Champions League: Guardiola Wants More As Man City Beat Moenchengladbach 

(l to R) Manchester City’s French defender Aymeric Laporte, Manchester City’s Portuguese defender Ruben Dias and Manchester City’s English defender Kyle Walker react after the UEFA Champions League, last 16, 1st-leg football match Borussia Moenchengladbach v Manchester City at the Puskas Arena in Budapest on February 24, 2021. (Photo by Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP)

 

Manchester City moved to the verge of the Champions League quarter-finals with a 2-0 win over Borussia Moenchengladbach on Wednesday but coach Pep Guardiola insisted his team still need to “be more clinical upfront”.

A first-half header from Bernardo Silva and a Gabriel Jesus strike in the second period of the last 16 first leg tie extended a winning streak by Guardiola’s high-flying side to 19 games in all competitions.

Premier League leaders City camped inside the Gladbach half for most of the game, which was moved to Hungary due to Germany’s Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Although dominant, City took time to break down a stubborn German defence, often foiled by the interceptions of Algeria left-back Ramy Bensebaini.

While Guardiola said afterwards he was “pleased” with the result, he added City “have to improve” to challenge for Champions League honours.

“We controlled the game. Unfortunately we were not clinical up front, it is something we have to improve in this competition, we were not good enough in the box, we didn’t dribble and shoot enough,” said Guardiola.

“In this competition you have to be perfect to be sure you can go through,” he said.

Debutants in the Champions League knockout stages, Gladbach had been urged by coach Marco Rose to be brave against Guardiola’s side.

France’s Alassane Plea was almost through on goal on 20 minutes after a rare counterattack, but a nervy and deep-lying Gladbach eventually succumbed to mounting pressure in the 29th minute.

A sublime inch-perfect cross by Portuguese defender Joao Cancelo curled over the defence from the left to reach his compatriot Silva who flicked his close-range header past Yann Sommer.

“We tried to play simple and not make mistakes. It’s a good win for us, but it’s not over yet,” Silva told BT Sport.

“Every time when he plays (Silva) is an exceptional player, he’s really good in the air, the goal was fantastic how he finished it,” said Guardiola.

The 26-year-old Cancelo, impressive throughout, nearly doubled the lead five minutes from the break but his shot from just outside the box pinged over the bar.

Then early in the second half Jesus should have converted after latching on to a poorly judged backpass by Bensebaini but saw his shot blocked by Swiss defender Nico Elvedi.

Apart from a lunging backheel from Plea that flashed just wide of Ederson’s far post on the hour mark, City comfortably contained the Germans, and went two up in the 65th minute.

Another majestic cross-field pass by Cancelo again found Silva at Sommer’s far post who this time headed back across the goalmouth for Jesus to fire home and seal City’s 19th successive victory and sixth Champions League clean sheet in a row.

Gladbach, who managed just one shot on target throughout the game, an effort by substitute Hannes Wolf saved by Ederson in the last moments, now face a formidable task to turn around the tie in the return leg scheduled for March 16 in Manchester.

“We deservedly lost today against a very strong team, you don’t get many chances against such an opponent, we simply couldn’t attack more,” said Rose

“It would have been good to score at the end to be in a better position.”

 

AFP

Arsenal Boss Arteta Hails Man City As ‘Best In Europe’

Arsenal’s Spanish manager Mikel Arteta applauds during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Leeds United at the Emirates Stadium in London on February 14, 2021.
PHOTO: Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP

 

Mikel Arteta believes his Arsenal team will be facing the best side in Europe when they take on Premier League leaders Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

City have won a club-record 17 successive games across all competitions and are 10 points ahead of local rivals Manchester United at the summit of the English top-flight heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures.

Arteta knows City well after working under manager Pep Guardiola in Manchester for three years before returning to manage Arsenal, having previously played for the Gunners.

“I think they are the best team in Europe at the moment,” Arteta said of City. “The way they are performing, the football they are playing and the consistency of the results, take all that it and it makes them the best team.

“So we have a big but, as well, a very exciting challenge ahead of us on Sunday.”

City made an uncertain start to the season but are now hot favourites to win a third Premier League title in four years

Arteta said he was impressed by how they had regained their form.

READ ALSO; Turkish Cup: Super Falcons Defeat CSKA Moscow In Opening Game

“What they have done is react to a difficult moment,” the Spanish boss explained. “They reacted in a really convincing way, all united and doing what they do best — being very consistent and winning games very comfortably.”

