How do Man City compare to Guardiola’s best Barca team?

Getty Images
0 Comments

With Manchester City on the cusp of winning the Premier League title in the fastest-ever time in English top-flight history (a win against Manchester United on Saturday seals the deal) it’s worth contemplating just how good this masterpiece built by Pep Guardiola is.

Is this current City better than his best team at Barcelona?

[ STREAM: Man City v Man United

First up, let’s define his best team at Barca. We have plenty of epic teams to choose from but the double winning team of 2010/11 is widely regarded as the best team he coached, and perhaps the greatest team in soccer history, as they were only denied the treble by an extra time goal in the Spanish cup final by Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid.

Barca lost five of their 60 games in all competitions that season. Scored 147 goals and conceded just 36. This season City are on track to break Premier League records for goals, points and wins.

We’re talking a young Lionel Messi up top with David Villa. Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Xavi in their prime in midfield. Dani Alves, Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique as solid as a rock in defense.

This was a Barca team at the height of Tiki-Taka as their players not only dominated the club scene but also the international stage with three-straight major titles in the 2008 and 2012 European championships and then the 2010 World Cup for good measure. Therefore, it is tough to compare any team of any generation to the greatness of the team Guardiola was able to create in his third season at Barca.

That 2010/11 season Pep’s boys lost just one of their 13 games in the Champions League en route to absolutely smashing Manchester United 3-1 in the final at Wembley Stadium as Sir Alex Ferguson looked on in wonderment.

“They do mesmerize you with the way they pass it,” Ferguson said . “I expected us to do better, particularly after half-time, but it wasn’t to be. Great teams do go in cycles and they’re at the peak of the cycle they’re in at the moment. They’re the best in Europe, no question about that. In my time as a manager, I would say they’re the best team we’ve faced. Everyone acknowledges that and I accept that. It’s not easy when you’ve been well beaten like that to think another way.

“No one has given us a hiding like that. It’s a great moment for them. They deserve it because they play the right way and enjoy their football. But how long it lasts … whether they can replace that team at some point … they certainly have the right philosophy, but it’s always difficult to find players like Xavi [Hernandez], [Andres] Iniesta and [Lionel] Messi all the time. But they’re enjoying the moment that they have just now. We never controlled Lionel Messi, but many people have had to say that over the years.”

Now, Man City do not have Lionel Messi.

In Guardiola’s own words Messi is a “one-off” and the best player he will ever see. Messi scored 53 goals in all competitions that season, with Pedro scoring 22 and Villa scoring 23. It was both an attacking powerhouse and a steady defensive unit. The balance was near perfect and orchestrated by Xavi, Busquets and Iniesta in midfield.

Yet the Messi factor aside, there was also a similarity to this City side as Guardiola ousted plenty of big names who were getting on. Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, Yaya Toure and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were all at least 27 years old and many had questioned Guardiola for getting rid of them. The same can be said for the way he has handled Toure, Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta and Kolarov since he arrived at City but there’s a clear plan and ideology that he prefers younger players who are quicker and more flexible in terms of formations.

Last season it looked like his methods may not have been possible in England but after just over 18 months in charge he is proving he can emulate what he created at Barcelona, and to a lesser extent at Bayern.

This City side may not emulate Pep’s Barca teams in terms of their league and European Cup double due to their 3-0 deficit from the first leg of their UCL quarterfinal at Liverpool, but there are a lot of similarities.

David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Fernandinho are in the exact same mold as Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets. The former two are perhaps having the greatest seasons of their careers, reinvented as a deeper central midfield duo who have the freedom to attack the space which opens up between center backs and full backs when Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling drag defenders out wide.

Up top, Sergio Aguero isn’t scoring at the same rate his close friend Messi did in 2010/11 but he is still a monster, when fit, and has adapted to Pep’s methods. The entire back line has too and you could argue that Ederson is an upgrade in goal over Victor Valdes while Vincent Kompany would have surely got into that epic Barca side at his peak.

At full back is where both of these teams stand out. Dani Alves and Kyle Walker. Eric Abidal and Benjamin Mendy. The latter has been out for most of this season with a serious knee injury but if he had been fit, he would’ve added even greater balance to this City side. The ability of Walker, and back then Alves, to slot inside and almost act as an inside center back or holding midfielder who could spring attacks and create overloads is eerily similar.

It’s harsh to say this City side is a cheap imitation of his team at Barcelona. It’s accurate to say they are from the same blueprint as the greatest team the world has ever seen. When you have spent over $400 million, it’s easy to understand why Pep has built a machine at Man City but as we saw last season, he needed to clear out veterans who didn’t fit into his plans and invest in young, quick, flexible players who did.

City could perhaps emulate Barcelona in years to come, or even this season if they turn their UCL second leg against Liverpool around, but there’s no doubt that this team is up there with his greatest Barca side.

