Biggest obstacles for Man City’s ‘impossible’ quadruple

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola remains adamant that his side is likely to fail in its bid to win either the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, or FA Cup.

“It’s almost impossible to win the quadruple,” he said. “Surviving is a miracle and it’s nice to be there.”

[ JPW: Who has the edge in PL race? ]

Is that so, or just a big dose of humility in the face of unprecedented success? In this instance, a lot of the former with perhaps a bit of the latter.

Let’s start here: Believe it or not, fortune has not been on City’s side in the Premier League.

In an alternate reality that played by the rules of probability and not humanity, Manchester City would have a four-point lead on the table with a match-in-hand, although admittedly the Ws and Ls associated with those xG totals are collective, and not tabulated by individual xG results.

NOTE: Defined by Opta, expected goals (xG) “measures the quality of a shot based on several variables such as assist type, shot angle and distance from goal, whether it was a headed shot and whether it was defined as a big chance.”

Instead, the reigning PL champs sit a point back of Liverpool with that match-in-hand looming April 24 at Old Trafford in the Manchester Derby.

And here’s the thing: Liverpool has been less fortunate than City since each played 20 matches and the Reds had a 7-point lead on the table, conceding three more goals than expected by the model (The green numbers show how many times goal-luck has smiled on a side, the red the opposite).

3. The FA Cup (Wolves or Watford)

Man City should collect at least two trophies this year with the Cup double, though there’s certainly an argument to be made that non-cumulative titles and one-off results which can crumble due to one decision over 90 minutes are dicier than, say, a league title.

But City will be the prohibitive favorites on May 18 whether it plays Wolves or Watford, and will still have two weeks to go if it manages to qualify for the UCL Final in Madrid.

2. UEFA Champions League

City’s challenge of winning a pair of two-legged ties, one against Spurs and another against either Ajax and Juventus, seem about the same.

And the final would be one of Liverpool, Porto, Manchester United, or Barcelona.

Starting at Spurs is a big help, as Pep Guardiola — and yes, by extension, another fine tactician in Mauricio Pochettino — will know whether he has an away goals advantage after one leg.

City has won three-straight against Spurs after Pochettino claimed four of six points in Guardiola’s first PL season. And the challenge versus Spurs will roll into our final obstacle.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned from Saints-Liverpool ] 

1. The Premier League (and schedule congestion)

First things first, City and Liverpool are far-and-away the two deepest teams in the Premier League, and most would agree that the reigning champs are a bit deeper.

Plus, City won the thing last season and doesn’t have the specter of having never won the Premier League looming over it (Something which, while not exactly scientific, is a clear mental issue and evident to anyone who has ever played a team sport).

Liverpool’s defeat of Bayern Munich in the Champions League gave City more room for error in the PL title fight, as the Reds will now have to contend with two matches against Porto around next Sunday’s visit from Chelsea.

And should both advance, Liverpool has the advantage of sandwiching its semifinal around Newcastle (albeit at St. James’ Park) while Man City gets a visit from a more capable Leicester City.

The depth of City should be an advantage in the case of meeting Spurs three times in 12 days, especially with the last two at home, but to follow-up that match with a trip to Manchester United in a fierce derby gives Guardiola’s men four huge matches in a five-match, 16-day stretch.

It’s just difficult to believe that the congestion won’t cost City a win somewhere, and if that’s in the UCL it could cost them their bid for a title. If it’s in the league, then it would need Liverpool to draw or lose at least once. That part is trickier to imagine given the Reds really do seem primed to get past their second murky form stretch of the season and knock-on for the final stretch.

Jose Mourinho to take charge of Juventus?

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Do we really think Jose Mourinho is ready for a return?

Multiple reports in Italy claims Juventus’ star forward Cristiano Ronaldo wants Mourinho to become their new manager after it was announced that Max Allegri is stepping down this summer after winning five-straight Serie A titles with the Turin club.

Mourinho, 56, has been out of a job since Manchester United fired him in December, but his status as a serial trophy winner remains intact.

Speaking recently on beIN Sport, where he has been popping up as a pundit on multiple occasions,

“One of the players that I have a great relation with, he plays for a team and he told me, ‘You should come here next season’, and I told him, ‘They don’t love me.’ He told me, ‘You win three matches and they will start loving you.'”

Hmm. Who could he be talking about?

Mourinho didn’t endear himself to Juve’s fans during his time at their rivals Inter Milan where he won the treble, including the UEFA Champions League in 2010. He then added further fuel to the fire as United won late on at Juve in the group stage of the Champions League earlier this season, which then saw Mourinho run out onto the field at full time and goad the home supporters who had mocked him the entire game due to his successful spell at Inter.

Would that stop Juve from hiring him? Probably not. Juve’s CEO Andrea Agnelli is a man who wants success and he wants it now.

Mourinho has also said he plans to be back in a job by this summer, just six months after being fired by United.

He has some time out to reflect on where things went wrong at United and how he can better understand the media demands which surround the game and now it seems like he is ready to dive back in at the deep end.