The former Everton and Arsenal midfielder added: “They have weaknesses like every team but at the moment teams have struggled a lot to find any of that because I think first of all defensively they have been really, really strong.”

Arsenal head into the match after a 1-1 draw against Benfica in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 clash in Rome on Thursday.

Next week’s second leg, being played in Athens because of coronavirus restrictions, is followed by a daunting run of fixtures that includes matches against Leicester, Tottenham, West Ham and Liverpool, all above Arsenal in the Premier League.

“We know the margin for error is minimal with the season that we have had in previous months, so we need to kick on,” he said.

AFP

EPL: Man City Thump Spurs To Go Seven Points Clear At Top Of Table

Manchester City's German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan (L) celebrates scoring his team's third goal with Manchester City's English midfielder Phil Foden during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on February 13, 2021. Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP
Manchester City’s German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan (L) celebrates scoring his team’s third goal with Manchester City’s English midfielder Phil Foden during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on February 13, 2021. Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester City powered seven points clear at the top of the Premier League as Ilkay Gundogan’s double inspired a 3-0 win that piled pressure on Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho, while Liverpool’s problems mounted after a dismal 3-1 defeat at Leicester on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola’s side stretched their English top-flight record run to 16 successive victories in all competitions.

They are unbeaten in their last 23 matches and look odds on to win the title for the third time in the last four seasons.

Manchester United can close the gap to five points if they beat lowly West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, but City will still hold a game in hand to strengthen their grip on top spot.

Tottenham were no match for the red-hot leaders on a freezing evening at the Etihad Stadium.

The latest clash between old rivals Guardiola and Mourinho was a mismatch from the moment Rodri put City ahead.

Gundogan has been the main man during City’s winning streak and he finished off Tottenham with two ruthless strikes.

Since City last lost — at Tottenham in November — they have climbed from 13th place and overturned an eight-point gap to Mourinho’s men, who were top at the time.

In stark contrast, Tottenham have now lost five of their previous six matches in all competitions.

Amid Mourinho’s awkward rifts with Gareth Bale, who came on as a late substitute, and Dele Alli, there is a growing feeling Tottenham’s season is spiralling out of control.

They are languishing in eighth place, four points adrift of the top four.

Tottenham nearly took the lead in the 15th minute when Harry Kane hit the post with a superb free-kick that curled round the City wall from 25 yards.

But it was City who went ahead in the 23rd minute after Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg tripped Gundogan with a trailing leg.

After Gundogan made it three penalty misses for City this season in their thrashing of Liverpool last weekend, Guardiola had hinted Ederson might take their next one.

City’s keeper did start moving towards the Tottenham area for a moment after the challenge on Gundogan, but he was sent back and instead Rodri stepped up to drive the spot-kick past Hugo Lloris.

Their killer second goal duly arrived with a flourish five minutes after half-time.

Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden combined in a blur of quick passes to carve open the Tottenham defence.

Gundogan applied the finishing touch as his close-range finish eluded Lloris’s weak attempted save.

The in-form German midfielder wasn’t finished yet and in the 66th minute he sprinted onto Ederson’s long kick, gave Davinson Sanchez a subtle nudge and swivelled away from the stumbling defender before firing past Lloris.

Gundogan’s 11th goal in his last 12 league games came with a frustrating coda however as he limped off injured soon after.

 

AFP

EPL:  Man City Eye Spurs Revenge As Liverpool Face Leicester Test

File photo: Manchester City’s English midfielder Phil Foden (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring their fourth goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on February 7, 2021. Tim Keeton / POOL / AFP

 

 

Rampant Manchester City will relish a shot at revenge against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham on Saturday while fading Liverpool face a tricky trip to Leicester hoping to benefit from a rare week off.

City hammered Liverpool 4-1 at Anfield last weekend to open up a five-point lead over second-placed Manchester United at the top of the table with a game in hand.

Pep Guardiola’s men have not tasted defeat in 22 games in all competitions, since they faced Tottenham in November.

Victory for Mourinho’s men that day took them top of the table and eight points clear of City. But there has been a 22-point swing between the sides since as Spurs have tumbled down to eighth.

Once fierce rivals vying for superiority at Barcelona and Real Madrid, a 25th meeting between Guardiola and Mourinho comes at a time of contrasting fortunes for two of the world’s most-decorated coaches.

Mourinho is under pressure after a run of four defeats in five games, while Guardiola is targeting an unprecedented quadruple of trophies.

