Man City make statement, rip Sarri-ball apart

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MANCHESTER — This is exactly why Manchester City hired Pep Guardiola.

This is not why Chelsea hired Maurizio Sarri.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Two coaches revered for their fluid, attacking philosophies squared off and both would rather quit the game than alter their playing styles. One of them may have to do that very soon, and it’s not Guardiola…

Guardiola didn’t get a handshake from Sarri at the final whistle as the Italian coach, someone who Guardiola respects greatly, had his trousers pulled down and was thoroughly embarrassed. He later explained he didn’t see Guardiola because he wanted to get down the tunnel as quick as he could.

As swashbuckling as City’s display was, Chelsea’s defensive ineptitude could lead to time being called swiftly on Sarri-ball at Stamford Bridge. City’s fans sung “You need Mourinho!” to taunt Chelsea. It’s not that bad, but it’s getting there.

Guardiola’s City set the tone from the first second, as Raheem Sterling‘s opener arrived with less than four minutes on the clock and you could feel a hammering was on. City are now top of the Premier League table and have a +10 goal differential compared to Liverpool. City have played one more game than Liverpool, but the latter’s game in hand is away at Manchester United on Feb. 24.

“The players who make a good performance continue, and the players who don’t rest,” Guardiola said. “That is the only way we can assure we maintain the level. We cannot deny we are competing against Tottenham and Liverpool, and they have made their best start ever in their own history. Liverpool have a trophy room which is a little bit bigger, not a little bit, much bigger than us. This is their best start and we are still in there. That means a lot for all of us.”

Guardiola believes the title race will go down to the final game of the season, and has hinted at City frustrating Liverpool by still being in the hunt.

“We are there, we are leaders but Liverpool has one more game. My feeling is it is going to finish on the last games. After what we have done last season, being there, that is where I am proud and most satisfied. Normally the people drop, fall down after what we have done last season. Still we are there, and that is nice. Really nice.”

City were sensational, but nobody expected Chelsea to be this bad and their players so disinterested.

The same pattern is emerging at Chelsea as it did under Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, with the players clearly downing tools. This time it has happened just six months into Sarri’s debut season.

The core of this squad won the league under Mourinhho and Conte, but in Sarri’s first year they look totally disinterested in playing his style and it is tough to see how they can come back from this drubbing.

Some days you have to hold your hands up and applaud City’s brilliance, but the way Chelsea imploded suggests there are huge problems behind-the-scenes. It also suggests that Manchester United and Arsenal have the edge in the top four battle as Chelsea’s previous goal difference advantage has evaporated and they are now one point off the top four.

“I am worried about my team, I am worried about the performance. My job is always at risk,” Sarri chuckled when asked my the media if he worries about being fired. “I am not worried about the club, you have to ask them about that.”

The bookmakers slashed odds on Sarri being the next Premier League manager to be sacked after Chelsea’s worst-ever defeat in the Premier League era.

“I think the big difference between the two teams was the intensity of pressing. They pressed really well and we were not able to do it,” Sarri explained to Sky Sports. “We were not able to react in the right way. We were not able to stay in the match. At the moment we have a big problem away. The beginning of the season we were better away than at home. But everything has changed in the last month. We need to understand.”

Sarri was asked if he should be under pressure after the manner of Chelsea’s defeat.

“It is right. I am in charge of the team so it is right [that he faces pressure]. You will have to ask the club [if there will be discussions about his future],” Sarri said.

Guardiola had sympathy with Sarri’s situation in his first season at Chelsea, as he too had struggles at City in his debut campaign in the Premier League.

He pointed to the main problem Sarri has: convincing those who appointed him that he’s the right man to lead Chelsea moving forward.

“I know exactly what he wants to do. This kind of person with this type of game, it always helps to make our football better,” Guardiola said. “He wants to try to do it. They beat us there in Stamford Bridge, against Napoli last season they were tight games and moments in the game they were better than us. I said many times, people don’t understand how difficult it is. My first year was so difficult too. My first year you could play good in the way we play now, but not as consistent. The people expect when one manager arrives and you buy players, immediately it comes. It needs time. It depends on the believers, the owners or the people who are in charge and if they really believe in that.”

After this embarrassing defeat, does Sarri now believe that his style of football will not work at Chelsea?

