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.


Champions League ready to resume, at long last

Robert Lewandowski, left, and Bayern Munich during their Marseille friendly ahead of the Champions League last 16 2nd leg against Chelsea. (Files/AFP)
Updated 03 August 2020

Champions League ready to resume, at long last

  • UEFA ‘confident’ no more delays despite virus cases among players at Real Madrid and Sevilla

PARIS: After an enforced hiatus of almost five months, the UEFA Champions League and Europa League resume this week in order to clear up the last remaining business in a troubled season.

Both competitions were frozen in March as the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the continent, and while European football’s governing body acted swiftly to move Euro 2020 back a year, for a long time it was unclear how it would manage to complete its two landmark club competitions.
In the end the solution was to set up two mini tournaments bringing all teams together in one place from the quarterfinals onwards, with all ties being decided in one-off matches behind closed doors.
And so the Champions League will move to Lisbon for the “Final Eight” starting on Aug. 12 and ending with the final at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz on Aug. 23.
The Europa League, meanwhile, will be played to a conclusion at a series of venues in western Germany, with the last eight beginning on Aug. 10 and the final in Cologne on Aug. 21.
“I believed it from the first moment,” said the UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin recently when asked if he ever doubted it would be possible to play the tournaments to a conclusion. “You should always be optimistic, and if something like this crisis happens, you must have a plan ready. “At the present time, we will be playing matches without spectators until further notice. We will not take any risks.”
There is, though, no question of further changes being made to the formats despite concerns about an increase in Covid-19 cases in and around Lisbon, and more recent worries in Germany about a rise in cases there.
UEFA also recently insisted it was “confident” there would be no more delays despite cases of coronavirus emerging among players at Real Madrid and Sevilla. It is, in any case, now or never.
Indeed, the preliminary round of next season’s Champions League begins next Saturday, the same day Bayern Munich entertain Chelsea and Napoli visit Barcelona in their outstanding last 16 second legs.
Before that, Manchester City defend a 2-1 first-leg lead at home against Real on Friday as Pep Guardiola’s side target Champions League glory on the back of the club’s success at getting a two-year ban from the competition overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The winner of that tie will face Juventus or Lyon in the quarterfinals in Lisbon.
It is the Europa League which is first up, though, with the last 16 being completed on Wednesday and Thursday.
Two ties — Inter Milan against Getafe and Sevilla against Roma — will go ahead as one-off ties in Germany as the first legs were never played.
Six second legs will also be played with the winners heading to Germany for the last eight.
Among the ties to be completed is Manchester United’s against Austrian side LASK, which will be a formality for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team after they won 5-0 in the first leg in March.
Their form since the Premier League resumed in mid-June has been excellent and they have already sealed a place in the 2020-21 Champions League, but now they want to finish this never-ending season with a trophy.
“Now our focus is on the Europa League because this is a really good trophy and we want to win,” Bruno Fernandes told MUTV.
“I came to Manchester to win trophies. We need to play every game to win. If we go into the Europa League and win every game, we know we’ll win the trophy.”
United, Europa League winners in 2017, could yet find themselves facing Premier League rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers in the semifinals in Cologne on Aug. 16 should both teams get there.
Wolves entertain Greek champions Olympiakos on Thursday having drawn 1-1 in the first leg of their last-16 tie.
Their campaign started more than a year ago now, with a 2-0 win over Northern Irish side Crusaders in the second qualifying round on July 25, 2019.
Extending it by another couple of weeks would do them no harm.