Manchester City Champions League masterclass shows all not well for unsettled Mauricio Pochettino at PSG

Special Manchester City Champions League masterclass shows all not well for unsettled Mauricio Pochettino at PSG
Man City’s head coach Pep Guardiola, left, and PSG’s head coach Mauricio Pochettino at the end of the Champions League game at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England, Nov. 24, 2021. (AP Photo)
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Updated 25 November 2021

Manchester City Champions League masterclass shows all not well for unsettled Mauricio Pochettino at PSG

Manchester City Champions League masterclass shows all not well for unsettled Mauricio Pochettino at PSG
  • A move to Manchester United for the Argentine, to be replaced by Zinedine Zidane in Paris, could well be the best solution for all concerned
  • Revered and respected by his peers, Zidane could revitalise PSG and allow Pochettino the opportunity to rebuild a United side that is underachieving

LONDON: For all the will, and ambition, of a manager, sometimes the fit of a club is not quite right.

No matter how much Mauricio Pochettino insists he is happy at Paris Saint-Germain, the speculation of a move to Manchester United will not go away.

Not now - even with the surprise appointment on Thursday of Ralf Rangnick as the Old Trafford club’s interim manager until the end of the season - and not until someone is eventually chosen as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s permanent replacement.

Pochettino remains a leading candidate for that role.

And despite his belief that his PSG players won’t be distracted by what happens over the next six months, footballing history has often shown that commitment and quality don’t always come to the fore when there are rumours about a manager’s position, whether positive or negative.

Midfielder Ander Herrera, who ironically joined PSG from United on a free transfer in 2019 after five years at Old Trafford, said: “We are convinced…we know he is focused on the season and our club and to try to get the best from the team. 

“We are not distracted at all [by the situation]. Since the first day I came here, everyone loves to talk about that, everyone loves to make rumours about that. That doesn’t affect us at all.”

That is up for debate given their insipid and disjointed display in the 2-1 loss at Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday.

It was a result that saw Pep Guardiola’s side top the group and the French side finish runners-up and facing a potential tougher last-16 opponent.

City had the balletic attacking brilliance and cultured ball players that Lionel Messi and Neymar once had alongside them during their heyday at Barcelona. 

Now they were merely passengers, observers to a Guardiola masterclass that deserved a greater margin of victory for the English Premier League champions.

Based on his success during five years at Tottenham Hotspur, Pochettino forged a reputation of building sides with a strong work and team ethic. That is not visible in a PSG outfit that seems unbalanced, unconvincing and needs to earn their victories.

In the first half they had just three touches in the opposition's box, compared to City’s 23.

Blessed with enviable individual talent, and despite taking a fortunate lead through Kylian Mbappe, they were often unravelled by a City team missing the injured Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and £100 million signing Jack Grealish.

In Bernardo Silva, the hosts had a player described by Gabriel Jesus - who scored the winning goal after a Raheem Sterling equaliser - as “one of the best players in the world right now”. The Brazil striker also said "nobody is selfish" in the City team.

The hashtag #PochOUT! was soon trending on Twitter after the defeat, with Pochettino criticised for being too defensive, lacking creative ideas and unable to get more out of a frontline of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe that was laboured rather than lethal.

Pochettino felt PSG “suffered” against City, while Herrera said Guardiola’s side had the quality to “kill you”.

But captain Marquinhos offered an insight into his own side’s failings as he added: “The Champions League, it’s that you’ve got to know how to play against the big teams.”

Right now, PSG are unable to do that.

With the Champions League coveted by their Qatari owners, this does not bode well for the rest of the campaign, nor Pochettino’s future.

Just two seasons ago Thomas Tuchel led them to the Champions League final, where they were edged 1-0 by Bayern Munich. Four months later he was dismissed with the best win percentage in Ligue 1 history.

PSG should be ready to challenge for the trophy now, but look a level below their European rivals.

Pochettino has to address that. Results will determine whether he remains in Paris or that, when United make their decision at the end of the season, the Argentine is their first and best choice.

While PSG have decided not to let Pochettino leave mid-season, he will also be aware that Zinedine Zidane had been discussed as a replacement - and would prove popular with fans and the owners.

