Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho lead the Premier League pretenders to Manchester City's throne

Pep Guardiola had started the mind games early by praising Liverpool’s manager Jurgen Klopp ahead of next season. (AFP)
Updated 14 May 2018
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Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho lead the Premier League pretenders to Manchester City's throne

  • Klopp will hope his Liverpool side stays in tact and closes the gap on City
  • Mourinho will need to bolster in the transfer window for any hope of catching his cross-city rivals

LONDON: The dust is only just settling on a dramatic Premier League season, but there will be a handful of managers already plotting how to wrest control of the title away from Manchester City as they wake up this morning.

For all its drama and intrigue, one thing had been a certainty since the turn of the year — Pep Guardiola’s rampant City would be crowned champions. In a record-breaking season, they managed that feat with five games to spare, while leaving the rest of the field in their wake.

In the build-up to Sunday’s final round of fixtures, Guardiola had started the mind games early by praising Liverpool’s manager Jurgen Klopp and telling the world that he expects a much tougher challenge from the Merseyside club next year.

“This season they were a big contender and they will be again next season,” he said. 

For Klopp, it will be about keeping the core of the squad together. With the addition in the January transfer window of Virgil Van Dijk in defense and the blossoming of Georginio Wijnaldum in the midfield, the German coach managed to supplement the Reds’ lethal front line led by the mercurial Mohamed Salah and turn them into challengers and potential European champions overnight.

Liverpool were also one of the few teams to stop the City juggernaut in the Premier League this year — one that lost only twice all season — managing, also, to do it again in the Champions League in both legs of their quarterfinal clash. 

But it was not against clubs such as City that Liverpool allowed such a gap to emerge, it was too many dropped points against weaker opposition that damaged their bid to keep up. There will be no room next season for draws at home and defeats away against the likes of relegated West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City. And Klopp knows that.

Meanwhile, runners-up and cross-city rivals Manchester United are well aware of the importance of “buying right” in the summer transfer window. With Guardiola looking to strengthen a City squad which already looks staggeringly strong, Jose Mourinho will have to outmanuever his arch-rival in the market and get his squad balance right from day one of the new season. 

A new central midfielder has to be a priority for Mourinho, but the Portuguese has already warned fans that summer recruitment will be tough with so much ground to make up. It is true, also, that Mourinho’s result-over-performance approach was blown out of the water by Guardiola’s charges this season, whose results were secured with a style and relentless attacking mentality, which was breathtaking to watch — a stark contrast to the often dour showings from United.

The departure of his long-time collaborator Rui Faria gives Mourinho a chance to bring in fresh blood to the United dugout and fans will hope Faria’s exit will lead to a more exciting brand of football being played at Old Trafford next season. Fan-favorite Rene Muelensteen would be a wise choice, considering his penchant for free-flowing, attacking football.

As for the rest — Chelsea could well be getting used to life after Antonio Conte come August, Tottenham Hotspur face a summer dismantling of Mauricio Pochettino’s settled and talented squad and Arsenal’s fortunes will depend entirely on the man they bring in to replace Arsene Wenger.

While the rest of the world turns its attention to the glitz and glamor of the World Cup, for a select few the hard work already begins to topple the all-conquering reign of Guardiola and Manchester City.


From near-death in Libyan desert to Saudi Arabia in 40 years: A history of the Dakar Rally

Updated 15 min ago
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From near-death in Libyan desert to Saudi Arabia in 40 years: A history of the Dakar Rally

LONDON: A new and exciting chapter in the prestigious history of the Dakar Rally is ready to be written as the world’s biggest and most challenging rally confirmed it will debut in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in January 2020.

1977: Inspiration
Biker Thierry Sabine gets lost in the Libyan desert while competing in the Abidjan-Nice Rally. After being rescued from the sands on the verge of death, he vows to share the scale and magic of the desert with the whole world.

1978: A dream come true
On 26 December 1978, a field of 170 adventurers starts its 10,000-kilometer quest through Algeria, Niger, Mali, the Upper Volta, and Senegal. A total of 74 vehicles make it to the finish on Place de l’Indépendance in Dakar, with Cyril Neveu at the helm.

1983: Ickx on all fronts
Celebrities and the best drivers and riders in the world heed the call of the Dakar. The combination is a successful one, with the six-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Jacky Ickx and comedian Claude Brasseur taking the spoils in the fourth edition.

1986: Tragedy strikes
Thierry Sabine and Daniel Balavoine die in a helicopter crash alongside pilot François-Xavier Bagnoud, journalist Nathalie Odent and radio technician Jean-Paul Lefur. Gilbert Sabine, the father of the creator of the race, takes over as director.

1992: Africa from north to south
The Dakar takes a break from the capital of Senegal to pit the competitors against the challenge of a lifetime. The drivers and riders have to tackle a route of almost 12,500 kilometers through 11 countries to cross Africa from one side to the other and reach Cape Town in South Africa. Stéphane Peterhansel (motorbikes) and Hubert Auriol (cars) stand atop the podium at the end of the Odyssey.

1998: Peterhansel rolls a six
The biker with a blue bandana emerges victorious from a clash of titans with Orioli and Arcarons to become the undisputed master of the category in the 1990s. His sixth win catapults him past Cyril Neveu as the event record holder. “Peter” has since added seven car victories to his tally!

2000: At the foot of the pyramids
The Dakar marks the turn of the century next to one of the seven wonders of the world: the Great Pyramid of Giza. Reigning champions Richard Sainct (motorbikes) and Jean-Louis Schlesser (cars) both manage to defend their titles against this prestigious backdrop.

2001: Miss Dakar
No one suspects that this will be the last Paris–Dakar. In contrast, everyone sees Jutta Kleinschmidt, who had made her Dakar debut in 1988 on a motorbike, become the first woman to win the rally, this time racing at the wheel of a Mitsubishi 4×4. She remains the only female winner of the event to date.

2009: Rising from the ashes in Buenos Aires
The Dakar picks itself up and crosses the Atlantic to rise from the ashes. A new era dawns with 4 million spectators turning out in force to cheer on the drivers and riders in the majestic landscapes of Argentina and Chile.

2012: Pacific Challenge
After three years with a route starting and ending in Buenos Aires, the organizers break the mold with a finish on the Pacific coast of Lima, Peru.

2014: Dizzying heights
Bolivia becomes the 28th country to host the Dakar. The Altiplano and Salar de Uyuni introduce a new test for the competitors: extreme altitude, which takes a toll on both their bodies and their machines.

2020: Chapter 3
In the wake of its first foray into Paraguay in 2017, the Dakar adds the 30th country to its list. In Saudi Arabia, the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula, the competitors will face challenges such as the “Empty Quarter,” a pristine expanse that has never been explored fully before.