“No because today I didn’t see my football. No, no because at the beginning it worked,” Sarri said. “Now we need only to understand the reason why at the moment, it isn’t working. We need to understand the reason. It is not easy… At the moment I am not able to see the reason but I have to work for this. My target is to play my football. It is not to change to another football. At the moment we are playing another football.”

Video shows Lazio fans’ racist chants aimed at Chelsea loanee Bakayoko

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ROME (AP) A video has emerged of Lazio fans directing a racist chant at AC Milan midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko.

The video posted on the Gazzetta dello Sport website shows fans singing, “This banana is for Bakayoko,” during Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Udinese at the Stadio Olimpico.

[ MORE: Pochettino “not optimistic” on Kane ]

It was an apparent response to Bakayoko and Milan teammate Franck Kessie waving the shirt of Lazio defender Francesco Acerbi in front of their supporters like a trophy after a 1-0 win on Saturday.

Bakayoko, who is black, is on loan from Chelsea.

Lazio fans have a long history of racist and anti-Semitic episodes.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Chelsea, Pulisic may tour U.S. in 2020

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Chelsea has announced intent to visit the United States in the Summer of 2020.

Blues chairman Bruce Buck says the club “has work to do in Middle America” as it’s built up what he believes to be significant support on the coasts of the United States.

[ MORE: Pochettino “not optimistic” on Kane ]

Chelsea will be in Boston next month to play MLS side New England Revolution in a friendly billed “The Final Whistle on Hate.”

But Buck knows that Americans have plenty of interest in new signing Christian Pulisic, who will still be with Borussia Dortmund when Chelsea visits the U.S. in May.

“He’s a personable boy. He’s well-liked in this country,” Buck told the Associated Press. “So of course I would expect him when we come here and play some friendly matches, which is what our objective is in the summer of 2020. Then, yes, I think he will be helpful.”

American fans have been skeptical about how much of Chelsea’s interest in Pulisic was based on potential for stardom versus potential for marketing appeal in the States, but it’s important to note that this article could’ve been written about signing a top Mexican player and touring Mexico, or a Japanese star and heading to Asia.

The morning after: Pochettino on returning home, Kane recovery

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Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham Hotspur flew back to North London after Wednesday’s memorable triumph in the UEFA Champions League, a few days before the club will make the same trip to visit Manchester City in the Premier League.

“We are tired after an amazing and crazy and unbelievable night,” Pochettino said, via the BBC. “We flew late and didn’t sleep too much, but the happiness made us feel strong and with energy. We need to forget the Champions League now and be ready for Saturday, for a battle.”

[ MORE: Klopp on 1st time facing Messi ]

Good luck on the forgetting part, Poch. The advancement past Man City over two legs came after VAR correctly ripped a stoppage time City goal off the board and plunged Spurs from despair into euphoria.

And now they go again.

Pochettino said he elected to bring the team back to London to sleep in their own beds and recover at their own facilities.

It also allows Spurs to keep a close eye on Harry Kane, who missed the second leg and has been expected to miss most if not all of the season with an ankle injury.

“We are not optimistic but you know Harry Kane and with Harry Kane all is possible,” Pochettino said. “We are not going to say he is not going to play again or not. We will assess him day by day.”

We have to imagine that Spurs going from, “Can we beat City and stay in the Top Four without Harry?” to “We are three wins from a Champions League title” might help Kane heal a bit faster (and he’s already a bit of a specimen when it comes to that.

Barton “emphatically denies” attacking fellow League One manager

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It seems like there is much more to the incident reportedly involving Joey Barton and a fellow League One manager.

Barnsley launched a complaint after Fleetwood Town manager Barton allegedly attacked his counterpart Daniel Stendel after a match on Saturday.

[ MORE: Klopp on 1st time facing Messi ]

Police stopped Barton from leaving the stadium after the match, and Barnsley player Cauley Woodrow has now taken down a Tweet saying that Stendel was left with “blood pouring down his face.”

Now Barton is denying allegations that he attacked Stendel, and is expected to be in the dugout for the Fishermen, who sit 11th in League One.

From FleetwoodTownFC.com:

“With regards to the alleged incident on Saturday following our game against Barnsley, I emphatically deny the allegations made. Given this matter has not been formally closed, it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment.”

Barton’s checkered past is well-documented, but this tale continues to develop in fascinating ways.