the football world will pay attention. Unfortunately though there is an uncanny way for these games to play out with very few goals and a cagey nervous affair where each team cancels out each other- the 2003 Champions League final anyone? When Milan only seized victory over Juventus in a penalty shoot out after spending 120 minutes consoling over a 0-0 result.

In some ways this is how the first leg of this match did play out. City remained the favourites but it was Tottenham who got a 1-0 victory- their first European game at their new stadium no less, through a Son Heung-Min goal. Ever the darer and the saviour for Tottenham this season, the South Korean player has stepped up in the past 12 months. For City they played an unusual game, desperate for clear cut chances and perhaps some of the blame could have gone to coach Pep Guardiola with his tactics and starting choices. Those decisions looked like it would be made up for the 2nd leg, but let’s face it nobody was prepared for what would happen at the Etihad.

Going into the crucial next match, City knew that they had to score two goals or they would be out. It took them less than 250 seconds to get the first goal through the irreplaceable Raheem Sterling. And then something quite wonderful (if you’re not a City fan happened) because it was at the stage when ball left Son and hit the back of the net for Tottenham’s equaliser that Spurs, the team that play great football, but the pretenders to titles did not read the script.

When Son struck again to put the Londoners 2-1 up three minutes later all of a sudden all of the hard work behind the scenes, rooted in the tiresome work of Mauricio Pochettino and his coaching staff and the vision of club owner Daniel Levy came to the forefront, and we could embrace the fact that this club, Spurs, have stepped up to another level, one not seen in a generation.

That didn’t mean that Guardiola’s side were dead on their feet, no team at home that plays such beautiful attacking football was suddenly going to give up, with 80 minutes still to play City had time on their side. They needed to score 3 goals and one was pulled back 60 seconds after Son had roared away with a semi final and Ajax in his sights. Bernardo Silva was the man to give City hope and ten minutes after that Sterling struck again- this was madness. We had witnessed 5 goals in 21 barnstorming moments of English football, played mostly by wonderful continental footballers in a European Cup setting. There had been a goal every 4 mins and 20 seconds, and it felt too much even, you didn’t know what was going to happen next. And it got better.

The first half ended 3-2 to City who now only needed one more goal to go through. As the second half got underway it was apparent that the Goliath which is City was steadily taking the game away from the David which was Spurs. City were playing their game and most notably the Belgian Kevin De Bruyne so cruelly not picked by Guardiola to start in the first leg was playing one of his best matches this season, and when it mattered, underlining just how important he is to the side.

Just before the hour mark Tottenham’s dream inevitably caved in when Sergio Aguero (who else)? made it 4-2 to City, and now City were going through to only their second semi final. Tottenham had to score but it was City controlling the pace of the game. And yet as crazy as the match was playing out, you knew Tottenham would get their chance and 14 minutes later the ball fell to Fernando Llorente who with a hip, elbow? and force- got the ball in the net. If any doubts persisted on the legality of the goal then VAR crushed it and Tottenham got their goal. Now they were going through and City were going out.

City attacked, Spurs stayed firm and the minutes closed in- neutral football fans couldn’t breathe, to be a fan of either club defined a new term in squeaky bum syndrome and yet the drama was not over. City needed another goal and as the 90th minute came and went all looked lost until Sterling scored again- it was in, the goal sent Sterling, the fans and Guardiola into euphoria, until VAR flagged up an incident. Was Sergio Aguero offside when the ball was played back in? Hearts in mouths, and what drama, the time ticked by in the real world but stood still for the 53,000 fans inside the stadium. The verdict came back…. Goal denied- City were out of the Champions League and Tottenham had reached their first European Cup semi final in 57 years and their first ever Champions League one.

It was an incredible night of football- with the players as much as VAR in the end playing its role. City could feel hard done by- without VAR they would most probably have squeezed through, but with justice intended they didn’t. And one would have to criticise a team at this stage of the competition for conceding 4 goals over 2 games. Yes Tottenham did the same, but for City the Champions League was supposed to be the one endearing trophy that the club have been wanting to win.

As for Tottenham they have a new role, as the remaining last 4 team. They will play Ajax- unfortunate for them it is an Ajax who look back to their best, they have already knocked out Real Madrid and Juventus from this competition. If they get past that test it is Liverpool or Barcelona in the final.

As for this game it will be remembered as one of the most exciting Champions League matches and will be talked about for some time. And there will be no love lost between the clubs who in less than 72 hours will do this all over again in the Premier League in the same stadium, one can only imagine what will happen….

 

 

 

Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City – how Pep Guardiola got it wrong

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“I don’t feel we played badly, we created chances and we controlled the game,” said Pep Guardiola post Manchester City’s Champions League defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. Yes, perhaps the Premier League leaders did have 59% possession of the ball but with 10 shots at goal and just two on target, Tuesday night’s performance is just the latest that shows Manchester City aren’t just as clinical as they shown previously. Guardiola’s side have scored 23 fewer league goals this season and with just six Premier League games remaining, it’s unlikely they’ll beat last season’s EPL tally of 106. Continue reading

Manchester City have a problem, they are not scoring enough goals

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Manchester City are still on course to win the quadruple and create history this season and whilst the club are winning games and staying competitive, they have one problem- they are not scoring enough goals.

Sure winning 1-0 or 7-0 is still 3 points and still a victory but at the same time champions-elect teams usually win bigger and better and that is not what we are seeing from Pep Guardiola’s team. This is a team which is basically Barcelona mark 2, and yet the goals are not always flowing. The other worry weirdly enough is that City are playing excellent football and dominating games and creating so many chances- if they play a poor team and miss some clear cut chances, they will get another chance? What happens if they are playing quality and they do it- it could be the difference between staying in a competition and going out.

When did City stop scoring goals? It started with the Carabao Cup final where in 120 minutes of football they couldn’t score a goal against a team in Chelsea that a few days before they had put 6 goals past. In the end what did it matter, they won on penalties and picked up their first trophy of the season.

Their next league game was at home to West Ham, and they were expected to thrash The Hammers- they had in the past- and whilst they dominated the game they only won 1-0. At such a slight score they obviously left themselves open to a shock equaliser which would have dented their league title chances. Where was that 2nd goal?

Another 1-0 win followed at Bournemouth. Should a multi millionaire team be putting their fans through so much heartache? A tasty 3-1 victory against Watford followed but all 3 goals came in the 2nd half. Back to the cup matches and they had no problems when they destroyed Schalke 7-0 in the Champions League making a mockery in the process of the lack of quality that can make the knock out stages. A lucky 3-2 win in the FA Cup over Swansea followed, But at least the goals had rolled back- 10 in their last 2 games. But again in the league those goals would be tuned down.

The clubs next two games were against two bottom three teams in Fulham and Cardiff, both wins so no complaints but 4 goals scored in those matches when it should have been 10. Last weekend City took a break from the league and made it to the FA Cup final when they beat Brighton 1-0 in a dour semi final that could have gone either way.

Again it seems harsh to criticise City because they are getting the wins and playing great football. But evidently they are not scoring as many goals as they should do. This may not bode well for the remaining games, the crunch ones, or perhaps the team will have the final trick on us and are just saving themselves. Whatever the deal it will be a fascinating end to the season for the club.

Can Manchester City win the quadruple?

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After victory over Cardiff City last night which took Manchester City back to the top of the Premier League, a question must be asked, can they win the quadruple?

City have of course already won the league cup in England, not only are they in 1st place in the league but they are also in the semi finals of the FA Cup. They have also qualified for the Champions League quarter final stage. Everything does look set up for Pep Guardiola’s men although there are some very important matches still to come and very tough weeks ahead.

Of course 20 years ago it was the other half of Manchester that was sweeping up trophies as Manchester United won the treble of the Champions League, The League title and the FA Cup. But their rivals City could go one better this season.

Guardiola has already won the quadruple with Barcelona in 2009, in fact he ended up winning six trophies that year as the team won the super cup and then went on to win the FIFA World Club Cup. But how realistic is it that City could win it?

