Guardiola and Klopp’s antithesis remains intriguing

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MANCHESTER — Watching Manchester City vs. Liverpool was like listening to Pavarotti and Kiss. At the same time.

Fluid, patient, possession-based soccer vs. direct, pacey, thunderous soccer. Man City vs. Liverpool. Pep Guardiola vs. Jurgen Klopp.

Guardiola and Klopp, two of the most talented managers on the planet, are the antithesis of one another.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Before Saturday’s game defending seemed optional, as it always has done, for both of these managers. However, despite their clear attacking philosophies they both have vastly different ways to attack and, most importantly for them both, entertain.

Saturday’s meeting at the Etihad didn’t disappoint with goals but it certainly wasn’t the finely poised, end-to-end encounter we expected.

Guardiola’s men beat the 10-men of Liverpool 5-0 after Sadio Mane‘s red card in the first half helped swing the game in City’s favor.

In the 11 games they’ve managed against one another their record now reads five wins each and one draw. Stalemate. Yes, Klopp suffered his worst defeat as Liverpool boss on Saturday but Guardiola took little comfort in inflicting a painful defeat.

Stood on the edge of their respective boxes during the sunshine and showers at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, their intensity is similar. That said, they celebrated and despised completely different things on the sidelines.

Pep, dressed like a waiter at a beach club in white sneakers and a blue sweater, knelt down and held his head in disbelief when possession was given away cheaply early on as he waved his team wide like a composed conductor. Klopp, in his bright red trainers and black tracksuit, winced in agony when his team missed the chance to clip a long ball over the top.

The way they act on the sidelines vastly differs, with Jurgen Klopp joking with Man City fans as they complained Sadio Mane had taken a dive to win a free kick. He responded by taking off his glasses and offering them to said fan. Meanwhile Guardiola was more serious, arms folded and ushering over his players for a stern chat when he could, even as the goals poured in.

Even after the crushing defeat the respect remained. Guardiola didn’t rub further salt into Klopp’s wounds.

“It was one game at 11v11, it was equal, we both had chances, but the game was equal. Liverpool are so quick and fast,” Guardiola said. “After 10v11 it was a little bit easier for us, and we played the second half the way we wanted to. They didn’t do well. The game was open until the sending-off.”

Klopp seemed to agree with Guardiola. Finally, something similar.

“We had all we needed at 11v11. We had chances. The first goal is unnecessary, we were too laid back, not too smart. But the decisive decision in the whole game was the red card. I don’t think it was a red card, Sadio didn’t see the goalkeeper,” Klopp said. “It’s unlucky, an accident. The keeper comes out. You want to go for the ball. I hope people see it for what it is.”

What we can see is that neither has the “right way” to manage a team or situations but both are revered.

In an age where teams often play 4-3-3 and bunker in as a 4-5-1 for most of the game before launching counters when they can, Liverpool and Man City offer something totally different. They take risks, but in different ways.

“Both teams were not compact enough,” Klopp said. “We cannot have these situations [attacking] if City would have defended perfectly. You can defend not perfectly and still win 5-0. We were not compact enough.”

Yes, the spectacle took a hit on Saturday following Mane’s red card but Guardiola and Klopp are delivering on their promises and their flaws remain the same.

At heart they are both entertainers and that’s why they don’t only respect one another but are also revered around the world for their approach. They may not always be perfect but they are true to their vastly contrasting philosophies.

Seeing it all play out on one pitch is, like Klopp and Guardiola, both manic and beautiful. At the same time.

Introducing #AskJPW: On West Ham and the Top Four

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You’ve read his reports from the hallowed grounds of the Premier League, hung out with him during Facebook Lives outside those same stadia, and now there’s a new way to interact with ProSoccerTalk‘s lead writer and editor.

Joe Prince-Wright is now bringing you #AskJPW, a place to quiz the whiz on every aspect of the Premier League, and the goings-on around it.

[ MORE: (Very) Fresh faces for USMNT ]

Just use the #AskJPW (and follow him on Twitter at @JPW_NBCSports).

In this edition, Joe delves into fan trouble at West Ham, who will finish 2-4 on the table, and more.

Ronaldo versus Messi: Scoring race heats up in Spain

Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
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MADRID (AP) Regardless of who wins the Spanish league title, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will be battling it out to the end.

Real Madrid doesn’t have much chance of keeping Barcelona from winning the league, but Ronaldo is making a strong run to snag the scoring title from Messi with nine matches remaining.

[ MORE: (Very) Fresh faces for USMNT ]

Ronaldo added another four goals in Madrid’s 6-3 win over Girona on Sunday, giving him 22 for the season. That is only three below Messi, who scored his 25th in Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao.

