Manchester City captain Fernandinho has said winning the Premier League title this season would be especially sweet.
The 37-year-old Brazilian midfielder is set to leave the Etihad Stadium at the end of the season after nine years at the club.
Reigning champions City have been involved in a protracted battle for the title with Liverpool but established a three-point lead at the top of the table last weekend by thrashing Newcastle 5-0 while their rivals could only draw 1-1 at home to Tottenham Hotspur.
It was just the result City needed after an agonising 6-5 aggregate semi-final loss to Real Madrid still left them waiting for a first European Champions League title after they conceded two goals in the closing seconds of normal time.
“Every title is sweet,” Fernandinho, bidding for his fifth Premier League winner’s medal, told reporters.
“It’s going to be one more… with a little more sugar.
“It was a great response but at the same time we are focusing on ourselves and know the title is in our hands.”
He added: “It doesn’t matter what they do over there, we have to keep going through all the hard games.
“This is what we are trying to do, focus on ourselves, but I thought it was a great response after defeat in Madrid, especially for our fans and ourselves because when you lose a match like this, the confidence can go a little bit down.
“But not just the result, the performance overall was really good and we are really happy about that.”
One downside for City in their win over Newcastle was when Ruben Dias went off injured at half-time.
The Portuguese has now joined fellow defenders John Stones and Kyle Walker among City’s casualty list, with none of the trio expected to play again this season.
Fernandinho, deployed as a makeshift centre-back after Dias’s departure, said: “We have some injury issues now but — at the end of the season — that is normal.”
Manchester City captain Fernandinho shocked manager Pep Guardiola by saying Tuesday he planned to leave the English champions at the end of the season.
The 36-year-old former Brazil international, who has won four Premier League titles since joining City from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013, revealed his intentions at a pre-match press conference ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg away to Atletico Madrid.
Fernandinho, asked if he would like to extend his stay at the Etihad for another year, replied: “No, I want to play regularly. I will go back to Brazil. I decided with my family, which is the most important for me.”
Guardiola, alongside the midfielder at the press conference, was taken aback by his skipper’s announcement.
“Oh! I didn’t know. You give me the news,” he said. “I didn’t hear it. We will see what happens. I don’t know what will happen.”
“He is so important. I’ll ask him,” the Spaniard insisted.
Guardiola said Fernandinho had been “an incredible player for Manchester City”.
The manager added: “At the end of the season we talk, maybe it’s because of his family. I would love it. We will talk.”
– ‘Honest and spontaneous’ –
Fernandinho later took to social media to clarify his comments.
“I was 100 percent honest and spontaneous in answering that question at today’s press conference,” he wrote in a Twitter post.
“But anyone who knows me also knows that my greatest honesty is with Man City and my duties as team captain.”
English champions City still lead the Premier League by a point from Liverpool after last weekend’s 2-2 draw with the Merseysiders, who also provide their opposition in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday.
“My focus is 100 percent on winning all the titles we are playing for and I will only talk about my future at the end of the season,” Fernandinho added in another Twitter post. “Let’s keep pushing.”
Fernandinho made his last start for City in a home Champions League tie against Sporting Lisbon in early March.
But Guardiola said his club captain remained an important figure at the Etihad.
“The role he plays this season – I like the people who behave behind the scenes,” he explained.
“I know what he has done, behind me, he handles many of our players and stars for the benefit of the team.
“I praise him and he was here when I arrived. Raheem (Sterling), Kevin (De Bruyne), John (Stones), a few players. We know him well, from day one to now always here.
“An incredible player for Man City. There are things nobody knows but I know exactly.”
City, yet to be crowned kings of Europe after losing last season’s Champions League final to English rivals Chelsea, will travel to Spain with a 1-0 lead from the first leg thanks to a goal from De Bruyne.
Guardiola revealed defender Ruben Dias had returned to training and would travel with the squad.
The Portugal centre-half had been sidelined since early March with a thigh injury.
“Maybe (he will play on Wednesday), I don’t know,” said Guardiola.
Manchester City’s Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (C) celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Cardiff City at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on April 3, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP
Fernandinho says Manchester City’s desire to fight “like animals” is fuelling their Premier League title charge as they strive to hold off Liverpool.
Pep Guardiola’s City returned to the top of the table with victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
The 2-0 win, from their game in hand, took City a point above Liverpool with three matches remaining for both sides.
It was their 11th successive league win and followed a similarly important victory over Tottenham, which came after the disappointment of Champions League elimination at the hands of the same opponents.
“We showed the desire in competing for every ball like animals,” said City midfielder Fernandinho after the United match. “I think this is the spirit of a team that wants to be champions.
