Manchester City eye autumn advantage over Liverpool

Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola says he is aiming to maintain the standards he has set in his second and third seasons in charge. (AFP)
Updated 30 August 2019

Manchester City eye autumn advantage over Liverpool

  • Guardiola’s team expecting to collect maximum points in upcoming matches

MANCHESTER: Manchester City may trail Liverpool by two points in the early season running for the Premier League title, but opportunity knocks for the champions in a two-month stretch beginning with Saturday’s visit of Brighton to the Etihad.

The visit of the Seagulls is the first of eight Premier League games Pep Guardiola’s men face against sides outside of the traditional “top six” before a daunting trip to Liverpool on Nov. 9.

That run could see City travel to Anfield with a comfortable lead in the title race, with Liverpool set to face Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham in the meantime.

The form book over City’s last two title-winning seasons certainly suggests Guardiola will be expecting his team to collect maximum points over the next couple of months.

Including comfortable wins already this season on the road against West Ham and Bournemouth — by a combined 8-1 scoreline — since the start of the 2017-18 season, City have won 50 of the 58 games they have played against the 14 clubs outwith the top six in the Premier League.

Liverpool, the only side to have started the new season with three wins out of three, will hope that City finally start to falter.

But with everyone apart from the two northwest giants showing early-season inconsistency, the fact remains that the title may be reduced to a two-horse race by the time the clubs meet in November.

After Brighton, City face home games against struggling Watford, Wolves, Aston Villa and Southampton and travel to Norwich, Everton and Crystal Palace.

And Guardiola insists he can only concentrate on maintaining the standards he has set in his second and third seasons in charge.

“I’m not going to think about many points we need to be champions, or if Liverpool’s going to win or if we’re going to win,” he said.

“I know the opponent we have in Liverpool and all the other teams, especially the contenders, but what we are looking for, from the first day I came here, is to try to play in the way we have played.

“I think we dignify this sport, we dignify the people who pay to come to watch us and see how honest we are — to play for the people. And, more than anything, I would like — when I finish my period here — to leave that. “The first season, but especially the last two seasons, we were an incredible team.”

Key to City’s success has been the strength in depth available to Guardiola and he could hand first starts of the season to new signing Joao Cancelo and Fernandinho, who has fallen down the pecking order since Rodrigo’s arrival.

Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane and Benjamin Mendy miss out through injury, while John Stones remains a doubt.

Turkey defends footballers saluting soldiers

Updated 6 sec ago

Turkey defends footballers saluting soldiers

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s sports minister voiced support on Tuesday for national team players who saluted the country’s soldiers during their Euro 2020 match with France.
Sports Minister Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoglu described the controversial goal celebration — in which players were seen as supporting Turkey’s current military operation in Syria — as a “nice salute.”
France drew 1-1 with Turkey in the Euro 2020 qualifier amid mounting tensions after Paris condemned Turkey’s military operation against Kurdish militants in Syria.
European football’s ruling body UEFA had already said it would “examine” a military salute given by Turkish players during an earlier match against Albania.
But the sports minister said the controversy was unwarranted, and pointed to the fact that French star Antoine Griezmann had also given a military salute to President Emmanuel Macron in June.
“Those who remained quiet about Griezmann’s military salute are trying to distort our national footballers’ nice salute,” Kasapoglu said in a televised press conference, holding up a picture of Griezmann’s salute.
He said critics were trying to distract from Turkey’s success in staying top of the qualifying group.
“Those who are trying to block out their failure on the pitch should give up on their efforts. The result is clear,” Kasapoglu said.
Kasapoglu also warned UEFA to be “prudent” in its investigation of the salutes.
Turkey’s operation against Kurdish militants in Syria, launched a week ago, has been widely criticized by the international community but has drawn widespread support at home.