A few months is a long time in football, especially it appears this season where so many sides are experiencing fluctuating fortunes.
Take Liverpool for example, up until the last two months could do no wrong, but have now suffered back-to-back defeats against Manchester City and Brendan Rodger’s Leicester. They subsequently face a battle to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Then there is Tottenham Hotspur. Back in November they produced a Jose Mourinho masterclass to secure a 2-0 win over Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side. They were in fact setting the pace at the top of the Premier League, both Son-Heung min and Harry Kane were the most prolific pairing in the division and there appeared a new found reliance, which was installed by Mourinho.
Fast forward, however, to what is commonly referred to as the business end of the campaign and Spurs now find themselves down in ninth in the table, 17 points behind league leaders City following a rather chastening experience of a 3-0 loss at the Etihad.
Indeed, since that previously highlighted 2-0 loss in November Guardiola’s men have now gone 16 games unbeaten in all competitions and during that time have just conceded three goals, while scoring 36.
The North London side, meanwhile, have only won four games in 14 since that impressive 2-0 win, the goals have dried up and Kane has looked an increasingly fore lawn figure leading the line.
During Tottenham’s latest defeat, the England captain failed to register a single touch in the opposition penalty area. In fact Kane put in an impressive performance as a defender having registered four clearances during yesterday’s 3-0 loss, which was the joint highest of any Spurs player.
Following the game, however, Jamie Redknapp in the Sky Studio said:
“Harry Kane must look at that and think: ‘I want touches, I want to be the main man, not just taking free-kicks!’ He won’t be happy doing that.”
Redknapp is not the only former Spurs player to have highlighted that Kane would not be happy to be feeding off limited service.
Prior to the match at the Etihad former fans favourite Clive Allan, who coached Kane during his days in the Tottenham academy raised the point that the England striker will not want to end his career without getting his hands on silverware.
“He is integral to Spurs achieving any sort of success, because without him they are not as strong a team. The way he links the play, the way he scores goals, the way he creates chances for other players.
“But, I have no doubt he has had thoughts about it [leaving].
“He’s been fantastic at the club from the first moment he walked in as a 16-year-old. I worked with him at that early age, and you could see he had the most incredible appetite and desire to improve himself, to get the best out of himself, which obviously we have seen he has done.
“But I think he will want a career where he has won something.”
This then leads on to where would Kane go if he were to leave his beloved boyhood club?
Well, Manchester City are certainly one of the few clubs who can afford the England international and will almost certainly be in the market for a world class striker despite managing so impressively without Sergio Aguero.
Then there is City’s rivals Manchester United, who have long been reported admirers of Kane and he would certainly provide them with a more cutting edge that times appears to be missing at crucial moments in big games.
Abroad, meanwhile, there is Real Madrid who are the obvious candidates and Zinedine Zidane’s men are currently experiencing one of the club’s most disappointing season’s to date as they are eight points behind city rivals Atletico Madrid and have already been eliminated from the Copa Del Rey this year.
The likes of Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona would also undoubtedly be interested, despite not being as good as previous Catalan teams they are still a side that offer an obvious attraction.
In short, Kane will have no shortage of options should he choose to leave his boyhood club and a lot will depend on what happens in the remaining months of the season and also whether he fancies a crack at pastures anew.
Do you think that Harry Kane will leave his boyhood club this summer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…..
Football bodies across England have released an open letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The letter is in response to the increased levels of abuse received by players on the social media platforms in recent weeks.
Swansea City midfielder Yan Dhanda being the latest victim after Swansea’s FA Cup game against Manchester City. Dhanda posted on twitter “How can this still be happening in 2021?“.
Dhanda’s club Swansea City released a statement saying:
“Swansea City is appalled and saddened by racist abuse received by Yan Dhanda via social media following tonight’s Emirates FA Cup game against Manchester City.
“As a club, we pride ourselves on working with the community and our supporters, as well as the EFL and the FA, on all anti-racism and anti-discriminatory campaigns because it has no place in society.
“Swansea City condemns racism and abuse of all kinds, and we urge social media companies to go above and beyond to stamp out this abhorrent level of behaviour that continues to tarnish football and society.
“An official report has been made with South Wales Police and the club will assist them in their investigation.
“Yan has our unwavering support in this matter as we and the relevant authorities strive to eradicate this mindless behaviour.”