That Barca team was better and their greatness has so far stood the test of time. This City side may only be truly appreciated in years to come too but right now it feels like they’re at the levels of the 2008/09 Barca side (Pep’s first, which won the treble) but not far off the 2010/11 side who will always be the benchmark.

USMNT vs Iran player ratings out of 10

0 Comments

Christian Pulisic was injured scoring the lone goal of a 1-0 win over Iran as the United States men’s national team advanced to the World Cup’s Round of 16 on Tuesday.

WATCH IRAN vs USA FULL MATCH REPLAY

Fortunately for the USMNT, his exit from the match did not stop the Yanks from delivering a spot in the knockout rounds.

While the attack sputtered without him, the defenders and midfielders largely stepped into the fold as Yunus Musah and Co. helped Matt Turner keep a second clean sheet in three games.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]


Iran vs USA player ratings out of 10

Matt Turner: 6.5 — Some nervy moments late but the Arsenal backup again showed command of his box even when his body didn’t follow-through on good decisions.

Antonee Robinson: 9 — There’s an argument to be made that “Jedi” was the player of the round for the USMNT. He made a few rescue tackles and crosses from the left were few and far between.

Tim Ream: 8 — Quick, someone ask the coach if the guy who played every minute of the group stage is now a good fit for his system.

Cameron Carter-Vickers: 7 — Terrific when the U.S. had the ball and mostly good at the back, too. Is a good fit as a RCB in the back three, if that’s something Berhalter pulls out again.

Sergino Dest (Off 82′): 9 — While Pulisic’s goal was the moment of the game and Musah delivered several other moments, the fullbacks were the story of the entirety. Dest’s assist was massive, too (obviously).

USMNT player ratings
fotmob.com

Tyler Adams: 8 — He rarely has bad games in a USMNT shirt, and there’s a reason he has the captain’s arm band when most teams would’ve automatically allocated it to Pulisic.

Yunus Musah: 8.5 — It’s fair to say the U.S. hasn’t had as a complete a midfield duo in Musah and Adams in two decades, if not longer. Musah was monstrous

Weston McKennie (Off 65′): 6.5 –Still working his way to match sharpness over the hour-plus, and you can pen him in for a start and a sub in every game the rest of the way.

Tim Weah (Off 82′): 7.5 — The team’s second-biggest threat, could’ve had this match salted away at the hour mark with a hat trick on another day.

Josh Sargent (On 75′): 7 — Yeoman’s work from the Norwich City man, who limped off after landing awkwardly on the ball.

Christian Pulisic (Off HT): 8 — Scoring a round-clinching goal in a World Cup game is a really good way to cement your status in a national team program. His abdominal injury required a precautionary trip to the hospital. Fingers are crossed. So are toes. And any new appendages that might evolve.

Subs

Brenden Aaronson (On HT): 7 — A busy boy in his half, had Iran just as enraged as he’s had Premier League opponents

Kellyn Acosta (On 65′): 6.5  — Job done.

Haji Wright (On 75′): 6.5 — See above.

Walker Zimmerman (On 82′): 8 — A goal-line clearance and all the aerials duels you knew would be won when he was plugged into the lineup, were won. Three clearances in 10-plus minutes.

Shaq Moore (On 82′): 6 — Wyd, Gregg? Moore’s only job should’ve been to shut down crosses. He didn’t.


FotMob player ratings

USMNT player ratings
fotmob.com

Berhalter ‘proud’ of USMNT, looks ahead to Netherlands; Pulisic injury update

0 Comments

USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter was a relieved man as he spoke to media after the USA beat Iran 1-0 to clinch a spot in the last 16 of the World Cup.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

After Christian Pulisic’s first half goal the U.S. held on late on as Iran create three good chances but the young American side dug deep.

They will now face the Netherlands in the last 16 on Saturday (kick off, 10am ET) and Berhalter was asked how proud he was of his side.

USA grind out win after an impressive display

“Proud. First half we showed what we can do soccer wise. Second half we showed what we could do determination wise. The guys grinded. They gave every single ounce of energy. We are undefeated going into the knockout round,” Berhalter said.

He was then asked about his nerves late on as Iran almost scored in the 99th minute when Mehdi Taremi nearly got on the end of a ball into the box.

“This new injury time, counting every second, it is stressful. I think I have less hair on my head now,” Berhalter smiled. “We will take it and we will move on and we will go battle Holland.”

Christian Pulisic injury update

Pulisic, the goalscoring hero, was subbed out at half time after getting hit in the abdominal area when he scored the winning goal.

Asked about the status of the USMNT and Chelsea star, here is what Berhalter had to say.

“No update on his status but I’ve been saying all along, ‘it’s a wonderful thing when one of your best players is also one of your hardest working.’ He is certainly that. I can’t say enough positive things about Christian.”

