Tuchel Set For New Deal And Hungry For More After Chelsea Champions League Triumph

File: Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

While Manchester City had been building towards what they thought was their moment in the Champions League for five years under Pep Guardiola, Chelsea showed with their victory in Saturday’s final in Porto what can be achieved in just four months.

That is how long has elapsed since Thomas Tuchel became coach, replacing Frank Lampard with Chelsea ninth in the Premier League.

The German oversaw an immediate transformation in their fortunes, dragging them into the top four, taking them to the FA Cup final which they lost to Leicester City, and now winning the Champions League.

They have beaten Guardiola’s City for the third time in six weeks thanks to Kai Havertz’s goal, and they are champions of Europe for the second time.

Tuchel is set to reap the rewards with a handsome new contract, although whether he will be allowed to put down roots in west London remains to be seen given how managerial cycles tend to go at Stamford Bridge.

READ ALSO: Nearly 300 Rescued In Indonesia Ferry Accident

Once again a mid-season managerial sacking has worked out perfectly for Chelsea, whose 2012 Champions League triumph came following the decision to sack Andre Villas-Boas and appoint Roberto Di Matteo.

This time Chelsea have struck gold with Tuchel, but the 47-year-old would not have been able to deliver such success without the huge investment in players that came before his arrival, as well as some of the outstanding young talents who were already thriving under Lampard.

– Room for improvement –

Five of Chelsea’s line-up at the Estadio do Dragao were signed at the start of the season, including match-winner Havertz, the 71 million-pound ($100m) recruit from Bayer Leverkusen. There was also Reece James and Mason Mount, youth academy graduates who are in England’s squad for Euro 2020.

This is a team that has already conquered Europe but that appears to be just at the start of its adventure together.

“We have a strong bond, a strong group who can really defend and play and have answers on all questions in the game,” Tuchel said on Saturday.

“Once the celebrations are over and once we digest this experience, it is the moment to grow, to evolve, to learn from it and become better.”

There is huge room for improvement in the Premier League after Chelsea finished 19 points behind champions City, and a proper domestic title challenge will be expected now.

“When you play for a club like Chelsea you are always thinking in the future,” said veteran skipper Cesar Azpilicueta.

Tuchel knows full well that past success counts for little — Di Matteo was gone within six months of that 2012 victory and Tuchel himself was sacked by Paris Saint-Germain last December despite leading them to their first ever final last season.

– ‘I want the next one’ –

“When we won the Cup in Dortmund I did not arrive at the next training with less hunger, less desire or ambition,” he said.

“Of course now is the time to celebrate for some days, to enjoy and let it sink in, for one or two weeks, to talk about it and reflect on it, but then it does surprisingly not a lot to you.

“I think it’s good because nobody wants to rest. I want the next one, the next title. I want to be a part of it and I demand to be a part of it and this is what comes next.”

He was initially handed just an 18-month contract but has earned an extended deal after what he has achieved in such a short time.

“I am not even 100 percent sure, but maybe I already have a new contract now with that win. My manager said something about that but I didn’t know so let’s check this first,” he told reporters with a smile.

“My desire is to go for more victories, to grow as a coach and to push the group on the first day of next season to the limit.”

The next Premier League campaign starts on August 14, but Chelsea will play three days before that against Villarreal with an opportunity for another trophy in the UEFA Super Cup.

AFP

Sterling Starts Champions League Final As Guardiola Goes On The Offensive

The trophy is carried pitch side ahead of the UEFA Champions League final football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Dragao stadium in Porto on May 29, 2021. SUSANA VERA / POOL / AFP
The trophy is carried pitch side ahead of the UEFA Champions League final football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Dragao stadium in Porto on May 29, 2021. SUSANA VERA / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola made the bold call to drop both his recognised holding midfielders for Saturday’s Champions League final against Chelsea.

Raheem Sterling returns to the City starting line-up with Ilkay Gundogan forced into a deeper role in midfield in the absence of Fernandinho and Rodrigo.

Sterling has been left on the bench by Guardiola for all four quarter-final and semi-final ties as City have reached the final for the first time in their history.

But the England international’s return at the expense of captain Fernandinho is the only change from the team that beat Paris Saint-Germain in the semi-final second leg.

City’s all-time record goalscorer Sergio Aguero also starts on the bench in his final game for the club.

Chelsea are boosted by the return of N’Golo Kante in midfield and Edouard Mendy’s recovery from a rib injury that forced him off at half-time of last weekend’s 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa.

Thomas Tuchel keeps faith with Timo Werner up front despite his wastefulness in front of goal during his first season at Stamford Bridge.

