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
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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.


Oscar hat trick powers Shanghai into last 16

Updated 21 May 2019
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Oscar hat trick powers Shanghai into last 16

  • Saudi sides Ahli and Hilal advance
  • Urawa qualify for knockout phase

SHANGHAI: Former Chelsea star Oscar hit a hat trick, including a wonderful curling effort from outside the box, to fire Shanghai SIPG into the AFC Champions League last 16 on Tuesday.

The Chinese champions’ 5-0 home demolition of a depleted, but already qualified, Ulsan Hyundai dumped Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale out of Asia’s premier club competition.

Shanghai SIPG’s Oscar  scores a goal against Ulsan Hyundai. (AFP)

On Monday night, goals from Omar Al-Somah and Abdulrahman Ghareeb helped Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahli beat Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor 2-1 to finish second behind Al-Sadd in Group D. 

Ahli needed to beat Pakhtakor to finish second behind Al Sadd and they did exactly that to make the next phase with nine points, one behind the Qataris. In Group C, Al-Hilal and Qatar’s Al Duhail played out a 2-2 draw. Both teams had already qualified for the last 16, with the Saudis assured of the top spot even before kick-off.

Kawasaki thrashed a weakened Sydney FC 4-0 away but SIPG squeezed through by a point in Group H over last year’s J-League winners. Ulsan still finished top of the group despite the thrashing and will meet Urawa Red Diamonds in the last 16 after their supersub Kazuki Nagasawa scored the opening goal and created another in a 3-0 win over Chinese Super League leaders Beijing Guoan in Saitama.

Vitor Pereira’s SIPG finished runners-up and will play Group G winners Jeonbuk, another Korean side, next month in the knockout rounds while high-flying Beijing failed to get past the group stage.

Oscar, who joined SIPG for an Asian-record €60 million from Chelsea in January 2017, said: “The (second) goal I scored was very beautiful and my favorite.”

Asked by AFP if the exquisite strike was a reminder to European football of his enduring qualities, the 27-year-old Brazilian said: “For players who come to Asia and China, their level is not going down. We keep working hard to improve our level step by step.”

SIPG made light of the absence of injured captain Hulk and were ahead after just seven minutes when Oscar played a clever one-two with fellow Brazilian Elkeson before firing first time past stand-in goalkeeper Moon Jung-in.

K-League leaders Ulsan made wholesale changes from the team that won 3-1 at Suwon Bluewings on Saturday allowing Pereira’s side to dominate at a half-empty Shanghai Stadium. Oscar’s neat first settled any nerves in the must-win game and the former international made it 2-0 on 42 minutes with his world-class strike into the top-left corner from the edge of the penalty area. Man of the match Oscar completed his hat trick on 76 minutes after striker Li Shenglong had made it 3-0 and substitute Hu Jinghang made it a five-star night. Over in Japan, Urawa had an early scare when captain Yosuke Kashiwagi was stretchered off in the 11th minute to be replaced by Nagasawa.

But they need not have worried as it was the substitute who broke the deadlock in the 34th minute as he shrugged off weak Beijing challenges at the edge of the box to fire past goalkeeper Zou Dehai.

Beijing needed at least a score draw to go through to the last 16 but their task became harder when Nagasawa turned provider seven minutes later, sliding in Yuki Muto to score. Urawa remained in control and in the 81st minute sealed their place in the knockout phase when Muto played in Shinzo Koroki to ram home.

Group winners Jeonbuk drew 0-0 with Thailand’s Buriram United in the other Group G match.