In the league City are locked in a fierce battle with Liverpool to win it. Though City are a point ahead Liverpool could go back on top on Friday night. Although City hold the slight advantage as they have a game in hand, that extra game is away to Manchester United their biggest rivals, so 3 points are not certain. That fight looks like it will go down to the wire.

In the FA Cup City will face Brighton in the semi finals and they will be big favourites to get through to the final where they will either play Wolves or Watford. On paper you would say City will win, but let’s not forget how well Wolves and Watford have done in the league this season and they have become the best of the rest with some impressive results and remain a threat.

Finally in the Champions League City have got to the last eight where they will face Tottenham. This all English match should be a fantastic spectacle and even though City will be favourites to advance to the semi finals we must remember that Tottenham have been strong in this competition this season and have their brand new stadium to boot.

If City can get past Tottenham they would face either Ajax or Juventus in the semi finals, with the possibility of playing Liverpool or Barcelona in a final if form went the way it could. How ironic for Guardiola if he was to have the chance to win a quadruple to face his former side Barcelona in a final.

City may fall short but they have given themselves a fantastic chance to make some history this season.

Liverpool or Manchester City for the Premier League title- The Run in is analysed

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Liverpool have just 6 games left to play in the Premier League and Manchester City have 7 games as the league nears the end. Who will win it out of these two? Liverpool have the advantage of a two point lead but of course City have that extra game which is in theory away to bitter rivals Manchester United, so not an easy one. We look below to see who could end up winning the league.

Manchester City:

Cardiff- The first team Manchester City will play on their quest for back to back titles is Cardiff. City are at home where they have lost just once this season and will be massive favourites to beat 18th placed Cardiff. At the same time Cardiff are fighting for survival, but City will have too much quality for them and should win  3pts.

Crystal Palace- After the Cardiff game City will be involved in the FA Cup and Champions League before facing Palace in mid April. This could be a tricky tie as we all remember Palace beating City at the Etihad 3-2 in a stunning result. Whilst there will be scares along the way City should be able to squeeze past Palace in a very nervous game. 3pts.

Tottenham Hotspur- This match is bizarre scheduling given that just 3 days earlier the two teams would have clashed in the 2nd leg of the Champions League. By this point depending if City have beaten Tottenham in that competition we think City could be physically drained and we will back the draw for this match. 1pt.

Manchester United- Two very difficult games against top 4 sides and that could be the key to whether City win the league or not. They will be away to their biggest rival. At the same time let it be known that United will not be partial to help Liverpool win the league. City will save themselves over the Tottenham game for this one, and we have seen cracks in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, so we will go with the away win. 3pts.

Burnley- The way Cardiff are playing it could make survival easier for Burnley by this point and the players could be switched off against  a very motivated City side. Not only do we expect a win but there could be quite a few goals too. 3pts.

Leicester- Leicester have been confident under new coach Brendan Rodgers but what are they really fighting for 7th place? The truth is that this is another home game for City who should be able to outclass Leicester. Rodgers is ex Liverpool so will tell his players to give everything for this game but expect City to just pip them. 3pts

Brighton- Brighton will be more than safe by this point and that is why we should see a calm game where City ease to a professional victory, we can’t see City losing any more games this season and this should be another win. 3pts.

 

Liverpool:

Southampton- No one is saying it but the game against Southampton will be key to Liverpool’s title chances. The Saints are in great form and can give Liverpool a tough game. We think they can beat them, as Liverpool tend to underrate them. 0pts.

Chelsea- Chelsea look very weak defensively against the better teams and given this match is an Anfield we expect Liverpool to win. But it is also a game where Chelsea can be dangerous and do have the quality. But Liverpool should have enough. 3pts.

Cardiff- It looks like Cardiff will be going down, could they be down or be on the edge by this match? If so Liverpool can come here and score quite a few goals. We think either way they will win fairly easily. 3pts.

Huddersfield- No disrespect to Huddersfield but this game at Anfield has the potential to be a cricket score. They are already down and Liverpool should still be in the hunt for the league title. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Liverpool hit six goals in this match. 3pts.

Newcastle United: Another sure fire 3pts. Rafa Benitez will ensure that Newcastle don’t exactly have their gear sticks on 6, as he will want his former club to win the league. Plus Newcastle are very safe and can’t really significantly move up the table. 3pts.

