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Fernandinho discusses Guardiola’s first season, UCL and more

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Pep Guardiola‘s first season in-charge at Manchester City wasn’t always easy, but in the end the Spanish manager guided his side to a top-four finish and a spot in the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Chelsea crowned champions, but more glory on club’s mind ]

One of the players concentrated at the heart of his side’s success was midfielder Fernandinho, who along with Guardiola, had his share of ups and downs during the Premier League season.

As someone not often associated with flashy play or beautiful goals, it’s easy for the Brazilian veteran to get lost in the mix at times, however, it was his solid play in front of the City back line that helped stabilize the club’s midfield throughout the 2016/17 campaign and since his arrival in 2013.

[ MORE: Stan Kroenke releases statement regarding Arsenal ]

PST had the opportunity to catch up recently with Fernandinho, where the Brazilian discussed the Premier League season, qualifying for next season’s Champions League and much more.

Fernandinho and his English side will take some time off over the next few months before gearing up for the 2017/18 season in August. Man City will take part in the fifth annual International Champions Cup in July, and Guardiola’s group will play three matches across the United States against crosstown rivals Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham.

The 32-year-old finished his season strong, even closing out City’s PL finale against Watford on Championship Sunday with a goal of his own, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing.

Just after the transition to 2017, Fernandinho was handed a four-match suspension by the FA for serious foul play during a match against Burnley, but it was that experience, among others, that helped Fernandinho improve under Guardiola.

“Personally it was good because I have been playing a few different positions and learning a lot of things with him [Pep],” Fernandinho told PST. “I am happy with that. Finishing the season playing like this is good because I improved myself during the year after having a tough moment where I was suspended for several games.

“That’s why it was good for me. I learned a lot and it’s going to be giving me more experience with my football and I hope I can put my stamp on the game and help my teammates win as much as possible.”

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This season was one of finding rhythm for many teams throughout the PL, especially for those with new high-profile managers like Antonio Conte, Jose Mourinho and Ronald Koeman taking over new positions in England. However, it was Guardiola’s move to the Etihad Stadium that was easily the most noted and carefully-watched from day one.

The former Barcelona boss has always been watched — mostly because of his success while with the Spanish giants and with Bundesliga power Bayern Munich — and even though it wasn’t always easy for the Citizens with their new manager there were certainly signs of momentum as the season progressed.

“We just needed a little bit of time to know the players and for the players to know him,” Fernandinho said. “He had a new style of play and sometimes it’s not easy to adjust so quickly. It’s takes a bit of time. But I think we improved a lot since the beginning of the year, the beginning of the season. For sure for the next season it’s going to be completely different and much better.”

One area that Fernandinho and his side will need to improve upon next season is the team’s home form, which the midfielder also noted.

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

While the Citizens posted 11 victories at the Etihad in 2016/17, Guardiola’s group mustered up seven draws, dropping 14 crucial points in the title race.

That’s something Fernandinho says must change next season.

“We solved some of our problems and we improved a bit on what we have to do, but of course we drew so many games, especially at home, and we lost so many points at home,” the Brazilian told PST. “Since the beginning we tried to play good football. We tried to make it attractive football, but sometimes that’s not possible. I think the way we finished the league this year was okay. For next year, for the next season, we are going to definitely be better than this year.”

The PL has proven be one of the toughest leagues to compete in for decades, making City’s recent success and consistency so impressive, even prior to Guardiola’s takeover.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Guardiola’s first season in charge with the Citizens marked the seventh straight year in which the team has finished inside the top-four of England’s top flight, while the club has also qualified for the UCL for the seventh consecutive season after not having reached the competition prior to the 2011/12 campaign.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

For Fernandinho, although there may be disappointment for not winning the league, Man City is pleased with its success given the level of competition that the club faces on a week in and week out basis in the PL.

“It’s important because we’ve got many good teams in England and we fought great players and of course it’s four positions that go through to qualify for Champions League,” Fernandinho said. “It’s not easy. We are happy for that to secure third place and we’re going to try to do our best to finish better than we finished this year in Champions League as well.

“We have to be proud because the Premier League isn’t easy to finish in the top four. We play against good players and good teams, so we have to be proud to play in the Champions League every year.”

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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More midweek action is coming up in the Premier League. Let the festive fun continue.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ]

The full TV schedule for this weekend is below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at for all the goals as they go in. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Tuesday
2:45 p.m. ET: Burnley vs. Stoke City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Watford – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Huddersfield Town vs. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM

Wednesday
2:45 p.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Manchester City – NBCSN [STREAM]
2:45.m. ET: Southampton vs. Leicester City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Newcastle United vs. Everton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: West Ham United vs. Arsenal – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Liverpool vs. West Brom – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Bournemouth – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Brighton & Hove Albion – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Premier League notes: Wanyama, Bolasie return after long layoffs, Sakho injured

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Two Premier League clubs saw a pair of players return to the field after long spells on the sidelines.

Tottenham revealed that Victor Wanyama took part in training on Monday for the first time since suffering a knee injury in late August, which has kept him off the field since then. Wanyama started in both of Tottenham’s first two fixtures of the season before the injury.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

At the same time in the northwest of England, Yannick Bolasie returned to the field for Everton’s reserves for the first time since suffering a torn ACL last December against Manchester United. Everton manager Sam Allardyce hinted recently that Bolasie could even make the first team subs bench before the end of the calendar year as he continues his rehab.

(more…)

Report: Sporting KC on verge of signing French midfielder Croizet

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Sporting Kansas City could be adding some European flair to its midfield this offseason.

According to multiple reports, the MLS club is in negotiations to sign French midfielder Yohan Croizet, who currently plays for Belgian first division side KV Mechelen. Croizet, who reportedly cost Mechelen a transfer fee worth more than $1 million, has started all 15 games he’s played for his side this season but has been substituted off on seven occasions and Mechelen are currently struggling in the league, sitting in 13th place with 18 points from 18 games.

Croizet hasn’t played since November 17, and appears on his way out.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, a Hungarian-American, is no stranger to the European market and has brought over plenty of diamonds in the rough from Europe to star with Sporting KC. Some previous examples, though in different positions from Croizet, include current winger Gerso, Krisztián Németh, Uri Rosell, and Aurelien Collin.

It will be interesting to see where Croizet plays in the Sporting KC side should it sign him, and how he works with Benny Feilhaber, who is turning 33-years old in January.

Arsenal lands Ostersunds in Europa League draw

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Arsenal will face a team with an English connection in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

The Gunners were paired with Swedish side Ostersunds in the Europa League knockout stage draw Monday, with matches set to be played on February 15 and February 22. Ostersund are managed by Englishman Graham Potter, who played in the Championship and lower in England before starting his managerial career with Ostersunds in 2010 in the fourth tier of Swedish soccer.

[READ: UCL draw+analysis]

Ostersunds surprised many earlier this year winning the Swedish Cup to qualify for the Europa League, and then advanced out of a group that included Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao.

It represents an interesting draw for Arsenal, which will have to balance the squad during a tough February. The weekend prior to the first-leg match is the second leg of the North London derby against Tottenham, and following the second match with Ostersunds is a showdown with Manchester City.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the draw shook out: