Guardiola Stamps Out Questions Over Man City ‘Party’

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola takes his seat for the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on January 12, 2020.
Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola defended his Manchester City stars on Friday following reports they held a team-bonding party this week.

Reports claimed City’s players invited 22 Italian female Instagram models to attend the delayed Christmas party after last weekend’s Premier League win at Aston Villa.

It was suggested this was inappropriate behaviour given the Premier League champions were not allowed to attend City’s own Christmas event as Guardiola was concerned there would be a repeat of the 2018 gathering that saw several players out into the early hours.

But the City manager said he is a big believer in the value of his squad relaxing together.

Guardiola made it clear he was aware of the recent party and had no problem with players letting off steam.

“I knew (about) it. When they have time, they make a lot of dinners together, with the staff. They did it many times anyway,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday.

“And I like it when they are together outside here, they do it sometimes at home, sometimes in a restaurant as was the case. It was nice.”

Nights out on the town are a fairly distant memory for Guardiola, who turns 49 when his team faces Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

The Spaniard has been a manager since taking charge of Barcelona’s B team in 2007 and has the utmost respect for Palace boss Roy Hodgson — still going strong aged 72.

“Of course I admire him, it’s incredible that he’s got the passion to be manager, it’s incredible and they’re doing really well,” Guardiola said.

“The position when he took over, zero points and everyone thought they were relegated, he did an incredible job, it’s a pleasure and honour for me to face him. We’ve got a good relationship with him.”

– Future plans –

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola (R) gives instructions to Manchester City’s French defender Benjamin Mendy during the English League Cup semi-final first leg football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England on January 7, 2020.
Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Guardiola, who has insisted he will be back to see out the final season of his current contract with City next term, said he cannot see himself still managing at Hodgson’s age.

“If I still like it and I have offers and I’m enjoying it on and off the pitch, I’d not say I’m going to retire next week or next year,” he said.

“I don’t think I’ll be at that age a manager but I don’t know. I think when you are managing at 72 it must be boring at home!

“You are with young people, athletes, competition, that’s why it’s nice, every game is different.

“That’s maybe the reason why Roy and older managers are still in charge and they do it.

“I think the important thing when you retire is to know you want to do other things.

“If you’ve no interests and you are at home then you are going to come back but if you want to travel or do other things. I’m interested in doing other things and I’m going to do it.”

Guardiola wished new Barcelona manager Quique Setien good luck after his appointment this week to replace Ernesto Valverde.

“I wish him all the best, I think we played once or twice,” Guardiola said.

“His teams always play really well, I followed him at Real Betis in Sevilla.

“I wish him all the best and his staff, to do the best for Barcelona.”

AFP

Man City Thrash Villa 6-1, Move To Second On Premier League Table

Manchester City’s Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero (R) takes on Aston Villa’s English defender Kortney Hause (L) during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on January 12, 2020. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola said Sergio Aguero’s legendary status had grown again after becoming the Premier League’s top scoring foreign player with a hat-trick as Manchester City thrashed Aston Villa 6-1 on Sunday.

It may be too late to salvage City’s defence of the Premier League title as they remain 14 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool, who also have a game in hand, but led by Aguero the champions moved ahead of Leicester into second to show they will not give up the chase.

Aguero eclipsed Thierry Henry’s record as the top scoring non-English player in the Premier League by taking his tally to 177 goals and also surpassed Alan Shearer’s league record for hat-tricks with his 12th since joining City from Atletico Madrid in 2011.

“He was a legend and the legend rises tonight,” said Guardiola. “He is one of the most incredible players I’ve seen in this league.

“To score this amount of goals and hat-tricks means you have done for many, many years a lot of good things.

“You have to be consistent for many years so it’s an incredible compliment to him.”

Guardiola could afford the luxury of recalling Aguero among six changes to the side that also outclassed Manchester United in midweek to put one foot in the League Cup final.

Villa could be their opponents at Wembley on March 1 as they held Leicester 1-1 in the first leg of their semi-final on Wednesday, but on this evidence they would be powerless to stop City lifting the trophy for a third straight season.

The injury-hit hosts were without a recognised striker and first-choice goalkeeper after Wesley and Tom Heaton were ruled out for the rest of the season.

Former Spanish international ‘keeper Pepe Reina was in the stands ahead of his loan move from AC Milan being completed and will be needed if Villa are to beat the drop after conceding 13 goals in their last four home games.

“It was a chastening experience,” said Smith. “We are embarrassed by some of the goals we conceded today.

“We’ve come up against a top class team with a top class manager and got found out.”