Wolves: Wolves have been fantastic this season but have still struggled on the road and we expect  Anfield to be a show of emotion whether Liverpool still have a chance of the league or not, and this will be a battering ram of a performance by them. 3pts

After totalling up the points we have the final league looking like this:

1st Manchester City 96pts

2nd Liverpool  94pts

 

 

Focus turns back to the EPL title race this weekend

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Like any good story, there are sure to be plenty more twists in the tale of the title race over the next seven weeks.

It’s looking very likely that the matter may only be decided on Sunday, May 12th, the final matchday of the Premier League season.

As we approach the end of the last international break during this league campaign, the players and managers at Liverpool and Manchester City will be gearing up for that final sprint.

They will know all too well that whoever can hit the ground running in the best possible manner this weekend will carry an advantage that may be hard for their opponents to overcome between now and May.

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The brilliance of Pep Guardiola has made Raheem Sterling a world class player

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It has been apparent that every time Manchester City are scoring so is their striker Raheem Sterling and the forward is now repeating that trick with the England national team.

Sterling was on hand for Gareth Southgate’s team when they destroyed Czech Republic in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier which ended in a 5-0 win for the English. Sterling no less scored a hat trick, but it was the way he done it, the way that he has manned up over the last 3 months which is attracting fans of the game.

Let’s make no mistake that Sterling has always been seen as a good solid player that can score goals, but one whose career could just have passed in by. Look at his club Manchester City and the wealth of talent that they have including Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus for scoring goals. But Sterling has risen alongside those players and at times in the past few months has surpassed them. He is scoring goals but he is also creating them, and his finishing is second to none.

Southgate is now seeing the very best of a player who has spent just the right amount of time under his club manager Pep Guardiola to get the best out of him. There is no doubt that Sterling has matured and become the complete player under Guardiola, who could have seen that coming when Sterling was being coached by Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool a few years ago? In one infamous clip on you tube he gets told off by Rodgers during a training session. But in just 4 short years Sterling has gone from potential to a world class player.

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It is telling of course that 4 years ago Xavi of Barcelona admitted that Sterling could play for Barcelona, he saw him as that good and Sterling has shown the world just how good he has been banging in goals for City at club and Champions League level. He has gone from being the incomplete player that could save his team and then have inconsistent games, usually going down too easily, to someone who has toughened up and scoring almost at freewill his form has been so good.

Sterling also has a finesse about him, a majority of his goals lately have been sublime reminding one of the likes of Thierry Henry or a vintage Marco van Basten. At just 24 Sterling has the world at his feet and his near £50m switch from Liverpool to City now seems like a bargain.

With such a close title run in with his former team this season, it would be ironic if Sterling was to end up being the difference.

Manchester City: International duty watch

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Just as Manchester City regained control over Liverpool in the race for the Premier League title, international football kicked in. Let’s face it, we all love it at such a vital stage in the season. A total of 13 players from Pep Guardiola’s first team have been called up to their respective nations with Euro 2016 qualifiers, friendlies, Africa Cup of National qualifiers and U21 in full swing. Continue reading

Can Manchester City pull off a quadruple winning season?

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Pep Guardiola’s quadruple hopes are well and truly alive, just, after Manchester City fought back from two goals down against Swansea City in the FA Cup. Sergio Aguero clinched City’s place in the semi-final – of which they’ll play Brighton and Hove Albion – with a goal two minutes from time to complete a comeback against a fighting Swansea. Continue reading

EPL Player of the Week – Raheem Sterling (Man City)

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Life at the top is certainly tough! The old adage that it is harder to defend a title than to win it has certainly seemed apt in recent Premier League seasons, with champions often finding themselves struggling to put up a serious defence the year after lifting the trophy. That has not been the case this year, however, with Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions Manchester City sitting on top of the league table with just a handful of games remaining. Liverpool seem to be the only genuine contenders to City’s crown, with the Reds sitting just one point behind the Citizens at the time of writing.It is imperative, therefore, that City’s players continue their excellent run of form as the season begins to wind down.

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