Three things we learned: Man City v. Chelsea

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MANCHESTER — This is what you call making a statement.

Manchester City hammered Chelsea 6-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, with Pep Guardiola‘s men scoring four times in the first 25 minutes to move back to the top of the Premier League table on goal difference.

A hat trick from Sergio Aguero and goals from Raheem Sterling (two) and Ilkay Gundogan did the damage, as Chelsea collapsed away from home once again to cast fresh doubt over Maurizio Sarri‘s future as the Blues’ manager.

Here’s what we learned from a huge win for Man City, and another demoralizing defeat for Chelsea.


ANOTHER FAST START PROPELS CITY

Nothing eases tension in a title race better than an early goal. In three of Man City’s last four Premier League games they’ve scored their opener with less than four minutes on the clock, and Sterling’s opener set the tone for the entire game. City should have been 5-0 up inside 25 minutes, but they had to settle for 4-0 as Aguero scored twice and missed a sitter, while Gundogan added another. City got the ball wide as quickly as they could and dominated the individual battles with Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso. City are showing no signs of nerves because they are just blowing teams away early on and they have now opened up a +10 goal differential lead on Liverpool which like an extra point.

Aside from their early goal at Newcastle, which seemed to breath overconfidence into the team which led to their shock defeat, scoring early has put Guardiola’s men back in the title race. The fast start also provided Guardiola with the luxury of subbing off the likes of Aguero, Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne for well-earned rests. In two weeks time City play against Chelsea at Wembley in the League Cup final and this display will leave Chelsea shuddering with fear. Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp will be watching on with a similar feeling of angst. City are pushing themselves to the limit as they chase winning all four competitions they’re in.


A NEW LOW FOR CHELSEA UNDER SARRI

Chelsea have had some embarrassing moments recently but the capitulation at Man City took the biscuit. These are the kind of defeats which instantly get you fired. Sarri knows that. Of course, City can do this to any team in the world but the way Chelsea totally lost their shape and any defensive stability was painful for Sarri to watch. You could see it etched on his face throughout the game. For the first time since December 1999 Chelsea conceded four times in the first half of a PL game and for the first time in the PL era they’ve lost three top-flight games in a row on the road without scoring.

Coming after their similarly horrific defensive displays at Arsenal and Bournemouth, Sarri has a huge problem to solve. If he’s given the chance to solve it. After they went 4-0 down, Chelsea did okay in the first half. Gonzalo Higuain went close on a couple of occasions and they patched together some fluid attacks, but that all came when City had taken their foot off the gas. Chelsea have now failed to beat any of the so-called ‘big six’ in their last seven away games against them, and this display underlined how far from a title-challenging team they are.

Many would suggest Chelsea’s players have chucked in the towel and after conceding 12 goals and scoring zero in their last three PL away games (all defeats) things are quickly unraveling for Sarri. The way a disinterested Eden Hazard failed to track back on City’s first goal, Ross Barkley nodded to Aguero to score and the general lack of defensive cover for full backs suggests Chelsea are in a whole world of hurt. The Blues are only one point off the top four and sit in fifth, but at this rate you’d put money on Manchester United and even Arsenal finishing above them. You also wouldn’t put much money on Sarri lasting beyond this season as his tactics and man-management aren’t working at all. Sarri-ball has been kicked into touch in a big way with this embarrassing shellacking.


AGUERO, GUNDOGAN KEY IN TITLE BID

Aguero is on the kind of tear which ends up winning a Premier League title. He’s now scored seven goals in his last four PL games and his treble on Sunday saw him equal the most hat tricks scored (11) in Premier League history. In truth, he should have scored five as he hit the bar and missed an absolute sitter early on. But we will let him off… City’s all-time leading goalscorer has now scored 10 goals in his last seven PL matches, with that run starting in City’s win against Liverpool on Jan. 3. If City win the league this season, it will be because Aguero remained fit and kept scoring goals. Simple. The stats around Aguero are mind-boggling. He’s now scored eight goals in his last six PL games against Chelsea and he has scored 14 times in 12 home games for City this season. He also leads the PL, along with Mohamed Salah, in goals with 17.

Eyebrows were raised when City’s resident magician David Silva was left out of their starting lineup for such a pivotal game in the title race, but that was soon forgotten. Gunodgan pressed Jorginho into making several mistakes and scored City’s fourth with a trademark cool finish. The German midfielder is finally injury free and his freshness as a combative playmaker could prove pivotal in the big games coming up. Gundogan doesn’t do anything outstanding. He just oozes class at whatever he does. From his chipped pass to Sterling to set up City’s second goal against Arsenal last week to his caressed finish against Chelsea, Gundogan is popping up with vital contributions in the title run.

LIVE, UCL: Two knockout spots remain; Man City, Tottenham in play

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Two more spots in the knockout round remain unclaimed as the final day of group stage play begins on Wednesday.

Groups C and D both require a second team to progress through to the Round of 16, with five teams still in the mix.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Manchester City has already won Group D, but the remaining three teams Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb, and Atalanta all remain in contention for the second spot. Shakhtar currently sits second and has a home match with Atalanta, while Dinamo Zagreb host Man City in Croatia. Both those games feature in the early 12:55 p.m. ET kickoffs.