Mahrez on the mark 

Orjan Nyland was beaten at his near post as Riyad Mahrez was allowed to cut onto his favoured left foot to open the floodgates on 18 minutes.

The Algerian’s old Leicester teammate Danny Drinkwater was making his Villa debut after troubled spells at Chelsea and Burnley since leaving the Foxes.

His lack of match practice was exposed for City’s second as Drinkwater was caught in possession inside his own box by Gabriel Jesus and the ball broke kindly for Mahrez to drill home his ninth goal of the season.

Aguero then thumped home a third, although Nyland could have got a stronger hand to the Argentine’s effort.

All that was missing from a complete City performance was a moment of inspiration from Kevin De Bruyne and the Belgian duly delivered with a wonderful curling cross to set the fourth on a plate for Jesus in first-half stoppage time.

City did not let up after the break and could have made it many more than six as David Silva picked out Aguero to calmly slot home his record-breaking goal.

The Argentine’s hat-trick arrived eight minutes from time as he demonstrated his array of finishes by this time blasting his past the helpless Nyland.

“I’m so happy for the record. It is thanks to my teammates, they help me in these nine years,” said Aguero.

“When I scored the second, I thought one more (and) I break the hat-trick record. I want to keep scoring more goals.”

Anwar El Ghazi scored from the penalty spot in stoppage time, but it was little consolation for Villa, who dropped into the relegation zone after Watford’s win at Bournemouth earlier in the day.

AFP

‘Guardiola Best Coach In The World’

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola takes his seat for the English League Cup quarter-final football match between Oxford United and Manchester City at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford, west of London, on December 18, 2019. OLLY GREENWOOD / AFP

 

Zinedine Zidane insisted Saturday his key aim this season was to win La Liga with Real Madrid, but admitted they faced a thrilling challenge trying to outwit Pep Guardiola and Manchester City, who they meet in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Zidane, who has won three Champions Leagues as a coach compared to Guardiola’s two, described the Catalan as “the best coach in the world”.

The two sides meet in Madrid on February 26 before heading to Manchester for the second leg on March 17.

“It’ll be fabulous to play against him (Guardiola),” said Zidane, speaking ahead of Real’s game against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, their final Liga match ahead of the winter break.

“I respected him as a player and now as a coach. He’s the top coach in the world and has proved it throughout his career.”

READ ALSO: Zidane Dismisses Speculation Over Bale’s Future At Real Madrid

Guardiola coached Barcelona to the 2009 and 2011 Champions League titles. He went on to win plaudits at Bayern Munich and City with domestic championships but has failed to land a third Champions League title.

“So it’ll be a pleasure for me and a pleasure for all of us to come up against him and his team,” said Zidane.

Real are currently level with Barcelona on 36 points on top of la Liga after their 0-0 draw on Wednesday. Athletic Bilbao are seventh, nine points behind.

“Bilbao is another rival and a different proposition. We will play them with all our energy, it’s the last game of the year.

“The league is our priority and we will fight for it all the way,” he said.

 

AFP

Guardiola Wishes ‘Excellent Coach’ Arteta Well At Arsenal

 

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola 
Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

Arteta has finally been appointed  as the new Arsenal manager, with Manchester City  boss wishing him luck in his new role.

Pep Guardiola says Mikel Arteta had to “follow his dream” as the Manchester City manager’s former assistant was announced as Arsenal’s new head coach on Friday.

Arsenal have turned to their former midfielder Arteta to replace the sacked Unai Emery after agreeing a compensation package with City.

And while he was reluctant to lose Arteta, Guardiola said it was difficult to stop his compatriot taking up his first managerial post at a club where he also spent five years as a player.

“He decided to move there. When you have dreams you cannot stop it. You have to follow your dreams,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday.

“Arsenal was important in his career, one of the best teams in Europe, I wish him all the best. I’m sure he’ll do an excellent job.”

Guardiola is expected to promote Rodolfo Borrell, also linked with joining Arteta at Arsenal, as his new assistant.

“We’ll stay with the same people, right now we are not adding anyone. We’ll work with the people who are here,” Guardiola added.

Guardiola’s focus will now switch to Saturday’s Premier League game against Leicester, a team who stand four points ahead of City in second place after an impressive start to the season.

Despite losing defender Harry Maguire to Manchester United in the summer, Brendan Rodgers has shaped a side tipped as title dark horses.

“Yeah they did really well last season when he took over, this season too, so consistent, excellent team,” Guardiola said of Leicester.

