Tag Archives: Pep Guardiola

Its back: Premier league weekend preview

After the final international break of the calendar year top flight domestic football is back and heading into the most hectic part of an already condensed 2020/21 schedule.

The Premier League has already seen plenty of shock results this campaign and as things stand the top of the table is delicately poised with a host of clubs vying for supremacy.

Here are your big match previews for the weekend…

Premier League

Newcastle United v Chelsea Saturday 12.30pm

Frank Lampard’s side were in fine form before the break and the Blues legend will be hoping his side can pick up where they left off as they head to the North East.

Lampard will be without Ka Havertz and Christian Pulisic for the clash at St James’ Park while experienced centre-back Thiago Silva is a doubt.

Steve Bruce’s Magpies have been typically inconsistent so far this term without setting the world alight. However with the attacking threats of Ryan Fraser, Allan Saint Maximin and Callum Wilson, they can be confident of stopping the visitors heading to the top of the table.

Tottenham v Manchester City Saturday 5.30pm

A huge test of Tottenham’s early title credentials as Jose Mourinho’s men look to seize the opportunity to reach the summit of the table, albeit potentially for just 24 hours.

Spurs have been a tough team to beat this season and with the likes of Harry Kane, Gareth Bale and Heung Min-Son in attack they pose a danger to any team.

Pep Guardiola, fresh off the back of a new contract, will be looking for more consistency from his side as they look to close the small gap to the league leaders. Gabriel Jesus is likely to be available whilst Sergio Aguero is a doubt.

Manchester United v West Brom Saturday 8.00pm

United went into the break on the back of a morale boosting victory over Everton, a victory that arguably saved Ole Gunnar Solskjær from a difficult conversation over this job.

Slaven Bilic’s Baggies meanwhile are desperate for points already as they flounder in the relegation zone without a win in their opening eight matches.

Leeds United v Arsenal Sunday 4.30pm

Perhaps evevery neutral’s favourite side to watch, Leeds United have made for enthralling viewing this season, unless you’re a fan of stout defending.

Marcelo Bielsa’s charges are a fast flowing bunch who always look to play on the front-foot, occasionally to their detriment. The Yorkshire side have already shocked the big boys this season, taking a point from the game with Man City.

Mikel Arteta’s Gunners could almost do no wrong until they came unstuck in a big way against Aston Villa before the break. The North Londoners sit 11th in the table and will be desperate to start clawing their way up.

Liverpool v Leicester City Sunday 7.15pm

Arguably the game of the weekend as the reigning champions host the current leagues leaders at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp’s side come into this game with almost an unprecedented amount of injuries with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez out for the majority of the season at least. Captain Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara, Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold are all major doubts for the clash whilst Fabinho has returned to full training.

The Foxes, not without their own injury concerns, must fancy their chances of taking a positive result back to the Midlands as former Reds boss Brendan Rodger’s pits his wits against Klopp.

Wolves v Southampton Monday 8.00pm

The weekend’s action rounds up at Molineux as this seasons surprise package Southampton head to Wolverhampton hoping to continue their positive start.

Ralph Hassenhutl’s Saints sit fourth in the table heading into the weekend after a 2-0 victory over Newcastle before the international hiatus. The visitors are likely to be without talismanic striker Danny Ings however as he recovers from a knee issue.

Wolves meanwhile haven’t quite hit the heights perhaps many expected this term so far as they struggle to get going with a host of new signings in their ranks. Nuno Espirito Santo will be hoping this period can bring about a new level of consistency from his talented squad.

Other Fixtures

Aston Villa v Brighton & Hove Albion Saturday 3.00pm

Fulham v Everton Sunday 12.00pm

Sheffield United v West Ham United Sunday 2.00pm

Burnley v Crystal Palace Monday 5.30pm

Pep Guardiola signs new contract with Manchester City

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. 

While there is also the question of whether Lionel Messi will arrive at the Ethiad in the summer of 2021? The Argentine was blocked from leaving the Nou Camp this year and with Messi’s contract officially expiring the prospect of him moving to Manchester is certainly looking more and more likely. 

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 LEAGUE WEDNESDAY NIGHT PREVIEW

Following Manchester United’s successful trip to Paris on Tuesday, both Liverpool and Manchester City will be looking to emulate their rivals with successful starts to their 2020/21 UEFA Champions League campaigns.

Here are your previews ahead of the big games on Wednesday night…

Real Madrid v Shakhtar Donetsk 17.55

Madrid will be hoping for a better European venture third time around having been eliminated at the quarter-final stage in August. Still possessing plenty of quality, Zinedine Zindane’s men are rightfully still considered a real thrrst at the business end of the compeition.