A decade ago, when Qatar was bidding to host the 2022 World Cup, they brought on board a raft of stellar names to raise their profile and enhance their chances.

Guardiola and Saudi Arabia’s superstar Sami Al-Jaber were among them. But it was the signing of Zidane that was seen as the pivotal moment in helping them succeed against all odds.

The Frenchman is often named the footballing hero for many of those at the forefront of sporting change in the Middle East.

As a gifted player for clubs such as Juventus and Real Madrid and his national team, Zidane was iconic and inspirational, a legend.

But he was admired in the Gulf too because of his Arab roots - a Muslim of Algerian Kabyle descent.

Zidane would be the prestige signing for the Qataris a la Messi - or Guardiola in coaching terms when he took over at City and transformed them with style and success.

With 11 trophies in his first managerial job at Real Madrid - across two spells and five years - he would also be the biggest winner since Carlo Ancelotti had a 16-month spell in 2012.

In lifting three successive Champions League titles, Zidane managed to get the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale to show he could handle big names, and the challenge and expectation of managing a big club.

By adopting a more aggressive and attacking approach, imagine what he could do with Messi, Neymar and Mbappe if he was persuaded to stay?

While Madrid still seem favourites to lure French striker Mbappe when his contract runs out next summer, perhaps having Zidane in charge could sway him to remain for just a little longer.

As he admitted previously: “If you're a boy and you're French, your idol is Zidane.”

Mbappe, 22, will also have seen how Benzema flourished under Zidane’s tutelage to become one of the world’s best strikers again at 33.

Revered and respected by his peers with tough demands, Zidane could revitalise PSG - and allow Pochettino the opportunity to rebuild a United side that is under-achieving, but still has so much potential. Eventually, this would appear a perfect fit - and a fait accompli.


Andrey Rublev to defend his Mubadala World Tennis Championship crown

Andrey Rublev to defend his Mubadala World Tennis Championship crown
Updated 52 min 55 sec ago

Andrey Rublev to defend his Mubadala World Tennis Championship crown

Andrey Rublev to defend his Mubadala World Tennis Championship crown
  • Event’s stars include world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, US and French Open finalist Casper Ruud, world No. 2 Ons Jabeur and British No. 1 Emma Raducanu
  • 3 more ‘big names’ to be announced soon, say organizers

ABU DHABI: Andrey Rublev will return to Abu Dhabi in December to defend his Mubadala World Tennis Championship title, organizers have confirmed.

He is the latest star to join the six-player male lineup at the MWTC from Dec. 16 to 18 that includes world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and regular Slam finalist Casper Ruud, with three more big-name players expected to be unveiled soon.

The 24-year-old, who has reached a career-high ranking of No. 5, secured his first MWTC title with a straight sets victory over Andy Murray at the International Tennis Center in Zayed Sports City last December.

Rublev has 11 ATP Tour singles titles and three doubles titles to his credit. He won the mixed doubles gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics alongside compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and has reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam five times, including at this year’s French and US Opens.

Fans will have the chance to catch two of the best women’s players on the tournament’s first day, with world No. 2 US Open finalist and defending MWTC champion Ons Jabeur taking on 2021 US Open Champion and British No. 1 Emma Raducanu.

“Last year’s event was memorable, firstly to see the return of the championship after the rebound of live events and, secondly, because of the top-class tennis on display. Andrey was a worthy winner so it’s great that we have secured his return alongside the next generation of superstars Carlos, Casper, Ons and Emma. The 14th edition is shaping up to be a very exciting three days of action on and off the court,” said John Lickrish, CEO, Flash Entertainment.

The Arabian Gulf’s leading tennis experience will also bring its traditional mix of interactive activities, and player meet-and-greets.

Tickets start from AED95 for adults and AED45 for children. Three-day packages offer a 20 percent saving, guaranteeing spectators a seat for the entire championship.

Premier hospitality tickets also offer fans a special menu and courtside seating. More details are available at www.mubadalawtc.com.


