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Wing wizards: Sane, Mahrez eager for Man City glory

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NEW YORK — Historic cannot even begin to describe Manchester City’s 2017/18 season, which resulted in dominating the Premier League, winning the title and shattering records in the process.

[ MORE: Premier League transfer needs for all 20 clubs ]

With an attacking group comparable to that of something out of a FIFA video game and a sturdy back line, second-year manager Pep Guardiola and his side cruised to the club’s third PL crown in the last seven seasons.

Under Guardiola, the Citizens smashed the PL single-season goalscoring record (106), broke the 100-point barrier — a feat that had never been accomplished in England’s top flight — and finished the season 19 points better than rivals Manchester United.

The likes of Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sane formed one of the strongest attacks the PL has ever seen, but instead of remaining content with his squad Guardiola went out and acquired one of the league’s top attackers this summer in Leicester winger Riyad Mahrez.

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Pro Soccer Talk caught up with two of City’s anticipated influencers ahead of the upcoming season while on tour in the United States for the 2018 International Champions Cup — newcomer Mahrez and Sane — as the duo prepare to carry the Manchester side to new heights in 2018/19.

The Citizens will take on fellow PL giants Liverpool in their second ICC match on Wednesday at MetLife Stadium, before closing out their U.S. tour against Bayern Munich on July 28 in Miami.


For Sane, his second season in the PL was met with increased expectations and even better results for the English champions.

He was duly named the PFA Young Player of the Year as he dazzled with his pace, goals and assists.

However, the positive on-field results for the 22-year-old still left him on the outside looking in this summer when Sane was left off the Germany national team squad that traveled to Russia for the World Cup.

The former Schalke 04 winger told PST that he is using the snub as motivation for the upcoming season and as a goal for him to reach in four years time when the World Cup heads to Qatar.

“It motivated me a lot because it’s a dream for me to play there at the World Cup,” Sane told Pro Soccer Talk. “That’s why I keep working harder and looking forward. We will see what happens over the next four years.”

Man City will aim to continue its dominance from last season during the upcoming PL campaign and in Europe, but Sane will have a new running mate up front.

An embarrassment of riches, including Aguero, De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and two Silvas — David and Bernardo — weren’t enough for Guardiola and Co., with Mahrez introduced to the club over the summer.

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The former Leicester winger became an instant star upon arriving at the King Power Stadium in 2014, and now provides the Citizens with yet another danger man that opposition must be wary of going forward.

Despite his quiet demeanor and relaxed attitude, Sane believes Mahrez is the ideal fit in the Man City system with his languid style and unpredictability complementing City’s other attackers.

“He brings a lot,” Sane said when asked about the addition of Mahrez. “He’s a great player and extremely skillful. He has an unbelievable left foot, which makes our job up front even easier because we can kind of relax a bit more and strike against the other defense.”

Mahrez, who had been linked with a move to City dating back to early last season, finally completed a transfer to the Etihad Stadium on July 10.

The Algeria international believes that by joining the Citizens he can add to one of the top attacks in the world, but the team still needs to back up their star power with strong performances.

“I am very happy,” Mahrez told PST. “It’s a very big club. I’m happy to be part of the project. It was difficult to play against them because they were a very good team, but now I’m excited to be with them playing together.

“We have to show it on the pitch,” Mahrez continued. “We need to consistently score goals and bring home more trophies.”

Wing wizards Sane and Mahrez will be key as Man City aim to deliver back-to-back glory.

Chelsea needs to wait “48 hours” to assess Mount

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Mason Mount‘s move from the Championship to the Premier League has been nearly seamless.

His adjustment to the Champions League was cut down too quickly to get an understanding of whether it would be too big of a jump.

[ MORE: Match recap | Barkley drama ]

Mount, 20, was chopped down by Valencia’s Francis Coquelin, the former Arsenal man, and had to leave the game after just 16 minutes.

Here’s Frank Lampard, from ChelseaFC.com:

“He’s got an ankle injury but we don’t know how bad it is. We’ll have to assess it in the next 48 hours to see the scale of the injury. It was a shame because he started the game well and it meant we had to make the change early on.”

Mount scored nine times with four assists on loan under Lampard at Derby County last season, and has already chipped in three goals for Chelsea this season.