“They sold Maguire, the others are the same, a lot of quality in the middle, counter attacks, control all departments of the team.

“Last season I had the feeling they’d fight for the top four and it’s happened, they’re a fantastic team.

“There are a lot of games to play, the distance we are from now, the teams in front or behind can change, especially in this period. We set up for tomorrow as quickly as possible and do what we have to do.”

City striker Sergio Aguero is back in contention after a seven-match absence with a thigh injury.

“He’s a top player,” Guardiola said of the Argentine.

Centre-back John Stones also trained after a muscle problem forced him out of the defeat to Manchester United, but midfielder David Silva has not recovered from a leg injury.

AFP

Man City Standards Have Slipped, Says Guardiola

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola reacts during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on December 7, 2019. Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola says Manchester City may no longer be able to match the standards of the best teams after a painful defeat against Manchester United left them 14 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Guardiola’s City have been the Premier League’s outstanding side over the past two years, clocking up 100 points in 2017/18 and retaining the title last term during their treble-winning campaign.

Guardiola hopes City, who have now lost four of their 16 league games this season, will be able to learn from their setbacks.

“United have the quality to defend and the quality to attack on the counter-attack and you have to accept that,” said the City boss.

“That is the level we face against Liverpool, United, Barcelona, Madrid, Juventus. They are the teams we have to face and the reality is maybe we are not able now to compete with them.

“We have to improve and accept it and move forward. Maybe we need to live that as a club to improve, to accept the reality now and improve.”

Guardiola, however, is not ready to give up on his side’s title defence and there is also plenty more to play for in the remainder of the campaign.

City have already qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League ahead of Wednesday’s final group game against Dinamo Zagreb, are through to the League Cup quarter-finals and have a kind draw for the start of their FA Cup defence next month.

“The reality is we are 14 points behind for the mistakes we have done, for the quality of our opponents and especially, as well, the things we cannot control,” said Guardiola. “That is the reality but we have to continue.

“We are at the beginning of December and we have other competitions to play in and other games to fight and improve on. Maybe this is going to help us for the future so we need to live this as a club to be better.”

AFP

Guardiola Backs Arteta As Future Man City Boss

Manchester City’s Spanish assistant manager Mikel Arteta takes his seat for the UEFA Champions League football Group C match between Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England on November 26, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola believes Mikel Arteta would be a suitable replacement for him when he leaves Manchester City after his Spanish assistant was linked with vacant jobs at Arsenal and Everton.

But the City boss said he would not stand in the 37-year-old’s way if he wanted to seek an opportunity elsewhere.

Asked if he would recommend Arteta as his successor, Guardiola, whose City contract runs until 2021, told Sky Sports News: “He is able to do that. But it depends on him, the club, many things that I cannot decide.

“He is ready (to be a manager). It’s right when he has an offer and he accepts the offer. But if you ask whether he is ready in his knowledge of the game, as a person, as a professional, then he is ready.

“I’m not a guy that puts a gun to the heads of my staff or players and says what they have to do.

“We are human beings and everyone has dreams and desires. Hopefully he can stay this season and the next one — as long as possible in this club.”

Arteta, who played for Everton and Arsenal, is one of the names in the frame to succeed the sacked Unai Emery at the Emirates, while Everton are also looking for a boss after dismissing Marco Silva on Thursday.

Guardiola, preparing for Saturday’s Manchester derby, said he had been “impressed” by Manchester United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, despite the Norwegian’s struggles.

“I’m not there — it’s difficult to judge my colleagues,” said Guardiola, whose team are third in the Premier League table, 11 points behind leaders Liverpool.

“I judge the qualities of the players, incredibly fast, set-piece with (Harry) Maguire. They have good players and believe in what they do. I’ve been impressed.

“I’m manager of City and I think he’s an exceptional person. United have huge history and their quality is always there but we must try to beat them.”

Sergio Aguero remains sidelined but left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko could figure against United after knee surgery in October.

AFP

City Are In The Right Frame Of Mind, Says Guardiola

A file photo of Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

 

Pep Guardiola says he is satisfied with the state of mind of his Manchester City players even though they twice lost the lead to draw 2-2 with Newcastle and slip further behind Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Guardiola, whose defending champions are 11 points adrift of Jurgen Klopp’s team with more than a third of the season gone, is adamant the City players have not been affected by a poor run of just one victory in five games in all competitions.

“You have to see how the players run and how they fight and how they try to do it, the body language — we never give up, so the team is always there, that’s my feeling,” he said.

“The game is what it is. In my opinion, it was good. We played well with the ball, we were solid, we conceded few counter-attacks, but football is how many goals you score and how you don’t concede.

