Why Guardiola’s arrival means Man City will join the elite

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The biggest secret in the soccer world is out.

Pep Guardiola, 45, will be Manchester City’s head coach for the 2016-17 Premier League season with the Spanish coach signing a three-year deal.

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The news broke on Monday, as Transfer Deadline Day was dominated first by the rather nonchalant and typically classy announcement from Manuel Pellegrini that he would leave City at the end of this season and moments later Guardiola was named as City’s new boss.

Already an aura of invincibility is surrounding City with the appointment of the former Barcelona and current Bayern Munich confirmed.

Before we get in to the nuts and bolts of how and why Pep will push City into the elite of European and World soccer, a word must be reserved for Pellegrini. A banner has been held up by Man City fans of a smiling Pellegrini under the words “This Charming Man” which is a reference to The Smiths and their song of the same name.

[ MORE: Guardiola to leave Bayern

Pellegrini, 62, is charming and has been a breath of fresh air in the PL over the last two-and-a-half-years. The Chilean boss arrived from Malaga with plenty to prove but delivered a PL title and a League Cup in his debut season in England, finished second last season and City has a real chance of completing a quadruple this campaign. All three seasons they have made it into the UEFA Champions League knockout stages — something they’d never achieved before — and when we look back at his time in charge, his class, grace and ability to manufacture a team who play silky, attractive soccer will be at the forefront of our minds. He won’t find it hard to get a top job this summer.

When Guardiola takes over from Pellegrini in July, he will be taking charge of a team in very good shape thanks to the astute Chilean coach and his staff. The likes of Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are all approaching or are years away from their prime and the man who made his name at Barca is well known for producing teams who press high up the pitch and pass the opposition to death.

That ideology fits in very well with the players City possess — it will need some tweaking, here and there — and if Vincent Kompany can stay fit and a few defensive additions can arrive, City will not only thrive in the PL under Pep but also in Europe. City have won two PL titles in the last three years but conquering Europe is the main aim and employing a man who has dominated in Spain and Germany during his coaching career makes perfect sense.

There’s no secret that getting Guardiola to the Etihad Stadium has been City’s long-term plan to do just that. Getting Guardiola on board is a once in a generation opportunity.

Pep Guardiola , Philipp Lahm

Back in 2012 the Abu Dhabi-based owners placed Catalan duo Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain in charge of the soccer side of the club as directors mainly due to their close links with Guardiola whom they worked with at Barcelona. That factor was a huge bonus in fending off interest in Pep from Manchester United and Chelsea who are both now looking over their shoulder enviously towards the Etihad.

In the actual news release on Monday, City confirmed negotiations with Pep were well under way back in 2012 before he decided to take a sabbatical and then join Bayern Munich. Getting Guardiola on board was part of the master plan and he can take them to the next level. Make no mistake, the initial deal may be for three years but we are now talking about a man that City want to be the figurehead of one of the greatest soccer dynasties the world has ever seen.

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They have the facilties at their world class City Football Academy and the Etihad, they have the huge financial input from Sheikh Mansour and now they have the best coach on the planet.

What is perhaps the most exciting aspect of luring Pep to the Premier League is not only how he will nurture and get the best out of City’s hugely talented current squad, but who else he may entice to join him. Lionel Messi flourished under Guardiola and if the Argentina superstar ever fancies a move away from the Nou Camp then it would be to link up with his old boss at City. Sure, it would be the most expensive deal in history but it could happen with Guardiola in charge.

Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets are other names from Guardiola’s dominant Barca teams who could arrive, and then there’s the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller and Phillip Lahm at Bayern Munich. His work as a coach doesn’t suit every player and he’s known to be demanding and controlling but boy, does it get results. In his six-and-a-half campaigns as a coach Guardiola has won 19 of the 30 competitions he’s challenged for. That’s an incredible 63 percent success rate.

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He has delivered trophies wherever he has coached and now he has the chance to deliver a glut of titles to a club who have been desperately building up to this moment and now aim to dominate the global game with not only their financial power off the pitch but their play on nit.

No player in the world wouldn’t want to work with Pep. City can afford pretty much every player in the world. And sooner rather than later they will become one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Pep meshes everything together and the announcement he’s arriving comes after years of hard ground work being laid to finally get their man.

City have been close to joining the elite clubs on the planet for some time. With Guardiola’s arrival, they’ve finally done it.

Scott Parker’s first season as a manager ends in Fulham promotion

Fulham promotion
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Fulham are headed back to the Premier League after just one season in the EFL Championship, and that means Scott Parker has worked something of a minor miracle in west London.

[ MORE: Promoted! Fulham back in PL after 1 season in Championship ]

Parker took on a hefty challenge when he accepted his first senior managerial job last year. Fulham were a virtual lock to be relegated from the Premier League when he was named interim boss in February, and their place in the second division had long since been confirmed by the time he was named Claudio Ranieri’s permanent successor in May. The squad was expensive, bloated and full of players who had no intention of sticking around after relegation.

Given the club’s wealth of resources relative to the rest of the Championship, promotion at the first time of asking was more an expectation than a hope at Craven Cottage. Fast-forward 15 months, and the 39-year-old has quickly proven himself the right man for the job after doing just that — taking Fulham back to the PL by way of Tuesday’s Championship promotion playoff final.

Promotion may have been sealed on Tuesday, but Parker believes it was earned over a long period of transition and self-reflection by the players, beginning when he first took the job — quotes from the BBC:

“We’ve done what we’ve done tonight, but there’s still improvement, and that’s what makes me so proud and happy.

“For all of the good players and everything you see, what makes me so happy is I see a group of players who only a year ago were struggling psychologically, didn’t have a mindset or mentality.

“I’ve driven this team every single day and what makes me proud is I stood on the touchline tonight and seen a team that represents what I’ve been saying over the last 12 months.”

Now comes the the truly difficult challenge for Parker: after winning Fulham promotion he must assemble a squad of players not only good enough to stay in the PL, but also one full of individuals who want to be at his club and not simply any club that just so happens to be in England’s top division.

Promoted! Fulham back in PL after 1 season in Championship

Championship promotion playoff final
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Fulham are headed back to the Premier League after claiming west London derby delight at the expense of local rivals Brentford in Tuesday’s Championship promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Ranking the new Premier League kits for 2020-21 ]

It was an incredibly cagey affair — as the Championship promotion playoff final tends to be — that saw the two sides combine for just 17 shots (four on target) through 90 minutes of regular time. In the end, it was the most unlikely of restarts halfway through extra time that sent the Cottagers on their way.

Brentford were nearly the architects of their own downfall early in the first half. FirstIt was a poor back pass from Henrik Dalsgaard that left David Raya in worlds of trouble in the 10th minute, though Fulham were unable to find a proper chance amid the chaos inside Brentford’s box.

Fulham were perhaps fortunate not to go a man down in the 29th minute, when Harrison Reed slid through Christian Norgaard and put studs into the Dane’s ankle. Reed came over top of the ball in a 50-50 challenge and, despite first making contact with the ball, came in with borderline excessive force and in a reckless fashion. Nonetheless, only a yellow card for the on-loan Southampton youngster.

[ MORE: Christian Pulisic issues injury update ]

The start of the second half looked like more of the same from the first half: Fulham with an early chance and Brentford scrambling to stay level. Neeskens Kebano curled a free kick around the wall in the 48th minute, likely beating Raya if it was on frame, but only managed to rippled the outside netting.

Championship Golden Boot runner-up (25 goals) Ollie Watkins had the final scoring chance of regular time in the 70th minute as he fired from the edge of Fulham’s penalty area, but Marek Rodak was able to comfortably palm the ball over the crossbar. Still, the first threatening signs of life from the Bees.