Lampard turned to Pedro off the bench on Tuesday, but any lengthy absence for Mount will spell more time for American youngster Christian Pulisic.

UEFA Champions League Wednesday preview: Man City, Spurs debut

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Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur begin their UEFA Champions League campaigns on very different results and with very different vibes.

City is coming off a stunning 3-2 loss to injury-hit Norwich City, and is set up in Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk for the third-straight season, a side which beat Pep Guardiola once in four tries between 2017/18 and 2018/19 in the UCL.

[ MORE: UCL Tues. wrap ]

But on Wednesday, Guardiola’s men are going to carry a similar feel to one of his old Barcelona teams, as Pep seemingly will have Fernandinho pull a Javier Mascherano and drop into the back line.

Yes, Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi are Manchester City’s hopes at center back, now that John Stones has joined Aymeric Laporte on the shelf.

“For me as a manager it’s an incredible challenge,” said Pep Guardiola. “But I believe a lot, people don’t know the spirit and resolve to solve this problem. The players going to come back with Dinho, Eric Garcia, Taylor Harwood-Bellis. … It’s happened, but what we are not going to do is complain. We have to have 11 players on the pitch and I like it, to find a solution. For the players as well to find an incredible step forward.”

Spurs, meanwhile, will simply be trying to build on any momentum gained by a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at the weekend, a win which came after manager Mauricio Pochettino begged his side to “re-focus” after a relatively poor start to the season.

Now a bit more relaxed, Spurs head to Greece as the clear favorites against stingy Olympiacos. These are, after all, the finalists of last season’s tournament.

Pochettino won’t be sleeping on the challenge, from The London Evening Standard:

“They have good players and if we are not focused and don’t take our best game we are going to suffer. But last season we played in the final of Champions League, so it’s normal people think before the game, Tottenham is one step above Olympiacos but in the end you need to show it on the pitch.”

Spurs are one of two early kickoffs on Tuesday.

Full UCL Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Tottenham Hotspur

3 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Paris Saint-Germain v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
Dinamo Zagreb v. Atalanta
Bayern Munich v. Red Star Belgrade
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester City

American coach Marsch speaks after landmark Champions League day

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Jesse Marsch made his UEFA Champions League debut on Tuesday, a historic first for not just the Wisconsin native but also his country.

Marsch, 45, oversaw Red Bull Salzburg’s 6-2 demolition of Genk, becoming the first American to win a UCL match as manager.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. wrap ]

“We knew we were going into the match full of confidence,” he said, via the Salzburg site. “We knew too that we could put in a performance of this quality. I wasn’t pleased with a few situations, such as conceding for 3-1. That shows our incredible mentality though as it prompted us to give a few more percent and immediately score two goals.”

The ex-New York Red Bulls manager and RB Leipzig assistant manager got another three goals from incredible 19-year-old striker Erling Braut Haland, who nows has 17 goals in nine matches this season.

“It is an absolute joy to work with this team. We have a lot of players who just know how to battle, and that rubs off on the others. You can see that on the pitch on nights like tonight.”

There will be tougher nights ahead for Marsch, who is in a group with Liverpool and Napoli, but Tuesday was a fine start for the tactician. And it was a banner moment for American coaches abroad, who’ve been led by past and present USMNT coaches Bob Bradley and Gregg Berhalter.

Maybe one day that’ll be Marsch’s title… but it seems like he may have some loftier ground to cover on his path through world soccer.

Klopp: Liverpool made wrong decisions; Penalty also incorrect

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is going to bat for his left back after Andrew Robertson gave away what became the decisive penalty in a 2-0 loss to Napoli in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it’s a penalty,” Klopp said. “What can I say, for me, it is clear and obvious no penalty. He jumps before any contact, we can’t change that.”

[ RECAP: Napoli 2-0 Liverpool ]

For what it’s worth: It sure seemed like both a foul on Robertson and a comical embellishment from Callejon, but we digress.

Liverpool just didn’t have it on the day, like when Sadio Mane played a terrible pass to Mohamed Salah on what could’ve been an easy 1-0 lead.

In the moments they did have it, there was Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret making a splendid save.

“We played a lot of good football but didn’t finish it off. We controlled moments but had not enough chances in the end. We made decisions that were not right and have to accept the result. It was very often the final ball that was not right.”

Also, forgive Klopp if he has stopped enjoying the beautiful country of Italy.