“You accept that. Sometimes it happens.”

City have the Manchester derby on Saturday but Guardiola is focused on Tuesday’s away trip to Burnley beforehand.

“I’m not thinking about how many games we have to win,” he said. “It’s just try to win the next one.

“Last season when we were here, we were not talking about the Premier League, how many games you have to win.

“It’s not about that. It’s just now recover, prepare and try to win against Burnley, that is what you have to do, and after that, the derby and make these steps.”

AFP

Injury Rules Aguero Out For ‘A Few Weeks’

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola (L) gestures to Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero (R) as he leaves the pitch during the English Premier League football match against Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north-west England, on November 23, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

 

Manchester City are expected to be without striker Sergio Aguero for “a few weeks”, according to boss Pep Guardiola.

The Argentine sustained the injury during Saturday’s 2-1 win against Chelsea, with Guardiola unclear as to the exact nature of the problem.

In his press conference to preview Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Shakhtar Donetsk, Guardiola said: “Sergio will be out for a few games, a few weeks. I don’t know exactly.

“(The injury) is at the front.”

Gabriel Jesus can expect to feature more prominently in Aguero’s absence, and he said: “I am not happy Sergio is injured.

“I don’t like it when my friends are injured, but every day I work hard and I am ready.”

Manchester City will be through to the knockout phase of the Champions League if they avoid defeat against Shakhtar or if Dinamo Zagreb do not beat Atalanta.

City will be confirmed in top spot if they win, or if they draw and Dinamo do not win.

Guardiola said: “The position we have is good but we have not qualified yet. Tomorrow is a chance.”

AFP

Man City Won’t Give Up On League Title Chase, Says Guardiola

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola gestures on the touchline during an English Premier League football match on November 23, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

 

Pep Guardiola has issued a defiant message to runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool, saying his Manchester City side are not going to give up despite the yawning points gap.

The City boss acknowledges that his team have it all to do, in fourth place and trailing the leaders by nine points after just 12 games.

But they were 10 points adrift of Jurgen Klopp’s team in late December last year before pipping the Reds to the title on the final day by a single point.

“People and the pundits say ‘it’s gone, it’s over,” he said. “Why should I think it’s over? Until May, we are the champions and we want to defend it.

“We have more pressure. They can lose one or two and I prefer their position.

“Three teams have more chance to win the Premier League than us but we are in November and we’ll see how we behave.”

City welcome Chelsea to the Etihad on Saturday, with Frank Lampard’s team one place above them in the table, level on points with second-placed Leicester, but eight adrift of Liverpool.

So before they can even think about narrowing the gap to Liverpool, City must get past Chelsea, who have won six league matches on the spin.

Guardiola has taken comfort from the way City played despite losing 3-1 at Anfield a fortnight ago and believes they can turn their fortunes around.

“We are nine points behind because one team won all the games except one,” he said. “The second reason is that we had some games that can happen after back-to-back (titles).

“If we hadn’t made back-to-back, it would not happen. But the football we have is still there.

“We have two options — give up or don’t give up. I think the way we played at Anfield, we are not going to give up.”

Guardiola has cut a frustrated figure in the early months of the season and that showed in his reactions and sarcastic comments towards the match officials during the game at Liverpool.

There has been speculation that he is unhappy, while his agent issued a statement insisting that Guardiola was not interested in a return to Bayern Munich.

The man himself said such talk was wide of the mark.

“If the people ask, ‘do I want to stay? I want to stay,” he said.

“I don’t have any reasons to move from here. I am incredibly satisfied to work with this club and with these players.

“If the people think I am going to resign or be sacked for these results and being nine points behind, then people don’t know me.

“I like this challenge. I love to be in this position.

“If the club wants me next season, I want to be here 100 percent. I want to live in this city because I know lovely people here and I want to live and work with them.”

AFP

Guardiola Accuses Liverpool Star Mane Of Diving

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola (R) exchanges words with Southampton’s Austrian manager Ralph Hasenhuttl (L) on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Southampton at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on November 2, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola has accused Liverpool star Sadio Mane of diving as the Manchester City boss lit the fuse on next weekend’s explosive clash between the Premier League title rivals.

Mane scored Liverpool’s winner in the fourth minute of stoppage-time as the leaders scored twice in the final moments to escape with a 2-1 victory at Aston Villa on Saturday.

But the Senegal winger had been booked for simulation in the first half at Villa Park and that didn’t escape Guardiola’s attention.