City set a new English record of 15 consecutive victories for a top-flight team by reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday.

“It means and shows how special these players are,” said Guardiola. “In this toughest period, in the Christmas and winter time, to do what we have done so far is quite remarkable.”

A big week for City could go a long way to securing a third league title in four years. They visit Everton for their game in hand on Wednesday and then travel to Arsenal next weekend.

“The important thing is the way we are still playing and our consistency,” added Guardiola. “We are just thinking of the next one and we have an incredibly tough week ahead of us.”

Leicester test for LiverpoolJurgen Klopp admitted the height of Liverpool’s ambitions was now finishing in the top four to guarantee Champions League football next season.

The Reds have won just three of their past 11 games, culminating in their collapse late on to City.

A stubborn injury crisis has left the defending champions looking physically and mentally drained, so a rare midweek off due to their early exit from the FA Cup may come as a blessing ahead of their visit to the King Power.

Leicester sit third and are determined to avoid the mistakes they made last season, when they let a promising position slip in the final months of the campaign to finish fifth.

The Foxes will be boosted by the return of talisman Jamie Vardy after the 34-year-old made his first start since groin surgery against Brighton in the FA Cup in midweek.

Liverpool centre-backs Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak, signed on transfer deadline day, could feature after Klopp opted not to throw them in at the deep end against City.

Baggies bounce for Man Utd?If Manchester United are to have any chance of keeping the title race alive, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men must snap out of a slump in which they have won just one of their past five games without the need for extra-time.

United could not ask for more inviting opponents this weekend, with West Brom showing no signs of a revival since Sam Allardyce’s appointment in December to maintain their top-flight status.

The Baggies have conceded 24 goals in their past six home games and are 12 points adrift of safety, in 19th spot.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday 

Leicester v Liverpool (1230), Crystal Palace v Burnley (1500), Manchester City v Tottenham (1730), Brighton v Aston Villa (2000)

Sunday

Southampton v Wolves (1200), West Brom v Manchester United (1400), Arsenal v Leeds (1630), Everton v Fulham (1900)

Monday

West Ham v Sheffield United (1800), Chelsea v Newcastle (2000)

AFP

Man City Set Record Run To Cruise Into FA Cup Quarter-Finals

Swansea City’s English goalkeeper Freddie Woodman (centre L) and Manchester City’s English midfielder Tommy Doyle (centre R) fist bump after the final whistle of the English FA Cup fifth round football match between Swansea and Manchester City at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea, Wales on February 10, 2021. (Photo by REBECCA NADEN / POOL / AFP)

 

 

Manchester City broke the English football record for consecutive wins by a top-flight club by beating Swansea 3-1 on Wednesday to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Kyle Walker, Raheem Sterling, and Gabriel Jesus were on target for the visitors, who extended their winning run in all competitions to 15 games.

Victory was also Pep Guardiola’s 200th in 268 games as City boss, with the Premier League leaders still on course for a historic quadruple of trophies.

Guardiola’s men hold a five-point lead with a game in hand at the top of the Premier League, face Tottenham in the League Cup final in April and resume their challenge to win a first Champions League in the last 16 against Borussia Monchengladbach later this month.

“It is amazing for ourselves, we cannot deny how pleased and proud we are to break this record,” said Guardiola. “Records are there to be broken, but they have to do well (to beat it).

“It is not easy in the modern era to make 15 wins in a row.”

Despite the congested schedule, Guardiola characteristically named a strong side for the trip to south Wales with Sterling, Rodrigo, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan retaining their places from Sunday’s 4-1 win away to Liverpool.

Walker has lost his place as first choice right-back due to Joao Cancelo’s excellent form.

The England defender took his chance to impress with a rare goal to open the scoring on 30 minutes when his tantalising cross avoided everyone in the middle and nestled in the bottom corner.

City quickly turned their complete control of the game into a commanding lead inside the first five minutes of the second half.

Firstly, Rodrigo released Sterling to slot home his 11th goal of the season with a calm finish.

Jesus then controlled and slammed home Silva’s header back across goal, allowing Guardiola to replace Sterling, Silva and Gundogan early with an eye to Tottenham’s visit to the Etihad on Saturday.

But Rodrigo hobbled off with an ankle injury 20 minutes from time that will concern the City boss.

Morgan Whittaker pulled a goal back for the Swans 13 minutes from time, but Steve Cooper’s men can now fully concentrate on their quest to gain promotion to the Premier League for the rest of the season.