Group D, meanwhile, has a pair of sides vying for the last spot. Atletico Madrid has a point advantage, currently sitting in second with a home match against already eliminated Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow. Bayer Leverkusen, meanwhile, hosts group winners Juventus in Germany.

Elsewhere, Tottenham Hotspur has already locked up a spot in the knockout stage, locked into the second spot in Group A, and they finish out the group stage with a visit to confirmed group winners Bayern Munich. Jose Mourinho told the press he forbid his players from watching any footage of the 7-2 defeat to Bayern to begin group stage play, and is resting “a few players” ahead of the festive Premier League fixtures.

Finally, Group A has already been decided with Real Madrid confirmed to finish second behind winners Paris Saint-Germain, but the two still have to complete the fixture list. Madrid heads to Belgium to take on Club Brugge, while PSG hosts Galatasaray. The Spanish side is most likely to rest players, with a weekend visit to Valencia coming up on Sunday followed by a midweek El Clasico that was rescheduled from earlier in the season.

Below is the full schedule for the last UCL games on Wednesday, with all games kicking off at 3 p.m. ET unless otherwise noted, and you can follow the action live by clicking on the link above.


Wednesday Champions League action

Group A

Club Brugge v. Real Madrid
Paris Saint-Germain v. Galatasaray

Group B

Bayern Munich v. Tottenham Hotspur
Olympiakos v. Red Star Belgrade

Group C

Dinamo Zagreb v. Manchester City (12:55 p.m. ET)
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Atalanta (12:55 p.m. ET)

Group D

Atletico Madrid v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen v. Juventus

Late goalkeeper strike seals knockout spot in UEFA Youth League

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Club Brugge goalkeeper Senne Lammens may just be 17 years old, but he just lived every goalkeeper’s dream: to score a dramatic equalizer in the dying seconds of a game to send the club through to a European competition’s knockout stage.

The young goalkeeper came forward on a corner in the 94th minute of a game against Real Madrid in the UEFA Youth League Wednesday morning in Belgium. With the visitors leading 2-1 and added time just about expired, Brugge needed to score an equalizer to secure passage to the knockout stage, lest they be left at the mercy of Galatasaray’s match against PSG.

Lammens delivered. The corner swung in to the top of the six-yard box and the youngster was on hand to head home a pinpoint effort inside the far post.

The header was quite literally the last act of the game, with stoppage time already creeping more than 60 seconds past the minimum three added minutes.

Lammens has shuttled back and forth between the youth squad and the senior squad this season serving occasionally as an emergency third goalkeeper behind Simon Mignolet and Ethan Horvath. Mostly, though, he’s been with the youth squad appearing in five of their six UEFA Youth League games, with three wins and a draw.

Report: Arsenal not interested in Ancelotti “profile”

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According to The Athletic reporter David Ornstein, Arsenal is not interested in a manager of Carlo Ancelotti’s “profile.”

The Italian was recently let go by Napoli after a disappointing first half of the season despite qualifying for the Champions League knockout stage.

Ancelotti has won a Premier League title, three Champions League titles, and a Scudetto during his career but apparently a manager with his resume does not interest the Gunners, who may be looking for a more youthful boss with a longer-term strategy and potentially stronger club or domestic ties.

At 60 years old, Ancelotti has been fired from posts at Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and now Napoli over the last four years. Over those four seasons, he has just one league title, the 2016/17 Bundesliga crown he won with Bayern in runaway fashion, and has exceeded expectations in very limited capacities, instead seeing things turn sour at each job relatively quickly. This season at Napoli, the club sits seventh in the Serie A table, mired in a horrible seven-match winless run that has seen them tumble further from the Champions League places.

Ornstein’s report also touched on the timeline of a potential hire, with the club apparently still deciding on whether to see out the season with interim manager Freddie Ljungberg or make a mid-season appointment. He states that the club “want situation settled asap” but also prefer “right man over quick decision.” He does not identify who the number one target is, but suggests that if that person is available at this point in time, they will make the hire mid-season, otherwise there will be a waiting game.

Jorge Sampaoli resigns as Santos boss

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Brazilian club Santos confirmed Tuesday evening that manager Jorge Sampaoli has resigned as boss.

Sampaoli, who won the 2015 Copa America in charge of Chile but could not recreate that success with the Argentinian national team, signed on with Santos a year ago and guided them to a second-place finish in the Brazilian top flight, 16 points behind runaway champions Flamengo. His contract had another year, expiring in the winter of 2020, but with reports of offers from multiple clubs, he has stepped down.

The most widely reported destination is fellow Brazilian club Palmeiras, whom many believe Sampaoli has already entered talks with. He has also been linked with Argentinian club Racing, and his name has cropped up on occasion with the Arsenal vacancy, although that seems like a longshot. It was said in late October that Sampaoli had an offer from an unnamed La Liga club, but those rumors have cooled.

His reason for leaving Santos after just one successful season in charge is unconfirmed, but rumors are circulating that Sampaoli had incredibly ambitious transfer plans for the offseason, and when club president Jose Carlos Peres could not guarantee his support, the relationship became strained.

The 2019 season was mostly successful for Sampaoli at Santos, finishing second in the league table, but the secondary competitions were somewhat disappointing. They received a tough first-round draw in the Copa Sudamericana, falling to River Plate on away goals. They were also ousted from the Copa do Brasil in the Round of 16, falling 2-1 to an Atletico Minero side that finished 13th in the league table.