Asked about Liverpool’s comeback, Guardiola, speaking after City came from behind to beat Southampton 2-1, told BBC Sport: “It has happened many times, what Liverpool have done, in the last few years, it’s because (Mane) is a special talent.

“Sometimes he’s diving, sometimes he has this talent to score incredible goals in the last minute. He’s a talent.”

Liverpool remain six points clear of City ahead of their crucial showdown at Anfield on Sunday and Guardiola knows the European champions will be tough to catch given their relentless drive.

“If it’s one time, two times, ‘we were lucky, we were lucky’, but it happened in the last two seasons many, many times. They have a special character to do that,” Guardiola said.

“We look at ourselves, we know which team we face, I think they have won 10 and drawn one. Next week we go to Anfield to try to play them.”

AFP

Guardiola Asks Players To Improve On Performance

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola gestures to his players during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on October 26, 2019. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola warned Manchester City to cut out sluggish starts after the champions recovered from a tepid opening to beat Aston Villa 3-0 on Saturday.

Guardiola’s side closed the gap on Premier League leaders Liverpool to three points thanks to goals from Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan at the Etihad Stadium.

But City boss Guardiola was frustrated with the way his players struggled to establish any momentum in the first half, just days after they fell behind against Atalanta in the Champions League before eventually winning 5-1.

He fears City will be caught out in future if they continue to play so lethargically in the first half.

“Of course, respect and credit for Aston Villa. The first half we played football but we don’t play in the way we should play,” Guardiola said.

“We were better in the second half. I don’t know if it was because of the early goal.

“In the second we play in the way we normally are but we have to try and play 90 minutes. We played just 45.”

City’s second successive league win means Liverpool are under pressure to beat Tottenham at Anfield in Sunday’s clash between last season’s Champions League finalists.

AFP

 

 

Guardiola Asks Players To Be Clinical After Crystal Palace Win

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola attends a press conference at City Football Academy in Manchester, north west England on September 30, 2019. Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola called on his side to be more clinical after they brushed aside in-form Crystal Palace 2-0 on Saturday to narrow the gap to Premier League leaders Liverpool to five points.

The defending champions travelled to London with questions over their ability to sustain a title challenge after two defeats in four league games but produced some incisive football without applying their usual killer touch.

City had 21 shots but Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey kept his side in the game and the visitors had their own ‘keeper, Ederson, to thank for a couple of outstanding saves at the other end.

“We played good, created a lot of chances,” said City boss Guardiola. “They are always so strong for the second ball. Unfortunately, we could not convert the chances we had but it was an important three points after the international break.

“Hopefully we can start from here and continue our good performance. Their ‘keeper made a lot of saves but hopefully we can be more clinical.”

He praised his makeshift defence on a day when John Stones made his first appearance, from the bench, since September.

City were quickly into their stride against Roy Hodgson’s men, dominating possession and forcing Palace onto the back foot but they did not break the deadlock until shortly before half-time.

Jesus strikes 

The visitors were rewarded for their dominance in the 39th minute when Bernardo Silva whipped in a left-footed cross. Gabriel Jesus shaped to head the ball but it came off his shoulder and crept into the net off the far post past a rooted Hennessey.

They doubled their lead just two minutes later following a speedy counter-attack.

When the ball came to Raheem Sterling he produced a delightful chip from just inside the area into the path of David Silva, who watched it drop over his left shoulder before guiding it into the net.

Palace occasionally looked threatening, with Wilfried Zaha a flickering menace, but failed to make the most of their few opportunities to test City’s back four.

Jesus was preferred to Sergio Aguero while Riyad Mahrez was also missing from the starting side, with Fernandinho and Rodri at the heart of defence.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with City in charge. Kevin De Bruyne was denied a penalty after a VAR check backed up the referee’s original decision not to award a spot-kick.

Jesus forced a smart save from Hennessey before Bernardo Silva forced Hennessey into a one-handed save with a curling left-foot shot from the angle.

Hodgson threw on Christian Benteke for Luka Milivojevic with about 15 minutes to go and the Belgian almost scored with his first touch, rising highest to head the ball goalwards from a corner only to see Ederson push the ball onto the crossbar.

City should have killed the game off moments later but Jesus failed to square the ball to the unmarked De Bruyne.

Ederson produced another stunning save from Zaha’s strike minutes before the end.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who have a perfect record of eight wins out of eight games, can restore their eight-point lead if they beat Manchester United on Sunday.

City’s next two Premier League games against Aston Villa and Southampton look winnable but they face a crucial match against Liverpool at Anfield on November 10.

AFP