Liverpool Face Must-Win Man City Test As Bottom Three Cut Adrift

Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp reacts during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield in Liverpool, northwest England on February 3, 2021.
Clive Brunskill / POOL / AFP

 

 

Manchester City and Liverpool have dominated the Premier League over the past four seasons but a sizeable gap has opened up between the leaders and the champions ahead of their latest meeting on Sunday.

City are seven points clear of fourth-placed Liverpool, with a game in hand, and could kill off any hopes of a revival for Jurgen Klopp’s men with a first victory at Anfield for 18 years.

At the other end of the table, Sheffield United, West Brom and Fulham have been cut adrift and look destined for a return to the Championship.

But struggles for Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal have opened up the race for a Champions League place, with a host of other contenders aiming for a top-four finish.

Man City leave Liverpool trailing despite the vast sums invested and multiple trophies won since Shiekh Mansour’s takeover 13 years ago, Anfield has remained an unassailable fortress for the men in blue with City’s last victory there coming in 2003.

However, Liverpool’s invincibility at home has crumbled in recent weeks in front of empty stands.

After a club-record 68-game unbeaten run in the Premier League at Anfield, the Reds have suffered back-to-back 1-0 defeats to Burnley and Brighton.

Liverpool have not won any of their past four home games — and have not found the net there since late December.

Klopp admitted his side were suffering from mental and physical fatigue as an injury crisis in defence continues to have an impact on the rest of the team, with midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson forced into deputising at centre-back.

Goalkeeper Alisson Becker, Fabinho and Sadio Mane all missed the Brighton defeat on Wednesday but could return for the daunting task of halting City’s 13-game winning run in all competitions.

Despite the absence of Kevin De Bruyne, City have found the kind of form that enabled them to pip Liverpool to the title by a single point in the 2018/19 season.

Pep Guardiola’s men have conceded just one goal in winning their past nine league games to storm three points clear at the top with a game in hand over second-placed Manchester United.

“At the end the aim is to be champion,” said Guardiola, looking ahead after easing past Burnley on Wednesday. “It is the same (three) points, but against a contender.”

Champions League dreamsLiverpool remain fourth for now despite their faltering form but just nine points separate them from Arsenal in 10th spot.

Sixth-placed Everton are six points behind Leicester, in third spot, but have two games in hand.

However, on Saturday, Carlo Ancelotti’s men travel to face a Manchester United side fresh from equalling the Premier League’s record winning margin, with a 9-0 demolition of nine-man Southampton.

West Ham can move above Liverpool when they visit Fulham, while Tottenham and Chelsea will be confident of bolstering their push for a top-four finish when they face struggling West Brom and Sheffield United respectively.

Arsenal desperately need to win at Aston Villa to keep their chances of a return to the Champions League next season alive.

Bottom three doomed?A bad week for Fulham and West Brom combined with recent wins for Burnley, Brighton, Newcastle, Wolves and Crystal Palace has opened up an eight-point gap between the bottom three and survival.

“It leaves us with a great gap to fill,” said West Brom boss Sam Allardyce after taking just one point from games against Fulham and Sheffield United.

The Blades are the only side in the relegation zone showing signs of life, with three wins in their past five games, but Chris Wilder’s men have given themselves a mountain to climb after picking up just two points from their opening 17 games.

All of the bottom three face tough fixtures this weekend, but failure to win could see the relegation dogfight peter out with a whimper.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday

Aston Villa v Arsenal (1230), Burnley v Brighton, Newcastle v Southampton (both 1500), Fulham v West Ham (1730), Manchester United v Everton (2000)

Sunday

Tottenham v West Brom (1200), Wolves v Leicester (1400), Liverpool v Man City (1630), Sheffield United v Chelsea (1915)

Monday

Leeds v Crystal Palace (2000)

Aguero ‘A Few Weeks’ From Man City Return Says Guardiola

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said earlier this week that Sergio Aguero was ‘the best striker in our history’ and that the team needed him back in action. (AFP)

 

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says Sergio Aguero is “a few weeks” from being ready to play as the Argentina striker recovers from coronavirus.

Aguero, already hampered by injury problems this season, has been self-isolating after falling ill with the virus.

City’s record scorer has made just three starts in all competitions this term and hasn’t played since January 3.

After testing negative for the virus, Aguero can now come out of quarantine.

But the 32-year-old has not yet restarted full training as he slowly works his way back to fitness.

