Three things learned: Man City v. Tottenham

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Manchester City edged out Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, as Pep Guardiola‘s men won their 10th straight Premier League game to return to the summit.

After Spurs knocked Man City out of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, the reigning champs responded with a resolute display and dug deep as Phil Foden‘s early goal kept their title bid on track.

What did we learn from a tight, tense encounter?


CITY RESPOND, FOUR WINS FROM TITLE GLORY

Manchester City have won 10-straight games in the Premier League, but this was one of the most nervous victories they’ve had. We learned a lot about this Man City side on Saturday, as the crushing disappointment of having their quadruple hopes dashed by Tottenham in midweek was put behind them and Guardiola’s boys delivered. Starting Foden for just the second time in the PL was a risk, but the 18-year-old delivered the game-winner and didn’t look out of place.

With a massive Manchester derby at Manchester United on Wednesday, Guardiola rotated his squad well and City did just enough to get past a resilient Spurs. It wasn’t a classic Man City display, and they showed some nerves in the first half when leaving Heung-Min Son too much space to hurt them on the counter. But all that matters is the victory, and City need to win four more to secure back-to-back titles. City’s display was all about grit rather than panache and they got their mentality right to take a big step towards the title. If they beat United, Burnley, Leicester and Brighton, they will be PL champs. It is as simple as that. But it never really is, is it?


DE BRUYNE’S INJURY A HAMMER BLOW

Kevin De Bruyne‘s return to full fitness has been a huge bonus for City over the past few weeks. Seeming him crumple to the floor in the first half after tweaking his left knee is the last thing Pep Guardiola wanted to see ahead of the final few weeks of the season.

De Bruyne, 27, could have just gone off as a precaution, especially with a massive game at Man United coming up in four days time. However, his reaction suggested it was another setback in a season of setbacks. De Bruyne has twice spent lengthy spells on the sidelines this season and the Belgian playmaker has been sorely missed by City. Guardiola will be hoping this latest injury is a minor one, and City’s fans will be waiting with bated breath to find out what the problem is.


SPURS WASTE CHANCES ON THE BREAK

Tottenham were dangerous on the counter throughout and Heung-min Son could have had a hat trick in the first half alone. Twice he broke free but was denied by Aymeric Laporte and Ederson, while Christian Eriksen was denied by Ederson as City’s defense was caught flat-footed but Spurs didn’t make the most of their opportunities. Lucas Moura had another chance on the break in the second half but Ederson came up big again, as this game had a lot of chances but unlike their heroic Champions League performance in midweek, Spurs didn’t take any of them.

With the defeat at Man City, Tottenham’s top four hopes have taken a hit. However, with three of their final four games at home against Brighton, West Ham, Bournemouth and Everton, Spurs will fancy their chances of getting maximum points to dovetail with their UCL semifinal games against Ajax. Whatever happens now, Spurs have hung in there admirably this season amid injuries, stadium moves and no money spent. If they reach the UCL final and finish in the top four, that will have been beyond Pochettino’s wildest dreams at the start of the campaign.

Finlay goal gives Minnesota win over former club Columbus (video)

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It had to be him.

As Columbus continues to search for itself under new management, it’s no surprise that one of its old heroes broke its heart on Saturday.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

Ethan Finlay, he of the 166 Crew appearances before being traded to Minnesota United, said earlier this week, “I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t want to beat up on them pretty bad.”

So of course Finlay scored a 70th minute tap-in to give his Loons a 1-0 win over Columbus on Saturday in St. Paul. It wasn’t “pretty bad,” but it probably felt pretty good.

The goal was Finlay’s first of the season for United, keeping the hosts unbeaten at home.

Columbus falls to 1-5 away from home under Caleb Porter, and has won just once in its last seven outings.

Brighton ready to pay release clause for Swans manager

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Brighton and Hove Albion is ready to bring one of England’s brightest managerial prospects into the Premier League.

The Seagulls are set to pay a $3 million release clause to lure Graham Potter away from Swansea City, one year after the manager left Swedish club Ostersunds FK.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

Potter was 35 when he was hired by the Swedish club in 2010, and helped Ostersunds to three promotions before moving to Wales in 2018.

Swans finished 10th this season, its first in the Championship after relegation from the Premier League.

Brighton regressed in a big way during the second half of this season, and remains in the top flight largely because Cardiff City was unable to take advantage of the Seagulls’ huge struggles.

The report says Swansea offered Potter a new deal to stay at the Liberty Stadium, but the manager wants to try the Premier League.

If he takes the job, Potter will manage against one of his former clubs; Potter played eight times for Southampton in the Premier League.

Pep: Domestic treble harder than winning Champions League

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Manchester City won its third tournament of the season on Saturday, battering Watford 6-0 at Wembley Stadium to add an FA Cup to its League Cup and Premier League titles.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-0 Watford ]

In doing so, City is the first club to win a domestic treble. Manager Pep Guardiola wants to win every competition he enters, but said winning all three is extra special.

“I love the Champions League but it is more difficult to do what we have done than to win the Champions League,” Guardiola said.

Wait, what?

From ManCity.com:

“It’s not easy being there every three days. We lacked a little bit of energy but it’s normal. It’s been so tough this week. We could not have had more energy but we kept it at the right time.”

Well, that makes sense. Whereas Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp risked less with his cup lineups, knowing his desire for the Premier League and Champions League, Guardiola’s lineups were aimed at winning everything.

And that’s largely why they’ve done it. City might’ve needed penalty kicks to beat Chelsea in the League Cup Final and a John Stones clearance to win the Premier League (or a Vincent Kompany thunderbolt), but the treble is impressive.

AC Milan boss Gattuso insists fifth “not a failure”

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For a solid four months, it appeared AC Milan was on track for a return to the Champions League for the first time in six years. Then, it all fell apart.

Still, manager Gennaro Gattuso is insisting their season is not a failure, adamant that a fifth-placed finish would not be considered a disappointment for the club. His reasoning will not be exactly endearing to fans.

“Fifth place absolutely wouldn’t be a failure, not because I want credit myself, plus what would Roma and Lazio say?” Gattuso said during his pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s game against Frosinone. “There’s regret because for two months we’ve had our fate in our hands and we dropped so many points, but it’s not a failure.”

Milan was as high as third place in the Serie A table in mid-March and seemed close to wrapping up a return to Champions League play, but a stretch of one win in seven league matches saw them tumble down into the crowded battle below, with Atalanta, Roma, Torino, and Lazio all in a pack. AC Milan now sits sixth, and while they still remain in the mix for the fourth position, they would need to make up a three-point deficit in just two matches. Fifth-placed Roma drew today, so they can jump to fifth with a win against Frosinone.

Milan was a European powerhouse for decades until the club declined following its 2007 Champions League victory, ultimately falling out of the running for Europe’s top competition, with just a few Europa League appearances since 2014. Gattuso’s comparison to Lazio and Roma, two strong Italian clubs without Milan’s history, is bound to infuriate fans, along with his acceptance of the club’s shortcomings.

The late-season collapse has called Gattuso’s job security into question, but he said that will wait until the end of the season. “Both the club and I have put aside our small talk to reach our objective,” Gattuso said during the presser. “There will be time to talk about the future.”

“There are two games left and we’re still playing for our objective.”