Tunisian star Jabeur eases into second round at home in Monastir

Tunisian star Jabeur eases into second round at home in Monastir
Updated 05 October 2022

Tunisian star Jabeur eases into second round at home in Monastir

Tunisian star Jabeur eases into second round at home in Monastir
  • The 28-year-old, whose ambition is “to be a good example for all the young people who follow her” has won three WTA titles including two this year in Madrid and Berlin

MONASTIR, TUNISIA: Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur eased into the second round of her home tournament at Monastir on Tuesday with a straight sets win over American Ann Li.

Top seed Jabeur, a finalist at both Wimbledon and the US Open this year, won 6-2, 6-3 in the first-ever WTA tour event to be hosted in Tunisia.

The world No. 2 took 73 minutes to dispatch her 67th ranked opponent in their first meeting.

The Monastir tournament, staged on the central coast of Tunisia, is just the second women’s professional circuit organized in Africa, after that of Rabat in Morocco.

Jabeur is hugely popular in north Africa, and the world No. 2 is hoping “to reach the final and win in Monastir to make Tunisians happy.” 

The 28-year-old, whose ambition is “to be a good example for all the young people who follow her” has won three WTA titles including two this year in Madrid and Berlin.

“Young people must gain self-confidence to achieve their ambitions,” said the player dubbed “Minister of Happiness” in a Tunisia hit by a deep political and economic crisis.


Oust owners, officials named in US soccer abuse report: Sauerbrunn

Oust owners, officials named in US soccer abuse report: Sauerbrunn
Updated 05 October 2022

Oust owners, officials named in US soccer abuse report: Sauerbrunn

Oust owners, officials named in US soccer abuse report: Sauerbrunn
  • The 37-year-old two-time World Cup winner said players were “horrified and heartbroken” by the findings of a report published on Monday

LOS ANGELES: US international captain Becky Sauerbrunn said Tuesday team owners and officials implicated in a bombshell report which detailed systemic sexual abuse and misconduct in US women’s soccer should be barred from the sport.

The 37-year-old two-time World Cup winner said players were “horrified and heartbroken” by the findings of a report published on Monday following a year-long investigation by former US Attorney General Sally Yates.

Yates’ report included interviews with more than 200 National Women’s Soccer League players — many of them members of US national teams — and detailed patterns of abuse from team coaches, manipulation and tirades.

“Every owner and executive and US soccer official who has repeatedly failed the players and failed to protect the players who have hidden behind legalities and have not participated fully in these investigations should be gone,” Sauerbrunn said in a video-conference call from London, where the US women’s team is preparing for a friendly with England on Friday.

Merritt Paulson, the owner of Sauerbrunn’s club, the Portland Thorns, was accused in the Yates report along with other club officials of enabling misconduct by former Thorns manager Paul Riley.

Pressed on whether Paulson was included in the team owners she believes should be forced out of the NWSL, Sauerbrunn replied: “It includes everyone that has continued to fail the players time and time again, who didn’t take players concerns seriously, who didn’t pass on information correctly, who have not participated in investigations. All of them.”

In a separate development on Tuesday, Paulson, who is also the owner of the Portland Timbers Major League Soccer franchise, said he was removing himself from all Thorns-related decision-making until the conclusion of a separate NWSL/NWSL Players Association investigation.

“I cannot apologize enough for our role in a gross systemic failure to protect player safety and the missteps we made in 2015,” Paulson said in a statement.

“I am truly sorry.”

Sauerbrunn, meanwhile, said players were “not doing well” following publication of the findings of the investigation, which was launched last year after reports in The Athletic and Washington Post lifted the lid on abuse in the NWSL.

“We are horrified and heartbroken and frustrated and exhausted and really, really angry,” said Sauerbrunn, a veteran of 208 internationals stretching back to 2008.

“We are angry that it took a third party investigation. We’re angry that it took an article in The Athletic and the Washington Post.

“We’re angry that it took over 200 people sharing their trauma to get to this point right now.

“For so long, this has always fallen on the players to demand change. And that is because the people in authority and decision-making positions have repeatedly failed to protect us. And they have failed to hold themselves and each other accountable.”