“It was not just Wednesday — in general every game, especially last Saturday, after the ‘defeat’ against Tottenham, in the way we played from the first minute (City won the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final 4-3 but went out on away goals)
“If you look back to January, they (Liverpool) could have been 10 points clear after our game. We didn’t want that.
“We reduced the gap to four points and now we are one point up. That is the way the Premier League is going to be decided and I hope we can do our job and win those three games, and be champions again.”
The derby, settled with second-half goals from Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane, was regarded as the toughest hurdle left facing the defending champions in their run-in.
Yet with the lead just a slender one, Fernandinho is aware there is still little room for error.
Liverpool, who face already relegated Huddersfield on Friday, will likely be back at the summit before City play their next game at Burnley on Sunday.
The Brazilian said: “Burnley are always difficult. They have a specific way to play and it is not easy to go there. They drew with Chelsea last Monday.
“We have to recover as soon as possible and try to be fit and be ready. It is going to be a very important, very difficult game for us.”
Fernandinho is a fitness doubt himself after being withdrawn early in the second half on Wednesday with a knee problem. He was due to have a scan and be assessed ahead of the weekend.
Pep Guardiola has acknowledged finding a long-term replacement for Fernandinho is becoming a matter of increasing urgency for Manchester City.
The 33-year-old Brazilian has become one of the most important players in City’s line-up during Guardiola’s three seasons at the club, with his hard work and passing ability as a holding midfielder providing both securities in front of the defence and scope for the team to attack.
Reigning champions City have lost just one of the 19 Premier League matches in which Fernandinho has played, whereas they have been defeated in both of the games he has missed.
Guardiola does not appear to have a deputy of the same quality — John Stones, normally a center-back, struggled in the role when Crystal Palace won at the Etihad Stadium on December 22, while Ilkay Gundogan has not been entirely convincing either.
City have been linked with a move for Frankie de Jong from Ajax at the end of this season, but the Dutch midfielder is attracting significant interest from other clubs too.
Guardiola acknowledges he cannot expect Fernandinho, signed from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013, to play as much for City as he gets older, adding a solution has to be found for next season.
“It’s not easy to find the specific quality of the players,” said Guardiola.
“Maybe there aren’t many, but there are players who can play in that role.”
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss added: “Specifically with Fernandinho’s role, it’s so difficult to find. He knows the Premier League, after three years together here, he knows everything and that’s so important.
“But, of course, for the next season, it’s an important target to find. He’ll be 34 and he cannot play every few days.”
There have been reports in British newspapers suggesting Wolves’ Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves may be a long-term replacement for Fernandinho, although their roles are slightly different.
Neves, whose Wolves side visit the Etihad on Monday, tends to play as one of two holding midfielders, whereas Fernandinho performs that role on his own in the City line-up.
“Ruben Neves is an excellent player,” said Guardiola, whose second-placed side will be looking to cut Liverpool’s seven-point lead at the top of the table.
“The system at Wolves involves playing with two holding midfielders, not just one. But he’s an excellent player.
“There are many clubs in the world, many holding midfielders in the world, and most of them can play here. That’s not the point. The point is that most of them are under contracts.”
But Guardiola insisted, for all City’s wealth, there were limits to even their transfer budget.
“A month ago, I started reading: ‘Ruben Neves, £100 million ($129 million, 112 million euros)’. That is not going to happen. We are not going to pay £100 million for a holding midfielder.
“Of course, all departments in the club, we have in every position four or five or six options (potential targets) –- depending on age, what we believe and, of course, the price.”
‘Nuts’ with the agents
Despite the likelihood of losing out on De Jong, Guardiola has no qualms over the work being done by City director of football Txiki Begiristain and his team to bring in top-class players.
“I would say they are incredible, top at what they are doing. It looks simple but it’s not simple. It looks easy but it’s not easy,” said Guardiola.
“I am in touch quite often with Txiki, especially, because he is close to my door. I know exactly what they do, with the (City) academy, with the first team and they are doing it really well.”
“But sometimes it doesn’t depend on us,” said the Catalan manager.
“You have to pay the club, pay the family and talk with the players, and with the agents, it’s nuts. It’s complicated, so, so complicated.”
Chelsea rallied from a goal down to overcome Manchester City and stretch their winning sequence to eight Premier League matches.
Gary Cahill’s own goal gave City the lead but strikes from Diego Costa, Willian and Eden Hazard earned Antonio Conte’s side victory.
Chelsea fell behind when Cahill’s attempted interception looped over Thibaut Courtois but, moments after Kevin De Bruyne hit the bar, the Blues levelled.
Costa took his goal tally to 11 for the season with a turn and shot on the hour and 10 minutes later Willian produced a second, celebrating by holding aloft his armband honouring the victims of the Chapecoense air disaster.
Hazard’s late breakaway goal decided matters before Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho were sent off.