“He is still not training on the field. He started to move a little yesterday but he will need a few weeks to come back,” Guardiola told reporters on Tuesday.

“He is negative, this is the most important thing. He is healthy again and now he will come back again. As the top scorer it is important for us to have him back.”

City will travel to Burnley on Wednesday in fine form after a club record 12 successive wins.

Eight of those victories have come in the Premier League, lifting Guardiola’s side to the top of the table, three points clear of second-placed Manchester United.

That represents a considerable turnaround after an indifferent start to the campaign in which City dropped points in five of their opening eight games.

After a trip to Turf Moor, City face title rivals Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

But Guardiola refused to read too much into City’s blistering streak and is focusing only on keeping the good run going against Burnley.

“Six weeks ago we were not contenders for anything, six weeks later we are contenders. Everything can change so quickly,” Guardiola said.

“We can drop five points in two games in three days. It has happened to other teams so it can happen to you.”

Man City Move Four Points Clear, Newcastle Lift Pressure On Bruce

Sheffield United’s English manager Chris Wilder greets Manchester City’s English midfielder Phil Foden (L) at the end of the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Sheffield United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on January 30, 2021. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP)

 

 

Manchester City opened up a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a 1-0 win over bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United, while Everton’s bid for a top-four finish was dented by a shock home defeat by Newcastle.

Gabriel Jesus scored the only goal inside the first 10 minutes at the Etihad as City extended their winning run to 12 games in all competitions.

Pep Guardiola’s men thrashed West Brom 5-0 in midweek, but after beating Manchester United away on Wednesday, the Blades again belied their lowly position to put up a fight against the leaders.

Ferran Torres and Jesus were two of five changes made by Guardiola and they combined to make the breakthrough as the Brazilian tapped home for his first Premier League goal since November.

 

Manchester City’s Spanish midfielder Rodrigo (L) challenges Sheffield United’s English-born Irish striker David McGoldrick (R) during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Sheffield United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on January 30, 2021. (Photo by Martin Rickett / POOL / AFP) 

City failed to build on the lead, but comfortably held out for a 15th clean sheet in their last 19 games to pull clear of second-placed Manchester United, who visit Arsenal later on Saturday.

At the other end of the table, Newcastle were the big winners of the day as they pulled clear of the drop zone with a first win in 12 games, while two of the bottom three West Brom and Fulham played out a 2-2 draw.

Magpies manager Steve Bruce’s future was under the spotlight after a wretched run that plunged his side into the relegation dogfight.

But Callum Wilson scored twice in the final 17 minutes to earn a deserved 2-0 victory at Goodison Park on a bad day for Carlo Ancelotti’s men.

 

Manchester City’s English midfielder Phil Foden gets attention after a clash of heads during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Sheffield United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on January 30, 2021. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP) 

 

Everton could have moved to within a point of local rivals Liverpool in fourth with a win, but rarely looked like scoring and were finally punished for a poor performance when Wilson lost his marker at a Jonjo Shelvey corner and looped a header across Jordan Pickford and inside the far upright.

Wilson was then denied by the post after rounding Pickford, but the former Bournemouth striker made no mistake when Newcastle countered quickly in stoppage time.

Bruce’s men are now eight points clear of the relegation zone after a point each did little for West Brom or Fulham’s battle to beat the drop.

The visitors were dominant in the first half at the Hawthorns and were made to regret not building on Bobby Decordova-Reid’s opener.

 

Manchester City’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus (C) celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Sheffield United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on January 30, 2021. (Photo by Michael Regan / POOL / AFP) 

 

Kyle Bartley levelled for the Baggies two minutes into the second half before new signing Mbaye Diagne teed up Matheus Pereira to turn the game around.

Ivan Cavaleiro’s equaliser ensured Fulham remain above West Brom in 18th and edged to within four points of safety.

Crystal Palace eased fears they could be dragged into a scrap for survival as Eberechi Eze’s winner earned the Eagles a 1-0 win over Wolves to move up to 13th.

Change Of Tactics Propelled Man City To Top Of Premier League, Says Guardiola

Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola gestures during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on January 26, 2021. Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP
Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola gestures during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on January 26, 2021. Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola says a return to a tried-and-tested formula has helped propel Manchester City back to the Premier League summit.

City, who lead city rivals Manchester United by a point with a game in hand, are strong favourites to win a third English top-flight title in four years.

Guardiola’s men, who host Sheffield United on Saturday, will hope to avoid the fate of their Manchester rivals, who lost 2-1 at home to the bottom side in midweek.