[ MORE: Man United, Dortmund in talks over $140 million Sancho transfer ]

The decisive moment finally arrived in the 105th minute, and it came from absolutely nothing — less than nothing, one might credibly argue. Joe Bryan was tasked with restarting play following a foul roughly 50 yards from goal. Rather than lofting the ball high and to the back post, as Raya so clearly expected him to do, Bryan wrapped his left foot around the ball and whipped it toward the near post — as “near” as it can be from 50-plus yards. Raya was painfully slow to recognize the shot and tried to scramble across the face of goal, but never had a chance of getting anywhere near the ball.

Bryan doubled Fulham’s lead in the 117th minute. It was fast and fluid one-two atop Brentford’s penalty area and the left back tucked it away to seal promotion back to the top flight, and it turned out to be hugely necessary after Dalsgaard poked home a late consolation goal for the Bees with virtually the last kick of the game.

Fulham spent the 2018-19 season in the Premier League but finished with just 26 points in 19th place and were relegated back to the Championship after one season. Only time will tell if they’re able to stay in the top division this time, or if they’re a full-time yo-yo club.

Transfer confirmed: Ferran Torres to Man City for $26 million

Ferran Torres to Man City
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Reports sending Valencia youngster Ferran Torres to Man City have been burning red-hot over the last 24 hours.

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Man City confirmed their capture of the 20-year-old — one of the brightest prospects in all of Europe — on Tuesday.

Torres, who came through the Valencia academy, tallied six goals and seven assists in 43 appearances (all competitions), including two of each in the Champions League, for Valencia this season.

He broke into Valencia’s first team back in November of 2017, at the age of 17, before establishing himself as a regular over the last two seasons.

[ MORE: Man United, Dortmund in talks over $140 million Sancho transfer ]

Reports out of the UK claim it will reportedly cost just $26 million to bring Ferran Torres to Man City, plus possible add-ons, as he had just one year remaining on his contact with Valencia. Torres reportedly met with City sporting director Txiki Begiristain earlier on Tuesday, adding further fuel to the fire that a move was imminent.

Torres seems an obvious replacement for recently departed winger Leroy Sane. He’ll join Raheem Sterling as one of only two natural wingers in Pep Guardiola’s squad, offering more tactical flexibility — not to mention, width — after City were fairly limited in the wide areas during the 2019-20 season.

Championship playoff final: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

Brentford - Fulham
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Fulham – Brentford: Team news is in with the two West London sides set to do battle for a place in the Premier League in the Football League Championship promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

We can hardly wait to find out who’ll claim the 20th berth in the 2020-21 Premier League season in the richest game on earth.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europe ]

Kickoff is at 2:45 pm ET Tuesday at Wembley Stadium.

Team news


Key players

Fulham leading scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 26 goals were the joint-most in the Championship and more than three times as many as Tom Cairney, second amongst the Cottagers. He’s healthy for the first time after missing the semis with a hamstring injury.

Brentford’s Ollie Watkins scored the same amount of goals as Mitrovic, tying for the league lead, and he’s joined by Said Benrahma’s 17 goals (fifth in the league) and Bryan Mbeumo (eighth). The latter have combined for 16 assists, too. The Bees can sting.

Their seasons

Brentford won a even-straight league games to surge into the mix for automatic promotion but lost their last two, meeting Fulham on 81 points.

As for the Cottagers, Fulham finished the season on a seven-match unbeaten run which included five wins

Their playoffs

Brentford overcame a 1-0 first-leg deficit to oust Swansea City in the semifinal, while Fulham’s first leg win was enough to outlast Cardiff City’s strong second leg in their semi.

Odds and ends

Brentford beat Fulham twice, 1-0 at Griffin Park and 2-0 at Craven Cottage.

The Bees are favored to win the match at +108 odds, while Fulham carries +265 odds of a win.

Prediction

Mitrovic’s availability is huge for a Fulham side hoping to break down the league’s second-stingiest defense. Brentford feels like it’s the superior side but Fulham has been here and Cairney even scored the goal to beat Aston Villa in the 2017-18 playoff final. That experience is an X-factor, but we’ll still call Brentford 2-1 winners.

How to watch Fulham – Brentford

Kickoff: 2:45 pm ET Tuesday
Stream: ESPN+