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.


Brighton boost hopes of Premier League survival

Updated 04 July 2020

Brighton boost hopes of Premier League survival

  • Saturday’s result leaves Norwich in grave danger of relegation

LONDON: Norwich manager Daniel Farke conceded his side are heading for relegation after Leandro Trossard fired Brighton to a 1-0 win at Carrow Road on Saturday.

Trossard netted in the first half to move Brighton nine points clear of the relegation zone before the bulk of the weekend’s matches.

Brighton’s second win in four games since the restart puts them in position beat the drop, but the picture is much bleaker for Norwich.

With five matches left, Norwich are seven points from safety after losing all five games following the coronavirus hiatus.

Farke knows Norwich’s chances of avoiding an immediate return to the Championship are almost over, especially with games against Chelsea and Manchester City still to come.

“It was more or less our last chance to get back in the mix and we are disappointed,” he said.

“The story of our game was the story of our season, we didn’t find the cutting edge and we then make a big mistake.

“After a few losses, we don’t have the right to make any fighting messages or to make any unrealistic claims.

“We are not naive, let’s show our pride. It is important we learn for the future. I will pick them up.”

Farke dropped Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell, even though the pair had scored 68 percent of his team’s goals this season.

The move was criticized by some Norwich fans, but Finland forward Pukki, who had netted 11 times this term, was without a goal in 10 games dating back to January.

Norwich started brightly with their changed lineup and Onel Hernandez fired over from long-range after an incisive break.

But Brighton wrestled back control and had a penalty appeal turned down by VAR when Trossard tumbled under pressure.

Brighton made the most of their dominant spell as Trossard struck in the 25th minute.

Aaron Mooy whipped over a low cross from the right and Trossard made a perfectly timed run to the near post, where the Belgian midfielder slotted past Tim Krul for his fourth goal of the season.

Norwich had lost all 19 Premier League games this season in which they have conceded first.

The y were the only team in the top-flight yet to pick up a point from a losing position and their frustration mounted as Hernandez miscued wide.

Brighton almost put the came beyond their reach when Mooy’s free-kick hit team-mate Dan Burn and deflected narrowly wide.

Norwich’s Josip Drmic shot straight at Mat Ryan from a good position before Farke sent on Pukki and Cantwell with 23 minutes left.

There was no lack of effort from Norwich, but their luck was out in stoppage-time when Adam Idah glanced a header against the inside of the far post and Brighton cleared the danger.