Kai Havertz starts up front alongside his German international teammate Werner.

Manchester City (4-3-3)

Ederson; Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, John Stones, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne (capt), Bernardo Silva; Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling

Coach: Pep Guardiola (ESP)

Chelsea (3-4-1-2)

Edouard Mendy; Reece James, Thiago Silva, Antonio Rudiger; Cesar Azpilicueta (capt), N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, Ben Chilwell; Mason Mount; Timo Werner, Kai Havertz

Coach: Thomas Tuchel (GER)

Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz (ESP)

Guardiola Wins England’s Manager Of The Year Award

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola celebrates during the Premier League trophy award ceremony after the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Everton at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 23, 2021.
Dave Thompson / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola has been named manager of the year by England’s League Managers’ Association, it was announced on Monday.

Guardiola steered City to the Premier League title and League Cup this season and this Saturday the Spaniard’s side will bid to be crowned kings of Europe for the first time when they face English rivals Chelsea in the Champions League final in Porto.

Former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager Guardiola topped a poll where the other leading contenders were Leeds’ Marcelo Bielsa, Norwich’s Daniel Farke, Chelsea women’s manager Emma Hayes, West Ham’s David Moyes, and Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers.

“I am delighted to win the LMA Manager of the year award for the second time,” said Guardiola.

“It is, for me, such a special trophy to win because it is voted for by my fellow managers. An award like this is only possible though if a manager is surrounded by top professionals.

“My players have been fantastic — their dedication and professionalism never wavered, even in a season that has been the most challenging we have ever faced,” added the 50-year-old, whose mother died during the coronavirus pandemic.

“And my staff are also deserving of the highest praise. I am so lucky to have a team of people who give everything they have every single day to make sure Manchester City are the best we can be.

“This award is dedicated to and shared with them.”

Alex Ferguson, the multiple trophy-winning former manager of Manchester United, and now an LMA committee member, paid tribute to Guardiola by saying: “As well as being a truly gifted manager and leader, you always display admirable humility and composure and I am sure your family must be very proud of you.”

Guardiola’s award came just days after it was announced that City defender Ruben Dias had been voted the footballer of the year by England’s Football Writers Association.

Aguero Close To Barcelona Deal, Says Man City Coach 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)

 

Sergio Aguero is close to agreeing a move to Barcelona that would unite him with fellow Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, according to Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. 

City’s record goalscorer, who has spent a decade at the Etihad, scored a quickfire double in the champions’ 5-0 win over Everton in his final Premier League appearance for the club on Sunday.

The goals took his Premier League tally to 184 — the most by any player for a single club.

The 32-year-old forward is set to leave the Etihad as a free agent after Saturday’s Champions League final against Chelsea.

“Maybe I reveal a secret,” Guardiola told the BBC. “Maybe he is close to agreeing a deal for the club of my heart — for Barcelona.

“He is going to be playing alongside the best player of all time, Messi.”

READ ALSO: Suarez Scores As Atletico Madrid Win La Liga

If the move goes ahead it would be Aguero’s second spell in Spain — he made his name at Atletico Madrid before the move to Manchester in 2011.

Aguero’s final season at City was dogged by injury and a coronavirus infection but Guardiola believes the striker has a lot to offer the Catalan giants.

Barcelona had a disappointing season, finishing third in La Liga and falling in the last 16 of the Champions League.

“I’m pretty sure he is going to enjoy,” said Guardiola. “And maybe Barcelona are stronger and stronger with him on the pitch.”

AFP

Man City Only Need One Shot At Champions League Glory – Guardiola

File photo: Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola attends a press conference at City Football Academy in Manchester, north west England on September 30, 2019, the eve of their UEFA Champions League football Group C match against Dinamo Zagreb. Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City’s desire to lift the Champions League outweighs any inexperience as they prepare for their first final in the competition against Chelsea on Saturday.

A decade of heavy investment from City’s Abu Dhabi owners has delivered five Premier League titles, three of which have come since Guardiola arrived in Manchester five years ago, including the season that has just finished.

But the Champions League has eluded both City and also Guardiola since he won the last of his two European Cups as a coach at Barcelona in 2011.

“Sometimes you need time. The important thing is the way we are going to approach the final. We are going to play to win the game,” said Guardiola on Monday.

“Sometimes clubs need more finals to win one, others need just one shot to be champion. Hopefully it will be the case.

“This club is new for many things, but in this period we won back-to-back titles for the first time, we broke many records, we arrived in the final for the first time.