The City boss, speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday, said he had switched tactics after a patchy start to the season.

His side are now on an 11-match winning run in the Premier League and have won their past seven games.

“I didn’t like the way we were playing,” said Guardiola. “In previous seasons, the wingers were wider and higher, so we came back to our principles.

“For many reasons, we had to adapt to the quality we had and the players we had in that moment. That is the reason I tried to find the way.

“In the end, I felt having the wingers wide and high helped us to be more stable and the quality of the players do the rest. When we have the ball, we run less.”

Guardiola denied that the lack of early-season consistency was due to a lack of fight or spirit.

“The reason we didn’t play well was because when we had the ball we ran too much,” he said.

“When we have the ball we need to walk. When we don’t have the ball you have to run with your life. Now I think we are calmer.”

Guardiola, whose side beat struggling West Brom 5-0 on Tuesday, said playing Sheffield United was “always uncomfortable”.

“That system — the 5-3-2 — is difficult to attack,” he said. “I am a little bit concerned about the game tomorrow.”

Guardiola will once again be without record goalscorer Sergio Aguero, who is still self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus.

AFP

Man City Threaten To Turn Premier League Race Into Procession

Manchester City’s Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva (2L) celebrates scoring their first goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on January 20, 2021. (Photo by Shaun Botterill / POOL / AFP)

 

This season’s Premier League race has been touted as one of the most open in years but Manchester City have quietly moved through the gears and are threatening to pull away from the pack. 

Pep Guardiola’s men, who have won their past seven league games, host Manchester United’s midweek conquerors Sheffield United on Saturday, hoping lightning cannot strike twice.

United, their closest challengers, face a tricky trip away to rejuvenated Arsenal while Liverpool travel to high-flying West Ham.

AFP Sport looks at some of the main talking points ahead of the weekend action in the English top-flight.

United seek away-day comfortsManchester United hoped to be travelling to the Emirates as Premier League leaders before their shock defeat to bottom side Sheffield United at Old Trafford.

The 2-1 reverse on Wednesday, which ended a 13-game unbeaten run in the Premier League, was their fourth home defeat of the season.

In sharp contrast, they have won eight out of their 10 league games on the road and are unbeaten away from home in the Premier League for more than a year.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will hope this week’s limp showing was a one-off but the Emirates will not be an easy place for United to rediscover their form.

Mikel Arteta has turned Arsenal’s fortunes around, winning five out of six Premier League matches to move to within striking distance of the top four.

He will hope to make a statement that the Gunners are back in business by completing the double over United this season.

Striker-less City purringCity are heavy favourites to land a third Premier League crown in four years, even though Sergio Aguero has no league goals this season and Gabriel Jesus has just two.

 

Manchester City’s German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan (C) celebrates with teammates after taking a penalty and scoring his team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on January 20, 2021. (Photo by Martin Rickett / POOL / AFP)

 

Aguero, City’s all-time record goalscorer, has been unavailable for most of the campaign as a result of injury and the coronavirus while Jesus, who also suffered from Covid, has been a bit-part player in recent weeks.

In their absence Ilkay Gundogan, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez have chipped in with plenty of goals, backed by a rock-solid defence.

City have won their past seven league games, scoring 18 goals in the process and conceding just one.

Manager Pep Guardiola believes Aguero could still play a key role in the second half of the season but will be delighted his squad have stepped up as they chase glory on four fronts.

Last chance for Bruce?Frank Lampard this week became the second managerial casualty of the Premier League season when he was jettisoned by Chelsea, but Steve Bruce could soon be next.

Newcastle have collected just two points out of a possible 27 in the Premier League and the manager’s future looks bleak.

Some fans mounted a protest at St James’s Park after last week’s 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa, displaying a banner aimed at owner Mike Ashley that bore the message “Act late, seal your fate”.

In a sign of the pressure he is under, Bruce refused to take questions from written media at his press conference before this week’s match against Leeds, which ended in a 2-1 defeat.

He still believes he is the right man to turn things around but must know time is running out.

Tuchel’s homeworkNew Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel admitted after his side’s dull 0-0 draw against Wolves this week that he had not had time to properly assess his squad.

Midfielder Mason Mount, one of the standout players at Stamford Bridge this season, and Christian Pulisic were left kicking their heels on the bench.

Chelsea dominated possession but looked short of ideas until Mount and Pulisic were introduced in the late stages of the game.