“Hopefully he can catch him,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said of Ronaldo. “It’s important for him and for us, too. When he’s playing well, the team plays well. He transmits an important and positive energy to the group. He’s always in very good form come the end of the season. He’s got an eye for goal and he’ll never lose that.”

Ronaldo has scored at least one goal in his last eight matches in all competitions. He has 21 goals in his last 11 games.

“He’s unbelievably ambitious and that comes across in every training session and in everything he does on the field,” Zidane said. “If he has a penalty in training, he will take it with the maximum concentration. It’s what makes him different from the rest.”

Ronaldo is trying to keep Messi from winning the top-scorer’s “Pichichi” trophy for the second consecutive year. The Argentina forward scored 37 league goals last season, 12 more than Ronaldo.

Ronaldo hasn’t won the award since 2014-15, when he had 48 goals. That was still shy of Messi’s record of 50 goals in 2011-12.

Despite’s Ronaldo’s impressive run, Madrid’s chances of repeating as league champion remain slim. Madrid trails Barcelona by 15 points after 29 matches. The teams will play again in May in a league match at Camp Nou. They could also meet in the Champions League semifinals or the final.

Messi scored twice against Madrid this season – in a 3-1 loss in the Spanish Super Cup final at the beginning of the season and in a 3-0 win at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in a league match late last year. Ronaldo scored against the Catalan club in that Spanish Super Cup game.

Messi has scored at least a goal in his last six matches in all competitions. He has scored at least 25 league goals in nine consecutive seasons with Barcelona.

“Messi is the best player in the world and he shows it game after game,” Athletic defender Unai Nunez said after his team’s loss to Barcelona on Sunday.

Ronaldo has scored at least 25 league goals in the last eight seasons. He scored four or more goals in a match with Madrid eight times.

“He’s on unbelievable form at the moment,” Madrid forward Lucas Vazquez said of Ronaldo. “He helps the team with his work, goals and assists. Everyone benefits from it.”

More AP Spanish soccer coverage:

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Manchester United triggers extension for Ashley Young

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Ashley Young has earned another year at Manchester United.

Multiple reports say Young will stay with the club at least through the 2018-19 season, having joined the club from Aston Villa in 2011.

[ MORE: Southampton momentum? ]

Young’s resurgent play under Jose Mourinho earned him a return to the England set-up, with a November cap his first since 2013. He’s been named Man of the Match four times in Premier League play this season.

The versatile 32-year-old wide player is a left back who can man midfield on both sides of the field as well as right back.

He has 320 Premier League appearances in his career, and has hit the pitch 193 times in all competitions for United. He has 74 career goals with 107 assists, 16 and 38 of which have come in a Red Devils shirt.

United beat Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday to clinch a place in the FA Cup semifinals, where it will face Tottenham Hotspur.

Mourinho is understandably under the microscope, but the work he’s done in restoring Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini to previous form deserves credit.

Who’s this now? Digging into the USMNT roster

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The United States men’s national team will roll young for this month’s friendly against Paraguay in Cary, North Carolina.

Interim head coach Dave Sarachan named 17 players under the age of 24 for the match and that list does not include Christian Pulisic, who is getting needed respite.

[ MORE: Southampton momentum? ]

It’s an interesting list, with DeAndre Yedlin‘s 49 caps the most followed by Bobby Wood’s 36 and Darlington Nagbe’s 24.

And there are a bunch of “Who?” names for those who aren’t elbow deep in their knowledge of the U.S. player pool, so let’s dance with the ones Sarachan is bringing to North Carolina.

Andriya Novakovich is destroying the Netherlands second-tier, netting 18 times including six goals in his last five matches. Keeping in mind that even the country’s top flight is free-scoring, that’s impressive stuff from the former Reading man, a tall 21-year-old striker.

Shaq Moore became the first American to make a La Liga start since Oguchi Onyewu in 2013. The 21-year-old Levante right back got the playing time due to injury, making eight total appearances, but is back on the bench in recent weeks.

Antonee Robinson left Everton for a loan spell at Bolton Wanderers, and the 20-year-old could maybe, possibly, hopefully, please-sir-please be a long-term left back. It’s his first appearance in the U.S. set-up since 2014, and the English-American could start a recruiting battle should he continue his growth at Everton. He has five assists in more than 2,400 minutes between left back and left mid for Bolton.

Cameron Carter-Vickers is a name many in this space will know, but in case you don’t: The Spurs center back, 20, suffered through fits and starts in a Championship loan at Sheffield United, much like the club itself, which was cut short. Sent to Ipswich Town, “CCV” has been one of their finer players over the second half of the season.

And, just for fun, how might we see the Yanks line up in North Carolina?


Yedlin — Carter-Vickers — Miazga — Lichaj

Nagbe — McKennie — Adams — Saief

Wood — Novakovich