Another update from Fox said Pulisic was taken to the hospital after the injury.

England hammers Wales to top Group B, set up last 16 clash v Senegal

0 Comments

England hammered Wales 3-0 to secure top spot in Group B and Gareth Southgate’s side will now face Senegal in the last 16 of the World Cup.

FULL MATCH REPLAY

Marcus Rashford scored a stunning free kick to get them going in the second half, while Phil Foden finished off a delicious Harry Kane assist and then Rashford scored another as he was England’s hero.

[ MORE: Group B standings, schedule, results ]

The Three Lions went close to scoring many more as they finished the group stage with a flurry and scored nine goals and grabbed seven points to sit atop Group A and were unbeaten.

Wales exits the tournament bottom of the group with just one point from their three games.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub


How to watch Wales vs England live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET – Tuesday, November 29
Stadium: Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

The Welsh have not made the most of their second trip to the World Cup in their history. They were dominated in the first half of their opener against the U.S. but showed good spirit to battle back for a point late on. Against Iran they were second best throughout and a late red card to Wayne Hennessey was followed by two late Iranian goals and Robert Page could have no complaints as his team failed to show up. Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale have had superb careers but injuries have hit them hard in recent years and this looks like a tournament too far for Wales’ star duo.

As for England, the vultures are circling back home as Gareth Southgate is under pressure once again for what many believe are overly cautious tactics. Against the U.S. they huffed and puffed without really creating clear-cut chances and were pretty lucky to escape with a draw. Even though England are all but guaranteed a spot in the last 16, the Three Lions fans expect more from Harry Kane and Co. after they reached the World Cup semifinals four years ago and were runners up in the European Championships just over a year ago. Southgate is expected to make quite a few changes to his lineup as the likes of Phil Foden, Kalvin Phillips and Marcus Rashford could feature from the start.


Wales quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 19
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 1
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs, Path B
Coach: Rob Page
Key players: Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies

England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Pickford


USMNT tops Iran to set up World Cup date with Netherlands

0 Comments

Christian Pulisic was injured scoring the lone goal of a 1-0 win over Iran as the United States men’s national team advanced to the World Cup’s Round of 16 on Tuesday.

The Yanks, runners-up in Group B, will play Group A winners Netherlands at 10am ET Saturday.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings vs Iran ]

Pulisic walked off the field on his power and appeared to have taken a hard shot to the midsection. We’ll update his condition as soon as it becomes available.

WATCH IRAN vs USA FULL MATCH REPLAY

England won the group while Iran bows out along with Wales.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]


What we learned from Iran vs USA

It’s difficult not to feel good for Christian Pulisic, no longer the young sparkplug hopeful of reaching his potential.

The next great American player actually became the next great American player, and our enduring World Cup-related memory of him was in qualification; The teenage goal scorer who didn’t find a teammate to also score in Couva as the Yanks crashed out of the tournament.

Now the enduring World Cup image of him, rightly so, is as a gamer. Pulisic scored a round-sealing goal while getting kicked in the nether region.

Then his teammates needed to hold on tight.

They mostly did! The USMNT stayed firm after Gregg Berhalter stopped going for the second goal, removing several attackers in favor of Walker Zimmerman and Shaq Moore.

It was nervy, but they did it. And the U.S. moves forward…


Stars of the Show

Christian Pulisic

Antonee Robinson

Tyler Adams

Majid Hosseini

Tim Ream

USMNT player ratings
fotmob.com

Christian Pulisic goal video: Dest cues up USMNT star

How to watch Iran vs USA live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Tuesday Nov. 29
Stadium: Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

For Iran, it’s about riding the momentum of a huge win after finding inspiration in a huge loss. There’s an ocean’s worth of difference in emotion between the 6-2 tournament-opening loss to England in Al Rayyan and the 2-0 triumph over Wales In the same city. Can Mehdi Taremi or Sardar Azmoun succeed where Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling could not and break down the USMNT defense for a goal?

Meanwhile, the Yanks may still be lamenting a 1-1 draw with Wales as much as they are celebrating a strong performance that kept them unbeaten against England at the World Cup after a scoreless draw with Gareth Southgate’s men In Al Khor. Gregg Berhalter has to find a way to unlock the USMNT’s final-third woes when they hit Al Khor on Tuesday.

There has also been some off-field tension brewing between the U.S. and Iran surrounding this game, as Gregg Berhalter and captain Tyler Adams responded to in a tense press conference amid questions from the Iranian press.


Iran quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 20
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC (Won Group A)
Coach: Dragan Skocic
Key players: Ehsan Hajsafi, Sardar Azmoun, Mehdi Taremi

USA quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 16
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 9
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONCACAF (3rd place)
Coach: Gregg Berhalter
Key players: Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams