Pep Guardiola dismisses Jurgen Klopp’s argument that Manchester City have no weaknesses

Klopp has got involved in some mind games with his City counterpart as the busy festive schedule approaches. (AFP)
Updated 21 December 2018

Pep Guardiola dismisses Jurgen Klopp’s argument that Manchester City have no weaknesses

  • Klopp piles pressure on City saying they are the best side in the Premier League.
  • Guardiola, though, says his team are fallible and can point to the fact that they lost their season’s unbeaten league record at Chelsea this month as proof.

MANCHESTER: Pep Guardiola has dismissed Jurgen Klopp’s suggestion that Manchester City are a team with no sign of weakness as the two battle for the Premier League title.
Guardiola’s City and Klopp’s Liverpool appear increasingly to be the two main contenders in the title race, as the season approaches its halfway point.
With few slip-ups from either side, their meeting at the Etihad Stadium on Jan. 3 looks a potentially significant moment in the battle for first place — a position held by unbeaten Liverpool going into the weekend’s fixtures.
Yet Klopp claimed this week that the only team that can stop Guardiola’s men from defending their title are City themselves.
Guardiola, though, says his team are fallible and can point to the fact that they lost their season’s unbeaten league record at Chelsea this month as proof.
“Any team has strong points and weak points,” said the City manager. “Of course we have weaknesses. We are working on it, but that’s normal. These kind of comments have to be put in perspective.”
Guardiola’s side, who are at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday, were a point off the top of the table before Liverpool went to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday.
Palace are 15th in the Premier League and have collected just one point from their past six away matches. Yet they have started to climb away from the relegation zone after home wins over Burnley and Leicester.
Palace have lost on all their seven visits to the Etihad and have suffered defeat in each of their past nine away games against City, a run going back to the days of Maine Road.
Palace, though, did end City’s run of 18 consecutive league wins on Dec. 31 last season with a 0-0 draw at Selhurst Park, and might have won had goalkeeper Ederson not saved an injury-time penalty from Luka Milivojevic.
Roy Hodgson’s side deserved he goalless draw they earned on their previous visit to Manchester, against United at Old Trafford on November 24, and Guardiola is wary of players such as Wilfried Zaha, Max Meyer, Andros Townsend and Milivojevic.
“They have quality players in Zaha, Townsend, Meyer, Milivojevic,” he said. “They have an incredible experienced manager. I saw the game against Chelsea (on Nov. 4, when Palace lost 3-1), and it was so difficult to attack them.
“After winning 18 games in a row, you have to draw once eventually, that’s normal. We played decent in the first half that day. But in the second half they were much better and missed a penalty.
“Palace bring worries because of the qualities they have. They know what they have to do. Maybe people expect better results from them than they got but in every game they have more chances.
“Winning against them is complicated, and tomorrow it will happen like this (and be difficult for us) if we are not completely focused.”
Playmaker David Silva is back in training as he recovers from the hamstring injury he suffered against Chelsea but will not be available to face Palace.
Center-back Vincent Kompany will be absent with a muscular problem but Kevin De Bruyne could make his first league start of the season, having played and scored in Wednesday’s League Cup win at Leicester after recovering from two knee injuries.
Sergio Aguero, who started the Leicester match after coming back from a groin problem, will compete for a place in attack with Gabriel Jesus.


Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star eyes path to Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Updated 20 August 2019

Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star eyes path to Tokyo 2020 Olympics

  • Dalma Malhas ‘honored’ to be part of national team
  • Equestrian star began riding aged four

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star Dalma Malhas is counting down to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by competing in a series of crucial qualifying events.

Malhas, who has been riding since the age of four, told Arab News that she was honored to be part of the Saudi national team after “years of work and dedication.”

Next month she and her fellow showjumpers head to Morocco to take part in a series of qualifying events.

The 10th edition of the Morocco Royal Tour takes place in three cities — Tetouan, Rabat, and Eljadida —  on three consecutive weekends. The top two teams, based on their results, will qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Malhas wants to be at the prestigious sporting event in Japan. 

“The work that has been done in the past few years will manifest itself now and I’m enjoying what I’ve been working on ... I believe in destiny and hard work,” she told Arab News. “Anything could happen, but I’m hopeful and trying to focus on peak performance because it is important that, when it comes to the horse and myself, we want to be there, energetic and motivated.”

She was the first female athlete from the Kingdom to compete at an Olympic-level event, riding at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010 in Singapore and winning a bronze medal. She participated in the 14-18 age group, becoming only the third Saudi athlete to snag an Olympic medal.

She said it was easy to buy a horse that was already trained and compete with it. But the challenge for her was to get an inexperienced horse and train him from scratch.

“I dedicated time, effort and energy. I had a vision of how he could be and transformed him into a skilled and talented horse, and step-by-step I followed that. You build a strong partnership when you go through that process. It’s an affinity you can’t really buy. This is a very big part of horsemanship and one of my biggest achievements since the Youth Olympic Games. It’s priceless, having a combination and partnership like this.”

Malhas was born in 1992. Her mother, Arwa Mutabagani, is a prominent equestrian and has been a board member at the Saudi Equestrian Federation since 2008. She was also the first woman to be appointed to the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee.

Malhas has had a thoroughly international upbringing. At 12 she moved with her mother from Saudi Arabia to Rome to train with her under Italy’s former showjumping national coach, Duccio Bartalucci, spending a decade under his tutelage.

After studying and training in Italy she joined a two-year professional program at the Fursan Equestrian Center in Chantilly, France. She has been training with Olympic champion Roger Yves Bost since 2016. 

She started 2019 by participating in several tournaments, crisscrossing Europe and gradually moving up the leaderboard. 

She has won several awards to date, including Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award, and can be regarded as a pioneer and role model.

Malhas said there were great opportunities for Saudi women in the fields of sports and equestrianism. She talked about the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan and how it empowered women. She also saw an opportunity to become more involved. 

“I want to give back too. I’ve been mostly focused on showjumping and training, so hopefully I’ll start giving back and contribute to society and motivate my peers in the country. I don’t mind though I’ve been enjoying the ride and after years of work I’m finally being rewarded in the best way possible.”