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Manchester City

Manchester City round-up: Guardiola demands more; turned down Juventus’ Paulo Dybala; FA Cup selection hints

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has admitted that he needs to change the mindset of his players and make them fear losing, reports in the Mirror claim.

Despite sitting inside the Premier League top four and with an FA Cup semi-final tie at Wembley coming up this weekend, Guardiola confessed his squad needs work ahead of next season.

The Spaniard spent £150 million on the likes of John Stones and Ilkay Gundogan in his first summer at the Etihad, and has acknowledged that his side haven’t reached their full potential this year.

Speaking yesterday, Guardiola said:

“Do the players believe they cannot lose? In that sense we need time to put that belief in the heads and hearts of the players.

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“If you want to become a stronger club and stronger team you cannot drop points at home. Because of our quality, we must demand more. The difference is the mentality, not the quality of the players, which is always there.

“We went out of the Champions League in Monaco and then we played three tough games – against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea – and did not win one of those games.”

City currently sit two points behind third-placed Liverpool with a game in hand and a further four points ahead of fierce rivals Manchester United – although they have a game in hand over the Citizens.

The Mirror have also reported that Manchester City missed out on the chance to sign Juventus superstar Paulo Dybala a few years ago – instead opting to sign flop Wilfried Bony.

The report alleges that the Argentine forward sent a desperate plea to the Manchester side when he was set to leave Palermo, but boss at the time Manuel Pellegrini opted for Bony’s firepower instead.

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Bony – now on a season-long loan at fellow Premier League side Stoke City – managed six goals in 36 appearances after arriving from Swansea in 2015 but failed to stake a claim for a regular role.

By contrast, Dybala – who only cost £2 million more than Bony’s transfer fee of £28 million – has been outstanding during his development at Juventus, scoring 39 goals in just 80 matches since his arrival in Turin, and he scored a sublime brace as the Serie A side swept aside Barcelona last week in Europe.

Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola has dropped hints about his starting eleven for this Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final tie with Arsenal according to reports in the Manchester Evening News.

The City manager hinted that captain Vincent Kompany – scorer of the opening goal in the 3-0 win over Southampton last weekend – will be fit to start consecutive matches for the first time this year.

Speaking to the local outlet, he said:

“Hopefully he can be fit, we are going to see.

“We are going to see how they played against us two weeks ago, what he can do, to make something new and to suppress him a little bit and of course to achieve the final.”

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The Spaniard also dropped a hint over his goalkeeping selection for the date at Wembley, with Willy Caballero looking the likely candidate to return to the side.

“I have two fantastic guys, two fantastic goalkeepers, with Willy and Claudio.

“I do not know which goalkeeper will play next Sunday because I trust a lot in both – maybe two games and then two games.”

With Claudio Bravo starting the last two Premier League matches, it appears that Guardiola could revert back to Cabellero – the goalkeeper he used in cup competitions at the beginning of the season.

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Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.

Manchester City

Manchester City left rattled after Wigan defeat: Is there still hope for their rivals?

After Manchester City’s Monday night defeat to Wigan Athletic, Martyn Cooke questions whether there is still hope for their rivals in the race for silverware this season.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Reuters

For much of this season Manchester City have appeared almost unstoppable with Pep Guardiola’s side nonchalantly brushing aside both domestic and European opposition with apparent ease.

This is demonstrated by City’s sixteen-point lead at the top of the Premier League, their progress to the League Cup final and the knock-out stages of the Champions League – all of which have been achieved without breaking sweat.

Guardiola is undoubtedly building something special at the Etihad and the exciting, dynamic and extravagant attacking style of play that he has implemented is something that should rightly be applauded.

The Spaniard looks certain to begin re-filling City’s trophy cabinet this season, after his debut season in English football ended without silverware, and his team’s performance this campaign continues to enhance his reputation as one of the leading coaches in the modern game.

City have been the proverbial run-away train this season and a host of the most prominent club’s in England and Europe have so far been unable to so much as dent their armour.

However, where others have failed, League One side Wigan Athletic succeeded on Monday evening as Will Grigg’s late goal knocked City out of the FA Cup.

It was a night that City lost their composure both on and off the pitch.

Fabian Delph’s red card in first half stoppage time was debatable, although admittedly his challenge was reckless and could have easily have been avoided, but it set the tone for the evening.

On the pitch, City dominated possession despite their numerical disadvantage but were unable to break down their resilient hosts before Kyle Walker’s mistake gifted Grigg the opportunity to be Wigan’s hero for the evening.