Juve are one of the biggest clubs in Europe, and everything is in place for them to make another deep run in the Champions League next season, and something drastic would have to happen for them to not win the Italian league in 2019-20.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if Mourinho landed at Juve this summer as his defensive tactics suit Serie A and the Italian champs are desperate for success in Europe after bringing in Ronaldo, 34, on a huge salary to win the Champions League. Ronaldo will have a huge say on who the next Juve boss will be, and he is said to not be keen on either Antonio Conte or Maurizio Sarri taking over from Allegri.

If this happens, it would be a lot of fun. Have your popcorn at the ready…

Alaves seeks new coach after Fernandez resigns

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MADRID (AP) Spanish club Alaves says coach Abelardo Fernandez has resigned.

Alaves says it was Fernandez’s decision to leave after leading the modest Basque Country team to an 11th-place finish in the Spanish league.

[ MORE: La Liga results, stats

Fernandez said in a news conference on Monday the club did everything it could to try to keep him, but he felt he “would not be at 100 percent next season” and decided it was best to resign.

Fernandez joined Alaves at the end of 2017, helping the team finish 14th in the league last season, comfortably escaping relegation.

The club had a surprising start to this season, being as high as second in the standings and remaining in the fight for the final Champions League place until about 10 rounds to go.

More AP soccer: and

Transfer rumor roundup: Felix to Man United; Sane to Bayern

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The Premier League transfer window is officially open again and that means one thing: transfer reports are going to start kicking up a few notches.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Here’s a look at some of the latest gossip from around the PL…

Benfica’s teenage superstar Joao Felix reportedly has a release clause of $130 million, and Manchester United are among the host of clubs ready to trigger it.

A report from the Daily Record says that United and Real Madrid are both ready to seal the deal for the 19-year-old attacking midfielder. Per the report United have opened talks with Benfica and their representatives were in Lisbon to see him play for the final time this season.

Felix has burst onto the scene in Europe this season and has helped Benfica win the Portuguese league title. His 20 goals and 11 assists in all competitions this season prove his pedigree, and United certainly need to rebuild their squad. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has constantly spoken about adding young, hungry, talented players this summer, and Felix is touted as the best young playmaker in Europe right now.

This transfer deal would make Felix the most expensive signing in United and Premier League history, and it does make you wonder if a deal is being lined up to offload Paul Pogba to Real Madrid and replace him with Felix.

Manchester City are struggling to keep hold of one of their stars, as a report from the Daily Mirror says that Bayern Munich are increasingly confident of signing Leroy Sane this summer.

Sane, 23, has failed to agree a new contract at City despite being in talks with the club for 18 months and Pep Guardiola has admitted he could leave this summer in search of more game time. Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva are City’s main starters in the wide attacking midfield roles, which has meant Sane and Riyad Mahrez have had to fight for minutes off the bench and starts here and there during their historic 2018-19 season.

That has often led to Sane looking pretty unhappy on the sidelines, but when he has got the chance to play he has been pretty good with his best-ever season in terms of goals scored with 16 across all competitions. Coming off the back of his shock omission from Germany’s 2018 World Cup squad, Sane has bounced back well and scored a pivotal goal in Man City’s PL win against Liverpool and a stunning free kick late on against his old club Schalke in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16.

Sane moving to Bayern would make sense as legendary wingers Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben are moving on, with Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman set to take their mantle and any summer move for Callum Hudson-Odoi now in doubt after his serious injury. The German international has delivered in his three seasons at City, but Guardiola often seems enraged by his penchant for drifting inside with his runs and with the ball instead of staying wide on the touchline.

It seems like the stars are aligning for Sane to return to Germany and be a star at Bayern.

Out of contract Premier League Best XI

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With the 2018-19 season in the books, Premier League clubs are already turning their attention to next season.

Players are coming towards the end of their contracts, with the PL’s summer transfer now open which means some players can move on free transfers when their deals expire, usually on July 1.

Which players are available to pick up at the end of their deals on freebies?

There is always a lot of chatter at this time of the year about who will stay, which players have a one-year option to extend their deals, and which clubs also have that option. Olivier Giroud will stay at Chelsea for one more season, but he would have been the top striker available on a freebie this summer, while Ander Herrera is expected to sign for PSG after announcing he will leave Man United when his contract expires.

However, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding several star names at some of the PL’s biggest clubs. If you are a newly promoted club (Norwich, Sheffield United and one of Aston Villa and Derby County) you are no doubt looking at this list of experienced PL players and getting pretty excited.

Take a look at our “Out of Contract Best XI” below, as several players have yet to agree new deals with their current clubs.

Premier League, Out of Contract Best XI – 4-4-2 formation

—– Michel Vorm —–

Danny SimpsonGary CahillPhil JagielkaNacho Monreal — 

Antonio ValenciaMohamed DiameJuan MataAlberto Moreno — 

—- Daniel Sturridge —- Fernando Llorente —- 

On the bench
Willy Caballero
Leighton Baines
Danny Williams
Ander Herrera (expected to join PSG on free transfer)
Samir Nasri
Bakary Sako
Andy Carroll