However, off the back of a surprise home defeat to Cadiz in La Liga, Los Blancos perhaps aren’t the side they once were.

They should still have enough quality to come past the Ukrainian champions.

Manchester City v Porto 20.00

Pep Guardiola will be without star performer Kevin De Bruyne for the visit of Porto on matchday one. Despite this they will go into the match as huge favourites, and joint favourites with Bayern Munich for the competition outright.

City are desperate to end their wait for European success and will hope a solid start against Porto will set them on their way.

Their Portuguese visitors are no easy task, and will boast West Ham loanne Felipe Anderson as part of their squad.

Ajax v Liverpool 20.00

This meeting between two of the giants of European football will come as a welcome break for Liverpool from talking about injuries, VAR controversy and that derby day draw.

As we all by now know Virgil van Dijk will miss this game, and perhaps the remainder of the season. Both Alisson and Thiago also miss out for the Reds whilst Jurgen Klopp does welcome back Naby Keita into his squad.

Ajax still present a major opposition, albeit a little stripped of their quality players who helped them reach the semi-finals of the competition during 2018/19, the year Liverpool made it six.

Bayern Munich v Atletico Madrid 20.00

A clash of epic proportions see’s holders play host to Liverpool’s extra time conqureors Atletico Madrid.

Hansi Flicks men are many peoples favourites to make it back to back Champions League’s whilst Diego Simeone’s charges are always difficult to beat.

This match promises to be a battle of free-flowing attack against rigid well organised defence.

Other Fixtures

RB Salzburg v Locomotiv Moscow, Midtylland v Atlanta, Olympiacos v Marseille, Inter Milan v Borussia Monchengladbach

Thiago Alcantara joins Liverpool: Who is the Spanish Midfielder?

Premier League Champions Liverpool have signed Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara for an initial £20 million, which could potentially rise to £27 million through add-ons. 

The 29-year old is in the final year of his contract with Bayern Munich, but Thiago had already made it clear to the European Champions that he wanted a new challenge.

Equally Bayern Munich have decided that they would like to recoup some of the money for some of the money they paid for the midfielder rather than risk him leaving for nothing at the end of the season. 

Thiago’s arrival at Anfield would potentially pave the way for Giorginio Wijnaldum to join his former national team manager Ronald Koeman, at Barcelona. 

Who is Thiago Alcantara?

Thiago was born to Brazilian parents. His father was a World Cup winner while his mother was a volleyball player.  He moved to Spain at a young age and at the age of 14 he signed for FC Barcelona. 

The Spanish midfielder made his debut at the Nou Camp in 2009 against RCD Mallorca. In 2011 he made his first appearance for the Spanish national side in a friendly against Italy.

In total, Thiago played 68 matches for the Catalan side and scored seven goals. He then, however, made the switch from the Spanish La Liga to the German Bundesliga, joining Pep Guardola at Bayern Munich in 2013. 

During his time with the Bundesliga giants, as well as securing last season’s Champions League trophy by beating Paris Saint Germain, he won an impressive seven consecutive Bundesliga titles, four German Cups and the Club World Cup.  

What kind of player is he?

Thiago Alcantara is a top quality deep lying playmaker that is composed on the ball and keeps things ticking over in the centre of the park. His range of passing is nothing short of phenomenal. 

The Spanish international certainly represents terrific value for the Premier League Champions, and he will certainly provide them some much-needed control in the midfield area.  

Indeed, when Thiago was 22-years-old former manager Pep Guardola has previously said that he can play three or four positions. The midfielder, however, is well accustomed to playing in a 4-3-3 system, so he would easily slot into the reds midfield. 

In short, he will give Jurgen Klopp’s side another top quality option in a vital area of the pitch. 

What do you think? Do you believe that Thiago Alacantara will be a success at Liverpool?

Premier league 2020/21: WHO CAN WIN IT?

The new Premier League season begins this weekend, unbeleivably as it seems like only yesterday we were waving goodbye to the last season.

Ahead of the 2020/21 season, we have some questions surrounding the top of the table. Can Pep’s Manchester City rid themselves of last years frailties and compete for longer this time? Or will Liverpool continue their consistency and defend their title?

Let’s not rule out the possibility of Manchester United’s continuing their progression and it would be almost insanity to dismiss Chelsea, given their spends, wouldn’t it?