Off the pitch Guardiola appeared to lose his composure on the touchline immediately after Delph’s sending off and was embroiled in a confrontation with Phil Cook that continued in the tunnel as the team’s headed for the dressing rooms at half-time.

The final whistle sparked a pitch invasion from the home supporters that saw Sergio Aguero confronted by a Wigan fan as he attempted to leave the field.

The Argentinian appeared to swing an arm in response and was clearly unhappy by whatever he had seen or heard, with the stewards and police nowhere to be seen.

Meanwhile, a small group of City supporters reacted to the pitch invasion by hurling bottles, coins and advertising hoardings.

It was all rather unsavoury, from all parties involved, and it will not go down as one of City’s most memorable evenings.

Clutching at straws?

On Monday evening, for arguably the first time this season, City looked rattled.

Credit will go to Wigan Athletic, who were organised, resilient and able to capitalise on the numerical advantage that they were handed, but this result will also provide City’s rivals with a timely boost.

This was a reminder that Pep Guardiola’s side are not an invincible force and that they can be beaten.

For the first time a chink has appeared in City’s armour.

Guardiola and his players will not have time to digest Monday’s defeat and now head into a challenging run of fixtures that will possibly determine their season.

On Sunday they have an opportunity to claim the first silverware of the season when they face Arsenal in the League Cup final before facing The Gunners at the Emirates Stadium five days later in the league.

Then there is Chelsea and the second leg of their Champions League tie against FC Basel at home, before potentially tricky back-to-back away games at Stoke City and Everton.

If City’s season is going to unravel then it will happen over the next month or so.

However, the upcoming run of fixtures also provides City with an opportunity to win silverware, further cement their position at the top of the Premier League and capitalise on a four-goal advantage from the first leg of their Champions League tie against Basel.

Even a handful of defeats would not necessarily totally derail their season.

In effect here, we are clutching at straws, but Wigan provided a glimmer of hope that City’s dominance can still be stopped.

It may seem unlikely, but the dent that the Latics made in the armour of Guardiola’s side is the first sign of weakness or frailty that we have seen all season.

Guardiola and his side may still romp to a treble by the end of the campaign, but a League One side had provided the Premier League and clubs in the Champions League that there is still plenty to play for this season.

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Manchester City

Manchester City must guard against complacency

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Photo: Reuters

Manchester City have been absolutely fantastic this season after they failed to pick up any silverware last term, the first time Pep Guardiola has gone a whole season as manager without winning a trophy of some description.

It looked like the Premier League leaders would become the second side to complete an invincible campaign but Liverpool ended their hopes of that with a classic 4-3 win.

After the weekend’s action, the Citizens have a 16-point lead over 2nd-placed Manchester United but must make sure they don’t let that slip away.

It is an extremely tough task for any of the Premier League’s top sides if they want to catch the Citizens but they certainly shouldn’t lose hope of closing that substantial gap.

In the two games after losing to Jürgen Klopp’s side, Man City didn’t falter and scored six goals to earn six more points but in the third match, they failed to beat a resilient Burnley unit.

They drew 1-1 which was disappointing after taking the lead from a scorching Danilo strike in the first-half.

The two results against the Clarets and Liverpool have showed that Pep Guardiola hasn’t built a completely bulletproof team.

The two matches that they have dropped points in since the New Year were against very different teams.

Liverpool are sublime going forward but leave a lot to be desired for at the back, while Burnley are an incredibly tight defensive squad with little cutting edge in attack.

The latter relied on an 82nd-minute ‘smash-and-grab’ equaliser while the former overcame City with a furious nine-minute spell in which they scored three goals to put the fixture beyond doubt.

This should give confidence to every other team in the league as a side who aren’t considered by anyone as one of the Premier League’s ‘big teams’ managed to take points from them.

Man City are facing a few tough fixtures in the league as well as some congestion as they are still fighting on four fronts.

Their next four matches are in four different competitions with one in both the FA Cup and the EFL Cup, and their first leg of the last 16 in the Champions League, before a return to Premier League action.

Their two league games after next week are against Arsenal and Chelsea and while wins in those would be considered as them getting one hand on the title, they could easily slip up.

You can get 21/5  for Chelsea to beat City on Sunday 4th March. For a Man City win, punters can get 8/13 and 29/10 if it’s a Draw.

You can have Man City to beat the Blues in your 5+ Acca Insurance with Coral Betting and if one of your legs lets you down, you’ll receive your stake back.

