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.”

Funes Mori scores crazy long-distance goal for Monterrey (video)

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Rogelio Funes Mori is healthy again for Monterrey, and that’s a big reason why they lead the Clausura standings.

The 27-year-old Argentinian striker is in great form this Clausura after missing a significant portion of the Apertura with injuries. He had five goals in six Clausura matches coming into Friday night’s match with 16th-placed Monarcas Morelia.

He now has six goals, and his last one was an absolute stunner.

Funes Mori stole the ball off Aldo Rocha’s sloppy touch, looked up, and noticed Monarcas goalkeeper Sebastian Sosa just a hair out of his net. That was all the space he needed, letting loose from at least 35 yards out and producing an absolutely stunning finish that Sosa barely even had time to back up and give a stretch. Just like that, Monterrey went ahead.

Unfortunately for Monterrey, they gave up an equalizer less than a minute later as the left flank of the Monterrey defense saw their controller batteries die, allowing Edison Flores to snag a loose ball behind the lollygagging defenders and fire a low shot past Marcelo Barovero to level the score. The game ended 3-2 to Monterrey as Funes Mori would score a 78th minute equalizer and then the visitors won in stoppage time.

Still, win, lose, or draw, that strike by Funes Mori is something to behold. On the same day that a French top flight player unleashed from nearly halfway, Liga MX has a goal of the same caliber.

Lyon exec claims club working on Fekir extension

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Olympique Lyonnais’ outspoken club president Jean-Michel Aulas has gone on record to claim the club has “made some advances” with regards to a contract extension for attacker Nabil Fekir.

The 25-year-old has been a favorite of Premier League transfer rumors for a good two years now, but Aulas says they are working hard to keep the Lyon captain at his hometown club.

“We have made some advances in Fekir’s contract extension,” Aulas said according to The Mirror . “We are discussing it and soon I’ll have to see Nabil, we aren’t in the final stages but in any case we have advanced.”

Fekir scored 18 goals last season in Ligue 1 play, prompting heavy rumors of a move to England, with Liverpool the most widely reported destination. Things are never easy with Aulas, however, and a deal was never completed. Fekir started this season slowly, prompting many fans to claim he was a one-hit-wonder, but he has picked up the goalscoring pace of late, with six goals in his last nine matches, including the winner in Friday’s 2-1 victory over Guingamp.

He also has three goals in five Champions League appearances this season, and a big test upcoming as Lyon matches up with Barcelona in the Round of 16 next week. A surprise win in that two-legged affair would boost Lyon’s chances of retaining Fekir tremendously as it could convince him the club is on its way up. They currently sit third with PSG still dominating the league by a mile.

Still, it’s also highly possible that Aulas is exaggerating the club’s efforts to re-sign Fekir to put pressure on others who may look to pry him away this summer. A possible extension in the works could force clubs to pony up extra cash in the hopes of persuading him to turn Lyon down. Chelsea has been linked to Fekir this offseason with rumors of Eden Hazard‘s exit, and Liverpool’s chase last summer will likely attach them to his name this coming window as well.

Burnley fan running to every Premier League away match

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One inspired Burnley supporter is turning away days into something much more special, and strenuous.

Scott Cunliffe, who struggles with post traumatic stress disorder and depression from his time working for charities in poverty and violence stricken Southeast Asia, is running from Turf Moor to every single Burnley away game this season. Cunliffe’s endeavor gained serious traction this past weekend when he documented his longest trip yet, the 277-mile trek to Brighton’s Amex Stadium.

The BBC shared his experience through a video that Cunliffe shot on his journey, and it shows him struggling with fears of crowded places, loneliness, and mental fatigue during that time. Cunliffe discusses his route to Brighton, saying he takes more scenic routes to avoid busier sections of roads that have caused him struggles in the past. He also goes on to discuss how he tackles mental fatigue, saying he breaks up the day into minute sections to “micro manage” his journey and keep his mind focused.

Cunliffe’s page on the charity website JustGiving says that he will give all proceeds to Burnley’s official charity Burnley FC in the Community, and that the funds will then be distributed equally to local Burnley charities and other charities around the cities he has journeyed to over the course of the season.

In the video of his trip to Brighton, Cunliffe says that he has been out jogging approximately 77 days over the course of the season so far, and that he has completed somewhere in the vicinity of 87 marathons in that time. He says that he began running to help with therapy for his PTSD and depression and it has grown into a full-on passion.

Cunliffe’s trip to Brighton finished in joy as Burnley won 3-1, a massive result in the relegation battle as they jump to 15th in the Premier League table. The Clarets are home next time out as they host Tottenham, but the club’s next road trip heads in the opposite direction, a trip north to Newcastle at the end of the month.

Bayern suddenly walking wounded prior to Liverpool match

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With Liverpool set to host Bayern Munich on Tuesday in midweek Champions League action, the German giants are suddenly looking at a number of forced changes when they take on the Reds.

The latest injury came in the dying minutes of Bayern’s 3-2 win over Augsburg in Bundesliga play on Friday, as brace-man Kingsley Coman was forced off after Bayern had used all its substitutes. Coman had to be helped off the pitch, and the fear is that he could miss significant time.

The 22-year-old French international is electric when at full strength, but has been troubled by injuries during his time at Allianz Arena. He was plagued by knee problems in his first seasons there, and his left ankle is now the main culprit. Coman saw his season come to an early close right about this time a year ago thanks to ligament trouble in his left ankle, forcing him to miss the rest of the season and the first three months of this season before returning in early December. Now, it seems the troubles are cropping up again in the same spot.

Bayern boss Niko Kovac said after the match that, “It does not look good,” adding, “we’ll have to investigate it tomorrow to find out more.” Should Coman be forced out for any length of time, he would add to the growing list of important players missing for Bayern on Tuesday.

Thomas Muller is suspended after earning a straight red card for a high boot in the final group stage match against Ajax, a damaging loss that saw Muller handed a two-match suspension to keep him out of both legs against Liverpool. Arjen Robben is also out, having been out since early December – oddly enough the same match that saw Coman return – thanks to thigh trouble. While Robben is close to a comeback, he is not fit and has been ruled out of the first leg. Finally, midfielder Corentin Tolisso has been out with an ACL tear since the second league match of the season, and while that’s been in the cards for months, it bears repeating once the depth starts to wear away.

Manuel Neuer has also just returned from a thumb injury, and while he made it through the Augsburg match unscathed and will be ready to suit up against Liverpool, the whole of the Bayern defense looked shaky at times on the counter. Augsburg picked its spots perfectly, scoring 15 seconds into the match and then again before the half-hour mark. The hosts completed an outstanding nine of 10 individual take-ons in the match, finding openings on the break. The Bayern back line was solid in the air, which should give them something to savor from the league victory.

That win was the team’s ninth victory in its last 10 Bundesliga matches, a blistering run that followed a very poor first three months to the campaign.

Without Muller, Coman, and Robben on Tuesday, James Rodriguez and Franck Ribery could see time, as could former Arsenal winger Serge Gnabry who has been a contributing squad player of late while he navigates his own thigh and groin problems.