Here’s how I think the teams involved in the upper echelons of the Premier League title race will play out in 2020/21…

Liverpool

The reigning champions. Jurgen Klopp’s side may have ended the season in somewhat bizarre fashion as they rather limped over the line following lock-down and title celebrations. That should not take away from the sheer dominance the Reds imparted on the Premier League.

While many people question the business, or lack of business done by the champions up until now, its my belief only minor changes are required, if any at all.

Natural left-back cover for Andy Robertson was required and has been found in Greek international Kostas Tsimikas.

One saga, which rumbles on is the Thiago Alcantara links, now joined by the Gini Wijnaldum to Barcelona rumours. Whilst many Liverpool fans may argue why not have both? I’m not sure there is room both in the current group, a squad that already boasts a plethora of central midfield options and the two players are of a similar mould.

The main bone of contention continues to be the back-up options to the starting XI. Should Klopp face a long-term injury to his front-line options the understudies may not be of a level required, although in truth that is the case of almost every team in world football. Not many can be a suitable understudy to Virgil van Dijk.

Overall, I believe Liverpool will go on to retain their title, the relentless nature in which Klopp has his squad churning out results is very difficult to keep up with week on week. Don’t be surprised by the growing influence of some of the younger players, in particular Curtis Jones, and also Naby Keita may finally find his feet in English football.

Manchester City

The main contenders to take Liverpool’s crown, Pep Guardiola’s well furnished Man City side.

There is little doubt 2019/20 can be viewed as somewhat of a failure from a sky blue perspective in Manchester. As glorious a victory as the Carabao Cup may have been, a side comprised of such talent and expenditure is expected to finish closer than 18 points off the summit. Not to mention the dismal UEFA Champions League exit.

That, however, was last term, how about now? The arrival of Nathan Ake certainly plugs a crack in the issues faced at City, a forced to be reckoned with going forwards, just ask Watford, but defensively they were often found wanting, just ask Adama Traore. However, I’m not sure Ake is the answer, for one the Dutchman is very much a left-sided centre-back, similarly to Aymeric Laporte. On top of which, despite being a more than decent operator at Premier League level, he isn’t elite, and City are operating amongst that level.

Elsewhere, the club has seen the departure of David Silva from the Etihad, a fine servant to the football club who leaves with the knowledge he will be forever immortalised in statue form. On the field, in a more mobile capacity, Silva is likely to be replaced by the much praised but lesser seen Phil Foden.

Pep has also spent £20 million on former Valencia man Ferran Torres, a 20 year old right winger who arrives with plenty of plaudits and provides competition to the likes of Rihad Mahrez, Bernado Silva and Foden himself.

Whilst the transfer window remains open there is always the chance City could strengthen further, although the Lionel Messi links have now subsided, as things stand in the week of the season’s opening day they haven’t addressed the areas of the squad suitable to overcome an 18 point swing.

Manchester United

Despite the obvious improvement in the past six months, particularly since Bruno Fernandes arrived back in January, there are still areas of weakness at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær is learning on the job somewhat and with that there is bound to come mistakes, certainly when up against seasoned campaigners over a prolonged period.

Despite the frailties, however, it should be another year of progression for the red half of Manchester, who have already bolstered their midfield ranks with the arrival of Donny van de Beek from Ajax. One or two more signings, particularly in defensive positions and they should find themselves cutting the gap to the top two.

Chelsea

Who haven’t they signed? One thing is for sure is the Blues are set to be an enthralling watch with the attacking prowess in their currently huge squad.

Boasting the likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, to name but a few, Frank Lampard’s side will give anybody a match on their day, but it’s consistency they may lack to begin with.

They shipped goals all too regularly to maintain prolonged title challenge last term and as things stand that won’t change too much, despite the arrival of the vastly experienced Thiago Silva, it’ll remain a difficult ask to breach the gap to the top two.

Any Other Contenders

Whilst the Premier League has seen Leicester City win the title against the odds, it seems unlikely 2020/21 will see another Claudio Ranieri and Jamie Vardy shaped fairy-tale, but you never know. The main protagonists would of course be Tottenham and Arsenal, although the rivals may be best focusing on breaking into the top four instead of harbouring serious title ambitions.

Outside of the North Londoners, perhaps Wolves could be considered for a tilt for a time being, however a 38 game threat seems unlikely at this stage.

With over a month left in the transfer window anything can happen (Messi), but for now it’s back to back Liverpool glory. After-all, top flight domestic titles are like Mersey Ferries, you wait 30 years for one and two come along at once….