“As a club, as an organisation, we are not old in this case. But in terms of how satisfied and delighted we are to be there, nobody can beat us in that.”

READ ALSO: Suarez Scores As Atletico Madrid Win La Liga

Until this season, City had not even made it beyond the quarter-finals of the Champions League under Guardiola.

Defensive frailties, missed chances and controversial refereeing calls were consistent features of unexpected exits to Monaco, Liverpool, Tottenham and Lyon in the previous four seasons.

Fine margins 

But Guardiola’s men have got the breaks when they have needed them this season.

City were 35 minutes away from bowing out on away goals to Borussia Dortmund in the last eight before a favourable penalty award was converted by Riyad Mahrez.

Mahrez also scored three goals in the semi-finals in a 4-1 aggregate victory over Paris Saint Germain, with the French side guilty of missing chances and generous defending.

“We are quite a similar team from in the past when we were out,” said Guardiola. “The margins are little details. This year it fell on our side when for many years it was the opposite.

“Now we are quite satisfied to get to the final but we know if you don’t have a huge desire to win it, a huge desire to know what we have to do, it will not be possible to win the game, to win the Champions League.”

Portuguese international centre-back Ruben Dias was awarded the English Football Writers’ Association player of the year last week for his transformative impact since joining from Benfica in September.

File photo: Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola celebrates on the pitch after the English League Cup final football match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Wembley stadium in London on March 1, 2020. Glyn KIRK / AFP.

 

Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan said City’s defensive improvement as the key difference in Europe this season.

“I feel this year a couple of crucial things changed for us,” said Gundogan.

“Against Monaco a few years ago we conceded three goals at home, against Tottenham when they knocked us out we conceded again three goals at home, against Lyon we conceded three goals.

“This year it seems we are so stable, we concede a few amount of goals. This helps us to win even more. I feel like we are very strong, very stable.

“This is so important in these crucial moments, being able to defend well, not to concede is obviously a big advantage.

“Same as well for Chelsea to be honest, they seem also to be very stable, to concede a few amount of goals. Maybe on Saturday it is going to be about who is able to deal better with a team that will defend on a very high level.”

Gundogan, City’s top scorer this season, also confirmed he will be fit for the final after suffering a leg injury against Brighton last week.

AFP

Tuchel’s Chelsea Can Take ‘Confidence’ From Wins Over Man City

Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel gives a post match interview after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. – Leicester won the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s 137-year history as Youri Tielemans’s sensational strike beat Chelsea 1-0 in front of 22,000 fans at Wembley. (Photo by Nick Potts / POOL / AFP)

 

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said on Monday his side can approach this weekend’s Champions League final against Manchester City with confidence after recent victories against Pep Guardiola’s Premier League winners.

The Blues will face City in Porto on Saturday after securing a top-four finish in the English top-flight despite a 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa.

Tuchel outfoxed Guardiola in last month’s FA Cup semi-final before inflicting a rare home league defeat on City but his side have lost three of their past four games in all competitions.

The German, who replaced Frank Lampard in January, said reaching the top four after to Sunday’s loss at Villa Park was an “outstanding achievement” and his players were now having a short mental break.

“I want them to be here on Wednesday full of joy because this is maybe one of their most exciting weeks in their whole life as professional players,” he said.

Tuchel, whose Paris Saint-German side were beaten last year by Bayern Munich in the Champions League final, said the recent victories against City had proved they were beatable.

“I think it helped us to bond, to grow and to arrive with a lot of self-confidence,” he said.

“Manchester City are the benchmark. They are the champions.

“They are the benchmark in Europe and in this league and we are the guys who want to hunt them and want to close the gap.”

“The experience helped,” he added.

“It gives you not an advantage but it helps us to arrive with confidence, to be well aware of what is needed to have a chance to beat them.”

Tuchel said he was worried his side had lost three of their past four matches in all competitions, including the FA Cup final against Leicester, but said they were playing well.

“It concerns me because it always concerns me when we lose and this is not so easy to get a grip on these losses because the data we produce, the statistics we produce, the performances we produce, do not indicate that it’s necessary or even logical to lose,” he said.

“We simply have not been lucky enough in these games. We maybe didn’t push it too much or whatever and we’re looking for reasons but we cannot deny we had good performances,” he added.

Tuchel said goalkeeper Edouard Mendy had shown “huge improvement” in his battle to be fit for the final in Porto after suffering a rib injury following a collision with the post in the Villa defeat.

“He’s made a huge improvement in the management of pain,” said the Chelsea boss.

“So we need a further update on Wednesday but we hope to have him back in training.”