England international Mount in particular looked dangerous and will be disappointed if he does not make the teamsheet against Burnley.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday (1500 unless stated)

Everton v Newcastle (1230), Crystal Palace v Wolves, Manchester City v Sheffield United, West Brom v Fulham, Arsenal v Manchester United (1730), Southampton v Aston Villa (2000)

Sunday

Chelsea v Burnley (1200), Leicester v Leeds (1400), West Ham v Liverpool (1630), Brighton v Tottenham (1915)

EPL: Man City Go Top, Arsenal Gain Revenge On Southampton

A photo combination of Arsenal and Manchester City players celebrating their goals in their Premier League games on Tuesday, January 26th, 2021.

 

Manchester City thrashed West Brom 5-0 to move back top of the Premier League on Tuesday as Arsenal aided their push towards the European places with a 3-1 win at Southampton.

City have now won 11 consecutive games since West Brom earned a shock 1-1 draw at the Etihad last month.

Pep Guardiola’s men have hit top form since and did not miss the presence of the injured Kevin De Bruyne in blowing away the Baggies by scoring four goals before half-time.

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Ilkay Gundogan opened the floodgates by curling home from the edge of the box before Joao Cancelo’s controversial strike doubled City’s lead.

Manchester City’s Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez celebrates scoring his team’s fourth goal with teammates during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on January 26, 2021. Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP

 

The West Brom defence was distracted by a wrongly raised offside flag before the Portuguese full-back found the net, but the goal stood after a VAR review.

Gundogan then took his tally to seven goals in his last eight league games before Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling rounded off the scoring.

“There’s not really a secret,” Gundogan said of his scoring streak. “I’m just in the right spaces at the right moment. I’m in a bit more of an offensive role, if I get the chance close to the box I try to make the right decisions.”

West Brom have now conceded 17 goals in Sam Allardyce’s four home games in charge as they remain second bottom of the table, six points off safety.

– Arsenal on the rise –
Guardiola’s former assistant Mikel Arteta is also enjoying a fine run of form as Arsenal have taken 16 from the last possible 18 points.

The Gunners avenged their FA Cup to Southampton at the weekend despite falling behind after three minutes to Stuart Armstrong’s sweet strike.

Nicolas Pepe quickly levelled before Bukayo Saka rounded Alex McCarthy and slotted home to give the visitors at half-time lead.

“I think we were good from the start. We conceded a goal from a corner but responded straight away,” said Arteta.

“It showed a lot of intelligent and resilience from the team in the way they managed the game.”

Southampton’s English midfielder Theo Walcott shoots but fails to score during the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Arsenal at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, southern England on January 26, 2021. Naomi Baker / POOL / AFP

 

Alexandre Lacazette sealed a vital three points 18 minutes from time as Arsenal moved up to eighth and within five points of the top four.

– West Ham go fourth –
West Ham occupy the fourth Champions League place as Tomas Soucek scored twice in a 3-2 win at Crystal Palace.

The Hammers suffered an early setback when Wilfried Zaha put Palace in front after just three minutes.

But the stronger mentality that David Moyes has lauded in West Ham this season showed as Soucek struck twice in 16 minutes to turn the game around.

Only Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes has scored more Premier League goals from midfield than the Czech since he joined from Slavia Prague a year ago.

Craig Dawson headed in Jarrod Bowen’s corner 25 minutes from time to make it 3-1 before Michy Batshuayi scored a late consolation for Palace.

 

West Ham United’s English defender Craig Dawson (R) celebrates scoring his team’s third goal during the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and West Ham United at Selhurst Park in south London on January 26, 2021. Clive Rose / POOL / AFP

 

A sixth consecutive win in all competitions takes Moyes’s men above Liverpool in the table and Jurgen Klopp’s struggling Reds will be wary of their trip to the London Stadium on Sunday.

At the other end of the table, Newcastle lost 2-1 at home to Leeds to stretch their winless run to 11 games

“This league is demanding and cruel at times,” said beleaguered Magpies boss Steve Bruce.

Raphinha slotted home Rodrigo’s cut-back to give Marcelo Bielsa’s men a deserved half-time lead.

Miguel Almiron levelled with Newcastle’s first goal for five games early in the second half, but parity lasted only four minutes before Jack Harrison’s sensational finish with the outside of his left foot claimed all three points for the visitors.

Newcastle have a seven-point cushion over the bottom three, but have now played two games more than Fulham in 18th.