US head coach Vlatko Andonovski, meanwhile, said members of his squad would be given the option of sitting out this week’s game against England if they decided they were not in the right frame of mind for the game.

“Some players and staff members need time, need space, need to process all of it,” Andonovski said. “That’s why we as a staff are allowing the players to think and process to do whatever they need in order to get over this difficult time.

“If that means they don’t want to participate in a team meeting, or in a team training, or even if they don’t want to play the game, then it’s up to them,” said Andonovski, adding that he was “sickened and disgusted” by details of the report.

“Now this report is out, it’s our job to do our part to make sure that no one has to deal with this ever again in our sport at any level,” he added.

Sauerbrunn, meanwhile, said she has not contemplated the possibility of going on strike to force change in the NWSL.

“I haven’t thought about not playing,” she said. “I hope it won’t get to that point. A lot of us have been navigating these things for a very long time and you find a way to deal with it. We, as women, as players have faced a lot for a very long time. Unfortunately, I’d say you get used to it.”


Yankees star Judge hits 62nd homer to break Maris’ AL record

Yankees star Judge hits 62nd homer to break Maris’ AL record
Updated 05 October 2022

Yankees star Judge hits 62nd homer to break Maris’ AL record

Yankees star Judge hits 62nd homer to break Maris’ AL record

ARLINGTON, Texas: Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season Tuesday night, breaking Roger Maris’ American League record and setting what some fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard.

The 30-year-old Yankees slugger drove a 1-1 slider from Texas right-hander Jesus Tinoco into the first row of seats in left field when leading off the second game of New York’s day-night doubleheader.

After No. 99 took a smooth, mighty swing, he had a wide smile on his face as he rounded the bases and his Yankees teammates streamed out of the dugout to celebrate with him. They stayed away from home plate, letting Judge step on it before sharing hugs and high-fives.

Judge’s mother and father were in the stands to see Judge end a five-game homerless streak, including Game 1 of the doubleheader when he was 1 for 5 with a single.

The ball was caught by a fan in Section 31, who was then taken with security to have the ball authenticated.

Another fan was escorted away after leaping out of the seats into a gap between the seats and the left-field wall.

Maris’ 61 for the Yankees in 1961 had been exceeded six times previously, but all were tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year. Barry Bonds hit an MLB-record 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001, and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans — perhaps many — until now have considered Maris as holder of the legitimate record.

A Ruthian figure with a smile as outsized as his body, the 6-foot-7 Judge has rocked the major leagues with a series of deep drives that hearken to the sepia tone movie reels of his legendary pinstriped predecessors.

“He should be revered for being the actual single-season home run champ,” Roger Maris Jr. said Wednesday night after his father’s mark was matched by Judge. “I think baseball needs to look at the records and I think baseball should do something.”

Judge had homered only once in the past 13 games, and that was when he hit No. 61 last Wednesday in Toronto. The doubleheader nightcap in Texas was his 55th game in row played since Aug. 5.

Judge was 3 for 17 with five walks and a hit by pitch since moving past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league record for 34 years. Maris hit his 61st off Boston’s Tracy Stallard at old Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1, 1961.

Judge has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. He leads the AL with 131 RBIs and began the day trailing Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315.

The home run in his first at-bat put him back to .311, where he had started the day before dropping a point in the opener.

Judge’s accomplishment will cause endless debate.

“To me, the holder of the record for home runs in a season is Roger Maris,” author George Will said earlier this month. “There’s no hint of suspicion that we’re seeing better baseball than better chemistry in the case of Judge. He’s clean. He’s not doing something that forces other players to jeopardize their health.”

 


Liverpool edge Rangers, Napoli underline Champions League credentials

Liverpool edge Rangers, Napoli underline Champions League credentials
Updated 05 October 2022

Liverpool edge Rangers, Napoli underline Champions League credentials

Liverpool edge Rangers, Napoli underline Champions League credentials
  • Hakan Calhanoglu fired Inter Milan to a 1-0 win over Barcelona at  San Siro

PARIS: Liverpool eased to a comfortable 2-0 win in the ‘Battle of Britain’ against Rangers in the Champions League group games on Tuesday while Napoli underlined their credentials with an impressive 6-1 thrashing of Ajax in Amsterdam.