This come after Manchester United players, Axel Tuanzebe, Antony Martial, Lauren James and Marcus Rashford had experienced abuse on social media. Premier League Referee Mike Dean’s family were sent death threats.
The platform recently announced that user’s who send abusive message will face having their accounts permanently removed. Facebook’s (who own the platform) content policy manager, Fadzai Madzingira who said:
“Currently, we will set a specific ban or what we call a block for a set amount of time when someone violates those rules and we extend that time should they continue to do so,
“We’re taking tougher measures on people who violate those rules in Instagram direct messaging, so instead of just extending the time, we’ll be removing the accounts altogether.”
The letter has called for more to be done and has been sent by, The FA, The Premier League, The EFL, The FA WSL, The FA Women’s Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL and Kick it Out.
The letter has called on the companies to do the following,
Messages and posts should be filtered and blocked before being sent or posted if they contain racist or discriminatory material.
You should operate robust, transparent, and swift measures to take down abusive material if it does get into circulation.
All users should be subject to an improved verification process that (only if required by law enforcement) allows for accurate identification of the person behind the account. Steps should also be taken to stop a user that has sent abuse previously from re-registering an account.
Your platforms should actively and expeditiously assist the investigating authorities in identifying the originators of illegal discriminatory material.
The letter also welcomes:
“The comments made on Twitter by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, that the UK Government is going to change the law to make social media companies more accountable for what happens on their platforms”.
“We call for meetings with your organisations to discuss the evidence of abuse on your platforms, the action you are taking, and how you plan to directly address the matters outlined in this letter.”
At the time of writing neither Facebook or Twitter have responded to the open letter.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has signed a new two- year deal with the club that will extend his stay until the summer of 2023.
The former Spanish and Barcelona defensive midfielder has been in charge of the ‘Sky Blues’ since 2016 and his previous deal was set to expire at the end of the season.
During that period Guardiola has guided City to two Premier League titles, the FA Cup and three League Cups. While to date the team has won 181 of the 245 games that the 49-year-old has taken charge of, which equates to an impressive win ratio of 73.87%.
Indeed, Guardiola’s five-year commitment with City is already the longest he has stayed at a football club since becoming a manager in 2008.
If he were to see out the new contract, the Spaniard would become City’s second longest serving post-war manager, behind Les McDowall, who managed the club between 1950 and 1963.
Speaking to the club website, Guardiola said:
“Ever since I arrived at Manchester City I have been made to feel so welcome to the club and in the city itself – from the players, the staff, the supporters, the people of Manchester and the Chairman and the Owner.
“Since then we have achieved a great deal together, scored goals, won games and trophies and are all very proud of that success.
“The challenge for us is to continue improving and evolving, and I am very excited about helping Manchester City do that.”
Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, meanwhile added:
“Pep’s contract extension is the natural next step in a journey which has evolved over many years.”
Record as manager
In his 11 full seasons as manager, Guardiola has in total won an incredible 29 major trophies. During his four year stint with Barcelona he won a grand total of 14, which included the club’s first ever treble in 2009.
After taking a year out of the game, Guardiola went to German side Bayern Munich where he won three Bundesliga titles and two DFB-Pokal Cups.
Then in 2016 Guardiola arrived at Manchester City and after finishing third in his first season in charge, the 2017-18 campaign saw him set a new Premier League points record of 100 points on his way to winning his first title with the club.
The following year, Guardiola would guide the Citizens to another title, making them the first side to win back-to-back Premier League trophies this decade.
What will the contract extension mean for City?
The news that Guardiola has now committed his future to the club will clearly delight City fans and the team can now focus on their quest to secure their first ever Champions League title.
This is something that Guardiola will clearly be determined to achieve as he has not won the biggest prize in European football since 2011 with Barcelona.
Indeed, a reunion with the manager who he won so much with must be an exciting proposition for the six-time Ballon d’Or winner and truth be told, would be terrific to witness for fans of the English Premier League.
Will Guardiola finally be able to lead City to Champions League glory this season? Will Messi join the club in the summer? Feel free to give us your thoughts in the comments below….
Champions Liverpool travel to the Etihad on Sunday to take on Manchester City in a mouthwatering test of both sides’ title credentials.
Liverpool currently sit top of the table on sixteen points after last weekend’s hard fought 2-1 victory over West Ham. City meanwhile, are down in 10th with eleven points having played a game less than the Reds, but having already dropped points against Leeds,West Ham and Leicester.