Kevin De Bruyne and Fernandinho both scored to hand Manchester City a 2-2 first-leg draw at Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.
The two away goals give the English side the edge in their Champions League quarter-final tie.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic had his penalty saved by City goalkeeper Joe Hart as the Premier League side twice punished defensive mistakes by their hosts to get the two goals.
De Bruyne put City ahead on 38 minutes, only for Ibrahimovic to level after an embarrassing mix-up in the visitors’ defence soon after.
Adrien Rabiot then put PSG ahead just before the hour, but Fernandinho made it 2-2 on 72 minutes and ensured the French giants will be chasing the tie in next Tuesday’s second leg.
In Germany, Ricardo Rodriguez and Maximilian Arnold were the goal scorers as German side Wolfsburg dealt a 2-0 blow to Real Madrid’s hopes of taking the Champions League crown this season.
Playing in their first quarterfinal in the competition, Wolfsburg bullied the Spanish giant to earn a good chance of making the last four.
Ricardo Rodriguez had converted a penalty in the 18th minute after Casemiro was adjudged to have fouled Andre Schurrle inside the area.
Arnold then added the second in the 25th minute as the home side used counterattacks to devastating effect at the Volkswagen Arena.
Madrid created a number of chances to pull one back, with Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo all threatening, but they were unable to beat goalkeeper Diego Benaglio for an important away goal.
An injury to Karim Benzema added to a poor night for the visitors who came into the match following a 2-1 win over Barcelona in the Spanish league “clasico”.
Ironically, Wolfsburg have been struggling in the Bundesliga.
Both sides meet again at the Santiago Bernabeu on April 12 for the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal.
Premier League club, Manchester City, has laid down a significant early marker by beating Chelsea 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium.
The goals scorers were Sergio Aguero Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho.
Aguero opened the scoring at the 31st minute while Kompany scored at the 79th minute.
Not long after Eden Hazard was given a yellow card, Fernandinho sealed a win with the winning goal in the 85th minute.
After the match, the Manchester City boss, Manuel Pellegrini, said that his team had a lot of criticisms, but were always the scoring team.
“I am very proud of this team. We have had a lot of criticism but we are always the most scoring team. We won two titles and last year we finished in second place and I continue playing this side. This is the side fans deserve.”
The City boss also said that the most pleasing thing to him about the match is the fact that his side scored three goals.
“Two things are the most pleasing to me about this match. Number one to score three goals. In the first half we played really well, just Asmir Begoivc put in a great performance and we didn’t score more.
“Second it was important to get a clean sheet. To win 3-0 in two games, one against the champions, we are just starting the season but it’s important to play in the way we did today. A lot of criticism but we are always the most scoring team,” he said.
Uwe Rosler believes Manuel Pellegrini should bring in a change in system for his former club to gain a positive result in their visit to local rivals Manchester United on Sunday.
The former Manchester City striker watched City’s 2-1 defeat at Crystal Palace on Monday, which left Pellegrini’s side a point behind their Manchester rivals in the Barclays Premier League going into this weekend’s encounter at Old Trafford.
City kept 75% of possession and created 14 chances in their defeat at Selhurst Park, leaving Rosler heartened by their performance, but the defending Barclays Premier League champions have slipped to fourth after losing three of their last five league matches.
Speaking on Premier League TV, Rosler said deploying Yaya Toure behind Sergio Aguero as a lone striker could help combat the possession football played by United.
“[Against Crystal Palace] They gave everything,” Rosler said. “David Silva, in my opinion, was outstanding. They lacked a bit of belief after the second goal for 20 minutes, but then Samir Nasri came on and gave them new momentum. But that is done now and you have a good week of preparation before the derby.
“With Dzeko not in the best form, maybe play with one striker and have Yaya Toure as the second one in behind and give him a little bit more of a free role.
“Fernandinho was good [against Palace] and Milner can play in the centre of the park, very disciplined, very solid. Then you have a team to attack as well as being solid in defence.
“His [Manuel Pellegrini’s] strength is he believes in his system, in the way he’s playing. It gave him success, he won titles with that. But sometimes you don’t go away from your philosophy but sometimes you can’t take everyone on with two strikers. Sometimes it’s good to adjust a bit to your opposition without adjusting your beliefs.”
Dropping Dzeko would be a surprise because the Bosnian has enjoyed good form at Old Trafford, scoring four goals there over the past three seasons but Rosler stressed the importance of avoiding defeat in the derby for City, who can return to second this weekend if they win and Arsenal slip up at Burnley on Saturday.
“Manchester City can’t afford to lose that game,” Rosler, who scored 29 goals in 78 BPL matches for City, said.
“It’s very important for the whole club, the manager, to finish the season on a positive note, with the positive momentum, and that means going to Old Trafford and getting a result.”