To win the Premier League, Pep Guardiola’s side currently sit at odds of 1/500, so you’re likely to find more value in the race for the top four, where you can back Chelsea at evens and Arsenal at a HUGE 14/1.

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With four matches in the space of three weeks, including the EFL Cup final and a Champions League match, Manchester City might encounter some injuries and that could be their undoing in the games against Chelsea and Arsenal.

The two London sides have certainly got their problems but the Gunners look like a different animal with a couple of very good January signings while Chelsea can be absolutely fantastic if all of their players are fit and firing, especially Eden Hazard who has been linked with a move to Man City.

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side are in an unbelievable position to go on and win their third Premier League title but as their Spanish boss has said, they aren’t over the line yet and still have a lot of work to do over the next 12 matches.

It would be unimaginable for them to let their lead at the top of the table slip but a run of poor results or a bad set of injured players and they could be in a bit of trouble.

However, they are still on for a sublime quadruple and at the end of this month they have the chance to win their first piece of silverware in the EFL Cup final against Arsenal.

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Leicester City

Manchester City 5-1 Leicester City: Sergio Aguero issues timely reminder to Pep Guardiola

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the Etihad as Manchester City dismantled challengers Leicester City, 5-1, to continue their pursuit of the Premier League title.

Rob Meech

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Manchester City
Photo: Reuters

Sergio Aguero scored four second-half goals as Manchester City blitzed Leicester City to take another step towards the Premier League title.

Raheem Sterling’s third-minute opener was cancelled out by Jamie Vardy, as both teams went into half-time level-pegging.

Then came the fireworks.

Aguero netted his first on 48 minutes before putting another three past Kasper Schmeichel, with his fourth and final goal coming on the 90-minute mark.

City’s victory, coupled with Manchester United’s surprising 1-0 defeat to Newcastle United, extended their advantage at the top to the table to 16 points.

Leicester, meanwhile, remain in eighth spot despite enduring a torrid evening at the hands of Aguero and co.

Here are three talking points…

Aguero issues a timely reminder to Pep Guardiola

There is only one place to start.

At times, this has been a difficult season for the Argentinian sharpshooter, who has often played second fiddle to Gabriel Jesus in the crunch fixtures and cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines.

However, the Brazilian’s injury opened the door for Aguero and he has barged through, reminding Pep Guardiola why he can still play a major role as City fight on three fronts; in the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.

Aguero was at his predatory best against a Leicester side that were far too accommodating in the second period and, with Kevin de Bruyne pulling the strings in behind, the Argentine has the perfect foil.

All the talk right now is about Harry Kane, but Aguero is only two goals behind the Tottenham man in the goalscoring charts, after netting in his seventh straight game at the Etihad.

This tally has also seen the 29-year-old surpass 20 goals for the fourth successive season.

Off-field issues undermine Leicester

With such a major distraction off the pitch this week, a visit to the runaway leaders was not the ideal fixture for Leicester manager Claude Puel.

Riyad Mahrez had dominated the headlines in light of his failure to report for training.

A U-turn saw him make himself available for the City clash, but at such short notice he was only afforded a place in the substitutes bench, coming on just after the hour mark.

Mahrez has acted unprofessionally after a deadline-day move to City was blocked by the club and he will have bridges to build with the club’s supporters.

When Vardy scored for the fourth game in succession to equalise, those fans would have hoped that they could return to the Midlands with a point.

Alas, City flexed their muscles after the interval and extinguished such aspirations.

But Leicester, in the comfort of eighth spot, can hopefully look forward with their best player back in the right frame of mind.

De Bruyne sparkles like a real diamond

This week, Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard was honoured with Belgium’s player of the year award.

Perhaps that was the spur for de Bruyne to produce another virtuoso performance.

He was always at the heart of City’s attacking play, the conductor of the orchestra who is at the peak of his powers.

De Bruyne assisted City’s first three goals to take his tally for the season to 14 – four more than his nearest challenger.

The cross that teed up Sterling was perfectly weighted, so was the delivery that enabled Aguero to open his account.

Another sumptuous ball from de Bruyne for the Argentinian left him with the opportunity to double his tally, which he duly took.

Football is subjective, but it is hard to believe at present there is a better midfielder in Europe than de Bruyne – that includes Hazard.

Belgium are fortunate to have them both in their ranks.

Wrapping them up in cotton wool will be crucial to their World Cup bid.

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