A win for Liverpool against City would see them open up an eight point lead over their rivals and would secure their first win at the Etihad in a domestic game in five years.
Nat Phillips picked up the man of the match award for his performance on his Premier League debut against the Hammers, but the 23 year old is set to drop down to the bench as Klopp has the experienced Joel Matip available again after injury.
The Cameroon defender has been absent since picking up a knock in last month’s ill-tempered Merseyside derby, but Klopp confirmed in his press conference that Matip had returned to training this week and it is therefore likely he will partner Joe Gomez at centre back.
One man who is still working his way back to fitness after the Everton game is new signing Thiago. He sustained a knee injury in the 2-2 draw after Richarlison’s lunging tackle on him, and although he played the full 90 minutes the Spain international has sat out their past five games.
He was spotted at Melwood this week doing some individual training and Klopp has assured fans that the injury is not a serious one, but he will again be missing for the trip to Manchester, the manager told the media today.
Virgil Van Dijk and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are longstanding absentees whilst Fabinho is also ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Liverpool warmed up for this weekend’s crunch trip in ideal fashion, thumping Atalanta 5-0 in Bergamo midweek in the Champions League with the man of the moment Diogo Jota netting a hat-trick.
He has now scored seven goals in just ten games in all competitions from Wolves and his performances have given Klopp a selection headache going into Sunday’s game.
On current form, the Portuguese international must start, especially when you consider he has more goals for Liverpool than Roberto Firmino has this year despite plying far less minutes.
The Brazilian has been a key cog in Jurgen Klopp’s front three for the past few seasons but his form at the end of last year and the start of this season has tailed off alarmingly.
He looks a shadow of his former self and given that Liverpool are likely to struggle at the back with the absence of Van Dijk, attack may be the best form of defence for the Reds and the inclusion of Jota adds to their attacking prowess alongside Salah and Mané who are still scoring goals.
Liverpool have responded well since their 7-2 drubbing at the hands of Aston Villa, winning their last five games in all competitions to bolster their quest to regain the Premier League title.
Sunday’s trip provides the sternest challenge yet, with Pep Guardiola’s men dispatching the Reds 4-0 on their last visit to Manchester after the restart. The Citizens are currently on an eight game unbeaten run in all competitions and have defeated Liverpool at the Etihad in each of the last three seasons. They will be hoping to make it four to kickstart their title charge this campaign.
City will be without striker Sergio Agüero for Sunday’s game. The Argentine has been nursing a hamstring issue since the draw with West Ham and has missed last three games. There was hope that he could feature from the bench against the Reds, but the game has come too soon and Guardiola confirmed in his press conference that he will be missing. His full return is expected after the international break.
They are still unable to call upon Fernandinho, who was forced off against Porto in the Champions League opener with a leg injury and Benjamin Mendy who is suffering from a muscle problem. Both players are eyeing up City’s game against Tottenham after the international break for their return.
City also enjoyed a comfortable Champions League win during the week, putting three past Olympiakos without reply. Gabriel Jesus marked his return to action with a goal whilst Phil Foden and Ferran Torres also impressed in that game.
Jesus should come in from the start against Liverpool to give City a focal point up top which they have lacked in his and Augero’s absence. Who he will replace is anyone’s guess given Guardiola’s constant rotation, the most likely candidate being Torres, allowing Sterling to move back out to the wing with Mahrez on the other side.
The City boss is also likely to revert to the back four who started last weekend’s victory over Sheffield United with Laporte, Dias and Cancelo coming in for Ake, Stones and Zinchenko who started midweek and Kyle Walker retaining his place.
Rodri will also be restored to the starting eleven alongside De Bruyne and Gundogan in midfield as the Citizens look to add some steel to thwart Liverpool’s devastating counter attacks. Foden is set to provide a spark from the bench if called upon alongside Bernardo Silva and the aforementioned Torres.
There are a number of intriguing match ups to watch out for in the game. Joao Cancelo up against Mo Salah will be one of them. The Egyptian has started the campaign like a house on fire, clinically scoring seven goals in seven games.
Cancelo, a right back by nature, has found his feet on the left side of Guardiola’s defence this season and has impressed going forward, but he will need to be switched on defensively to cope with Salah’s strength and direct running as well as Alexander-Arnold’s overlaps on the right flank.