AFP

Guardiola Exorcises Champions League Demons To Lead Man City To First Final

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola looks on from the sidelines during the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Manchester City at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, southern England on July 5, 2020.
Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP

 

 

After a decade of disappointment, Pep Guardiola is back in a Champions League final and just one game away from delivering on his task to make Manchester City champions of Europe for the first time.

In the battle between two clubs with seemingly endless resources but no Champions League titles to their name, City kept their cool to beat Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 on aggregate as the French champions paid for losing their heads in both legs of the semi-final tie.

Riyad Mahrez, born and raised in Paris, scored twice to secure a 2-0 win for City in Tuesday’s second leg before Angel di Maria’s red card for lashing out at Fernandinho rounded off another miserable European exit for the French champions.

A first Champions League final for City, against Real Madrid or Chelsea in Istanbul, is the culmination of the club’s rise since an Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008 transformed their fortunes.

In the coming days, they will seal a fifth Premier League title in the past 10 years.

Once dubbed the “noisy neighbours” by legendary former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, City are now not just the dominant force in Manchester but also in English football.

By the end of the month, the mix of Emirati wealth and Guardiola’s coaching may have also conquered Europe.

“Of course we invest a lot of money since Sheikh Mansour took over, but it is not just this,” said Guardiola. “It is a lot of incredible things behind the scenes.

“Reaching the final of the Champions League, helps us realise in the bigger picture what we have done in the last four years. What we have done these four years is incredible.”

– ‘Remarkable’ consistency –
Since a difficult first year in England, Guardiola has led City to four League Cups, an FA Cup and the brink of a third Premier League title in four seasons.

However, until now, that domestic success always came with the caveat of Champions League collapses.

Guardiola has won the competition twice before as a coach during his time at Barcelona, but not since 2011.

City did not even progress beyond the last eight in his first four seasons in charge.

It was a similar story for the Catalan in his three years at Bayern Munich between 2013 and 2016 as three Bundesliga titles were overshadowed by three semi-final exits to Spanish opposition.

“People believe because it happened in the past I have to arrive every year in the final of the Champions League,” added Guardiola.

“This is a little bit unfair because the consistency these guys have shown in every competition these last four or five years is remarkable.”

City exorcised many of their Champions League demons against PSG.

Missed chances, controversial refereeing decisions and sloppy defending frequently combined to cost them in recent seasons.

This time an early penalty awarded against Oleksandr Zinchenko was overturned after a VAR review, Mahrez was deadly with his two chances and City’s much-improved defence withstood a first-half barrage.

“The first-half they were so good but we defended so well. We defend all together, helped each other,” said Guardiola after a 31st clean sheet of the season.

“To reach the final in this competition is so difficult. It is the toughest one for the quality of the opponents, the composure you have to have and to suffer the toughest moments. We did it.”

Win one more game on May 29 and Guardiola will be among a select band of just three other managers — Bob Paisley, Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane — to win the European Cup three times.

With already 25 major trophies to his name in just 12 seasons in charge of Barca, Bayern and City, the 50-year-old can silence any lasting doubters and cement his status as one of the greatest coaches of all-time with victory in Istanbul.

Man City Cruise Into Champions League Quarter-Finals

Manchester City’s Spanish coach Josep Guardiola (2R) watches his players (LtoR) Manchester City’s Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva, Manchester City’s Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho and Manchester City’s Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez, during the UEFA Champions League, last 16, second-leg football match between Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach at the Puskas Arena in Budapest on March 16, 2021. (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP)

 

 

Pep Guardiola told his Manchester City players to forget their previous Champions League failures after cruising into the quarter-finals with a 2-0 win over Borussia Moenchengladbach on Tuesday that sealed a 4-0 aggregate victory.

The Champions League is the one trophy that has remained elusive to Guardiola during his five years in Manchester with City failing to ever get beyond the last eight under the Catalan.

But the runaway Premier League leaders will get the chance to break that barrier next month as they showed why they are the bookies’ favourites for the competition with another classy performance in Budapest, which hosted both legs of the tie due to coronavirus restrictions on travel between England and Germany.

Early goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan killed off any hope of a fightback from the Germans as City recorded a 24th win in their last 25 games in all competitions.

“What happened in the past is the past,” said Guardiola, who won the Champions League twice as coach of Barcelona but has been unable to replicate that success with Bayern Munich or City.

“In the quarter-finals one bad game, (a few) bad minutes can punish you.

“Now it is the best teams in Europe. The quality every time is higher and hopefully we can maintain this mood.”

