Guardiola delivers glimpse of Man City’s future

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LONDON — We got a glimpse of Manchester City’s future in their 4-0 win at West Ham United on Wednesday.

And it looked sparkling.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Post-game at the London Stadium Pep Guardiola could hardly contain his excitement when speaking about the form of young forwards Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus as they carved open West Ham’s defense time and time again with their pace and intense pressing which kept forcing turnovers.

“These three guys are the future for the club. All of them, their average age is just 20 years old. You cannot see in Europe at the big clubs, there are not strikers as young as Man City have. That is good for the future of the club,” Guardiola said. “We are delighted because Sane is already a part of the team. He arrived a little bit like ‘where am I?’ and now his performance in the last three or four months showed us his potential.”

Asked about 19-year-old forward Gabriel Jesus — the Brazilian international scored and grabbed an assist in an impressive first start in the Premier League — Guardiola believes this is only the beginning for the striker they signed for $34 million from Palmeiras.

“He helps us a lot in the first press. He is so intense, so aggressive in that moment,” Guardiola said. “In the long balls he is a fighter and he is able to keep going and fight against guys taller than him. Of course he is young. We can’t forget he is  just 19 years old. But he is a striker for Brazil, because in the first assist against Crystal Palace he gave it to Sterling, today it was to Kevin. He is a guy who when he arrives there he will attack the ball and he will score goals.”

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Alongside 22-year-old Raheem Sterling and 21-year-old Leroy Sane, Jesus led a devastating forward line which is set to terrorize defenses for years to come.

Even though they are 10 points off leaders Chelsea (Guardiola played down their title chances this season) in attack things are slotting together superbly, even if defensively there are still big issues to sort out. That was always going to be why Guardiola would get more time to overhaul this ageing City team despite poor results littering his first-ever campaign as a Premier League  manager.

His team has shown in big wins throughout this season that his philosophy is working, but they need to be more consistent. With this young forward line they looked fluid, in-sync and fired up.

Sergio Aguero’s shocked expression on the bench said it all after the third goal went in. He knows he has massive competition to keep his place in the team with Gabriel breathing down his neck and the Argentine international perhaps has the strongest competitor for a starting spot that he’s ever had since arriving at the Etihad Stadium.

With Kevin De Bruyne in an attacking midfield role, the fluid three of Jesus, Sane and Sterling interchanged and tore West Ham’s creaking defense apart with clever runs, inch-perfect passes and high-pressing. That’s the future of City under Guardiola as he finally has a first line of defense which can force opponents into mistakes and then punish them. He hasn’t always had that with Aguero and Co. up top.

Aguero isn’t the only member of City’s old guard to sense change in the air.

Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta joined Aguero on the bench, yet Guardiola poured cold water on suggestions that Aguero would have to spend more time on the bench in the coming weeks and emphasized his importance to the team. It isn’t quite time for the old guard to pass the baton but it’s getting there. This moment has been coming for City.

[ LISTEN: 2 Robbies on Man City v. West Ham ] 

Guardiola also emphasized impressed he was with the high-pressing of his young attacking talent, plus the shield Yaya Toure provided.

“Every time we win the ball we had three strikers so so quick, so Leroy, Gabriel and Raheem make runs in-behind and it was so so dangerous,” Guardiola said. “When people want make high-pressing we are able to eliminate the first step and create a chance. Yaya was again exceptional and helps us a lot for the future and the next games.”

Toure is rolling back the years in midfield but up front Gabriel has burst onto the scene with plenty of promise. Guardiola wasn’t 100 percent certain what he would be getting when the Brazilian teenager arrived in January fresh from winning the Brazilian title with Palmeiras.

It’s safe to say he’s happy with how things are developing.

“You never know. It is like a watermelon. You have to open it and see how it turns out,” Guardiola said of Jesus. “The perspective was good. That is why we pushed him. He is a young, young talent. He has a huge mentality. So aggressive, he wants to become a good player and when that happens that helps a lot. When he has dreams and something to do in the future in his own career, that helps a lot. Gabriel, in those terms, he wants to become something in world football and of course we are going to try to get it for us.”

On this showing, City’s young front three have the potential to push them to the very top of world football and become something Guardiola has dreamed of.

He’s getting there, with the youngsters leading the way.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.