On a night when a minute’s silence was held before every match in tribute to the 131 victims of the Indonesia stadium tragedy, Bayern Munich and Club Brugge also made it three wins from three while Inter edged Barcelona in a tight contest in Milan.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool went into their Group A game against the Scottish champions on the back of just three wins in their first nine Premier League and Champions League games of the season.

But they settled quickly when Trent Alexander-Arnold produced a sublime free-kick to put the home side ahead after just seven minutes.

Rangers’ 40-year-old goalkeeper Allan McGregor produced some fine saves, including four to deny Darwin Nunez his first goal for Liverpool, to keep his side in the hunt at halftime.

Seven minutes into the second half, however, Leon King’s challenge caught the legs of Luis Diaz to give away a penalty.

Mohamed Salah stepped up and struck the ball down the middle as McGregor was unable to repeat the penalty-saving heroics he produced against Napoli.

“It was exactly what we needed. It was a super, solid performance,” said Klopp, who switched from his usual 4-3-3 formation to a 4-2-3-1.

“Sometimes you have to change things.”

Napoli stay top of Group A after another impressive victory, coming from behind to hammer Ajax 6-1 to take their tally of goals to 13 from three matches.

Mohammed Kudus put the home side ahead in the ninth minute but Luciano Spalletti’s side bounced back with first-half goals from Giacomo Raspadori, Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Piotr Zielinski.

Raspadori added his second two minutes after the restart and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia added the fifth just after the hour.

Ajax’s night was made worse when captain Dusan Tadic was sent off after collecting a second yellow card and Giovanni Simeone closed out the win.

Bayern moved to the edge of qualification with a third successive win, thrashing Viktoria Plzen 5-0 in Group C.

“We were calm, we dominated and we were in total control,” said Bayern captain and Manuel Neuer.

“When everything is going well, we’re almost unstoppable.”

German international Leroy Sane struck twice, opening the scoring from distance after seven minutes and adding a second five minutes after the break.

Between Sane’s two goals, Serge Gnabry added a second on 13 minutes before Sadio Mane posted his first Champions League goal for Bayern with number three after 21 minutes.

Substitute Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting came off the bench at half time and added the fifth just before the hour mark.

Hakan Calhanoglu fired Inter Milan to a 1-0 win over Barcelona at the San Siro which took the Italians into second spot in Group C, three points behind Bayern.

Inter had lost five of the previous 10 matches in all competitions but Turkey midfielder Calhanoglu ended the crisis talk when he lashed in the only goal of the game on the stroke of half-time.

“It was very important today for us, to show something to our fans who are always with us. We showed that we deserved it,” said Calhanoglu.

Barcelona boss Xavi Hernandez, however, was left fuming after two key handball decisions went against his team.

The first saw an equalizer ruled out following a pitch review by referee Slavko Vincic for Ansu Fati’s handball just before the ball dropped to Pedri to tuck home.

Barca were then denied a stoppage time penalty after VAR officials ruled that Denzel Dumfries did not commit a handball offense despite touching the ball in a very similar way to Fati.

“If you ask me I’m outraged... the word is outrage because it makes no sense, it’s an injustice,” Xavi told reporters.

“I think it’s an injustice, I just can’t hide it.”

Club Brugge also claimed a third successive win to continue their surprise charge toward the next round.

Kamal Sowah and Ferran Jutgla were on target as the Belgian side made short work of Atletico Madrid in Group B.

Atletico had their chances with Antoine Griezmann crashing a penalty off the crossbar. They also had a goal ruled out for offside which added to their frustration.

“It’s a very tight group and we will have to fight because we won’t get anything for free,” said Atletico captain Koke.

Club Brugge top Group B, three points ahead of the other three teams after Porto beat Bayern Leverkusen 2-0 with second half goals from Zaidu and Galeno.

Sporting Lisbon’s march in Group D came to a shuddering halt in Marseille where the home side came from a goal down to win 4-1 and get their first win under their belt.

Lisbon still top the group with six points, two ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt and Tottenham Hotspur who played out a goalless draw in Germany.