De Bruyne and Gundogan were two of a host of first-team regulars left out by Guardiola for Saturday’s 3-0 win at Fulham and City looked refreshed in a fast start.

De Bruyne blasted in the opener from outside the box off the underside of the bar on 12 minutes.

Six minutes later a flowing move from back to front saw Phil Foden release Gundogan in behind the Gladbach defence to score his 15th goal of the season.

“The start obviously helps a lot,” said De Bruyne. “We were patient in the beginning and then scoring the two goals gives us a bit of a cover knowing they need to come out a little bit more. I think we controlled the game.”

Gladbach have now lost all seven games since manager Marco Rose announced he will be leaving the club at the end of the season to join Borussia Dortmund.

– Rock solid City –
Defensive frailties have been the cause of City’s previous Champions League exits under Guardiola.

They conceded six goals to Monaco over two legs in 2017, five to Liverpool a year later, four to Tottenham in 2019, and suffered a shock 3-1 defeat to Lyon last season in a one-off tie in Lisbon.

However, the signing of Ruben Dias has transformed Guardiola’s men into the complete team this season as they remain on course for an unprecedented quadruple of Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup.

City have now kept seven consecutive Champions League clean sheets.

“We cannot deny Ruben and John (Stones) make an incredible step forward for the team,” added Guardiola.

“But we need everyone. Everyone runs a lot, the important thing is to understand we defend with the ball.”

With no key players missing through injury, the wealth of options Guardiola has to choose from is another reason this could finally be City’s year for a major breakthrough in Europe.

Fernandinho, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Aymeric Laporte, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling were all introduced off the bench in the second half to give Dias, Joao Cancelo, Gundogan, Rodrigo and Bernardo Silva an early night ahead of Saturday’s trip to Everton in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

By then, City will know their next Champions League opponents. On this form, they are the side to avoid in Friday’s quarter-final draw.

Man City ‘On Fire’ In Training After Derby Defeat, 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 his Manchester City squad are “on fire” in training as they look to get back to winning ways against Southampton on Wednesday.

The Premier League leaders’ record 21-game winning streak in all competitions was ended by Manchester United in Sunday’s derby at the Etihad Stadium.

Asked on Tuesday about the mood in the camp since the weekend, the City manager said his players were determined to return to winning ways.

“A mix of disappointment and sadness but, at the same time, the second day a bit better and today completely on fire to try to do a good game tomorrow,” he said.

“It’s a normal process when you lose the games. The reaction is common.”

City, seeking to win their third Premier League title in four seasons, are 11 points clear of United with 10 games to go but Guardiola said there was still work to do.

“When the option is open everything can happen in football,” he said. “Nobody thought we could win 21 in a row. Anything can happen. United can do it.

“We have 10 games left and we have to win six or seven games to be champions mathematically. We’re going to try to win the first one tomorrow.”

Guardiola routinely makes changes and Phil Foden and Sergio Aguero could be in contention for starting roles at the Etihad on Wednesday.

He said: “Maybe, I will decide tomorrow. I have an idea in general of the guys who will play but I have a few doubts.”

Asked if these were injury doubts, Guardiola said: “No, everybody is OK.”

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.”

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

Guardiola Warns Brighton Could Darken Man City’s Buoyant Mood

File photo: 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 has warned that momentum can disappear in “one instant” as he prepares his Manchester City side to face Brighton after six successive wins in all competitions.

City go into Wednesday’s home match four points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool but with two games in hand and boosted by the return of England forward Raheem Sterling.

Their 13-game unbeaten run has come with minimal input from record goalscorer Sergio Aguero, who will be missing again as he self-isolates as a close contact of somebody who has tested positive for coronavirus.

Eric Garcia is also self-isolating due to a positive test while defenders Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake are injured.

READ ALSO: UN Seeks $35 Million In Emergency Aid For Madagascar

“The momentum (can) arrive and disappear in one instant,” Guardiola said on Tuesday.

“We cannot forget the teams we beat recently, especially in the Premier League and the League Cup against two strong teams away (Chelsea and Manchester United).

“But the momentum can disappear tomorrow so we have to do it again.”

City have three home league games over the next week as they attempt to make further progress following a slow start to the season.

But Guardiola said he was not entertaining thoughts of dethroning champions Liverpool.

“All I am concerned about is Brighton,” he said. “The rest, not even second in my thoughts.”

Brighton are fourth from bottom but Guardiola said he was a big fan of Graham Potter’s team.

“They are a joy to watch and analyse,” he said. “When you see them, you are concerned about the quality. I said to the players we will have to be at a high standard to compete against them.”