Henderson against De Bruyne will see another battle between last year’s two outstanding players in the league. In the absence of Fabinho, captain Henderson has reverted to a deeper lying role and he will be tasked with picking up the Belgian De Bruyne and stop him from spraying passes out wide and from darting late into the box to get on the end of crosses.
Similarly De Bruyne will be keen to prevent Henderson having the time and space to launch Liverpool’s counter attacks when City are in transition.
Another key tussle will be Jesus up against Joe Gomez. The Brazilian starts City’s press from the front and will be alert to pounce on any little mistake from the England defender when attempting to play out from the back.
He’s also very comfortable taking players on one vs one and Gomez will have stand tall and marshal him in these scenarios, avoiding diving in as Jesus will take it past him punish him.
Gomez is one of the quickest centre backs in the league however, so will have no qualms about catching Jesus if he makes a run in behind.
Guardiola is under no illusion of how difficult a game this will be considering City’s inconsistent start to the season, telling reporters, “ When you play against teams like Liverpool you always have moments where you have to suffer. We know it, we have to do it and try to use our strength as much a possible.”
He played down the notion that the game is season defining, however, comparing the fixture to the race for the Presidency in the USA, stating:
“It is an important game but, like the presidential elections in the USA, all the votes must be counted – there are a lot of points to play for.”
His opposite number Klopp echoed these sentiments, telling the media that Sunday’s game will be:
“The most difficult game in the world of football.“
“It’s a very difficult game, hopefully for both teams. So many things are different this year, nothing can be compared with last year or the year before. I enjoy these kind of games, I enjoy the preparation, but it doesn’t make it easier, it’s just a really tough task.”
Prediction: Man City 1-2 Liverpool
Given the weaknesses in both back lines it is hard to see either side keeping a clean sheet. Chances are likely to be in abundance on Sunday as a result, and it should be the case of whoever is most clinical will take home all three points.
Liverpool have made a knack of scoring crucial goals and grinding out important wins even if they aren’t playing well, and it seems hard to overlook them edging this one if their front three have their shooting boots on.
City will cause them problems going the other way and Robertson and Alexander-Arnold will have to put in a shift defensively to prevent Sterling and Mahrez from wrecking havoc out wide.
It is sure to be a great game of football and you can watch all the action on Sky Sports with the game kicking off at 4:30 pm.
Liverpool, already without talismanic central defender Virgil van Dijk were dealt another huge blow on Tuesday night when Fabinho pulled up, before being forced off with a hamstring problem.
The Brazilian had been deputising, successfully, for the missing Dutchman when he stopped in his tracks whilst defending an FC Midtylland attack in the UEFA Champions League.
Indeed, Reds fans and players alike wait with bated breath for the severity of the injury. It is almost certain they will be without Fabinho for at least the weekends visit of West Ham to Anfield.
Central defender Joel Matip also remains side-lined, leaving Jurgen Klopp with just one senior central defender – Joe Gomez.
So how can the Premier League champions cope with such flimsy numbers? I’ve had a look at the options…
Tuesday night saw 19-year-old Rhys Williams play out the remaining hour, and in doing so the powerful looking teenager looked comfortable as he helped the Reds to a clean sheet.
Williams seems most likely to start on Saturday in the absence of Fabinho, although Nat Phillips will be pushing for a place after he spent the 2019/20 campaign season playing senior football for Stuttgart in the German Bundesliga 2.
Fabinho himself was operating out of position when his injury came and there is a chance captain Jordan Henderson could be asked to do the same after playing in the role during the FIFA World Club Cup last term.
Missing Henderson’s influence in midfield, however, may be too much of a blow to Klopp’s side.
Should James Milner, Thiago, Naby Keita and Gini Wijnaldum all be fit and available, there is certainly scope for Henderson to drop back into centre-half temporarily.
Albeit an obvious huge blow to Liverpool, and indeed their title chances, with an impended international break and with football a little all over the place at the moment, there is hope the Reds could make it to January without suffering too much damage to their hopes.
In January they would at least have the option of signing reinforcements, with many names linked with the club. The likes of Dayot Upamecano, Ben White and Ozan Kabak to name just a few.
In the mean time Klopp, fans and teammates will be hoping Fabinho’s injury isn’t serious, Matip can get run of fitness, and Rhys Williams can deputise successfully. All of this while not dropping too many points along the way, which with a trip to rivals Manchester City on the horizon, may be easier said than done.