AFP

Man City Survive Huge FA Cup Scare, Arsenal Crash Out

Manchester City’s English midfielder Phil Foden (C) shoots to score their first goal during the English FA Cup fourth round football match between Cheltenham Town and Manchester City at The Jonny-Rocks Stadium in Cheltenham, central England on January 23, 2021. (Photo by Shaun Botterill / POOL / AFP)

 

Manchester City were given a huge FA Cup scare by fourth-tier Cheltenham before a late blitz gave them a 3-1 win on Saturday after Southampton dumped holders Arsenal out of the competition.

Six-time winners City were minutes away from exiting at the fourth-round stage before goals from Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres broke the hearts of the brave League Two side.

City boss Pep Guardiola made 10 changes for the trip to the southwest of England but his side was still packed with internationals.

The home team — 72 places below City in the football pyramid — produced a stirring defensive display but also sporadically threatened at the other end of the pitch.

Jesus hit the post shortly after the restart as City upped the tempo following a goalless first half but it was the home team who broke the deadlock.

The visitors failed to deal with the outstanding Ben Tozer’s long throw and Alfie May fired in from close range just before the hour mark.

Guardiola threw on Ilkay Gundogan and Joao Cancelo in a desperate bid to find a way back into the game and was rewarded in the 81st minute when Foden volleyed in Cancelo’s cross.

Three minutes later Jesus made amends for his earlier miss and Torres made it 3-1 with the final kick of the game, turning in Gundogan’s low cross.

“We came here with humility and had the quality to make the difference,” said Guardiola.

“They used their quality in the box, they are taller and better than us there and we showed clips on how to solve it. It is difficult to control that.”

 

Manchester City’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus shoots to score their second goal during the English FA Cup fourth round football match between Cheltenham Town and Manchester City at The Jonny-Rocks Stadium in Cheltenham, central England on January 23, 2021. (Photo by Shaun Botterill / POOL / AFP)

 

The Catalan had warm words for Foden, who is the club’s top-scorer in all competitions this season.

“Phil Foden is in a great moment and with great confidence,” he added. “He is clinical in front of goal.”

Cheltenham boss Michael Duff said he was “super proud” of his players, bemoaning the fact the match had to be played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a shame because (with fans) the place would’ve been bouncing,” he said. “Would that have seen us through in the last 10 minutes? I’m not so sure — but the key is to enjoy it.”

 

Manchester City’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus (L) shoots past Cheltenham Town’s English goalkeeper Josh Griffiths but wide during the English FA Cup fourth round football match between Cheltenham Town and Manchester City at The Jonny-Rocks Stadium in Cheltenham, central England on January 23, 2021. (Photo by Shaun Botterill / POOL / AFP)

 

Arsenal out

Earlier, Arsenal, who have won the competition a record 14 times, went down 1-0 at Southampton courtesy of a Gabriel own goal.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta made seven changes from his team’s 3-0 league win against Newcastle on Monday, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and midfielder Emile Smith Rowe both absent.

Southampton, FA Cup winners in 1976, earned a well-deserved lead in the 24th minute when Kyle Walker-Peters’ ball across the six-yard area was inadvertently turned in by Gabriel.

The visitors went close to an equaliser through Eddie Nketiah’s deflected shot but were forced to leave empty-handed.

“We had a dream to do it again like last year (win the FA Cup) and the dream today is over,” said Arteta.

“I am as well disappointed with the way we conceded the goal in an area where we know we shouldn’t be doing that. At the same time I cannot fault the effort of the players.”

West Ham, who will face either Manchester or Liverpool in the next round, crushed third-tier Doncaster 4-0 despite multiple changes from manager David Moyes while fellow Premier League sides Brighton and Sheffield United also progressed.

Pablo Fornals gave impressive West Ham an early lead at home to Doncaster as they dominated the League One side from the kick-off.

Andriy Yarmolenko doubled the lead before a second-half own goal from Andy Butler and a late strike from debutant Oladapo Afolayan.

Goals from Yves Bissouma and Steven Alzate were enough to seal a 2-1 win for Brighton against League One Blackpool.

Chris Basham and Billy Sharp scored for Premier League strugglers Sheffield United against League One opponents Plymouth.

Elsewhere, Swansea thumped fellow Championship side Nottingham Forest 5-1, while Bristol City beat Millwall 3-0. Barnsley beat Championship leaders Norwich 1-0.

On Sunday, Premier League leaders Manchester United face Liverpool in the tie of the round, while Chelsea host Luton.