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Guardiola: I could be fired if Man City don’t win Champions League

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Now, Pep Guardiola may be someone who thrives under pressure but admitting he could be fired by Man City unless he wins the Champions League this season is piling the pressure on himself.

Pep, it’s okay, you’re probably not going to get fired, are you? Even though they are 22 points behind leaders Liverpool this season, it has been far from a disaster given their defensive injuries coupled with the general brilliance of Jurgen Klopp‘s side.

After delivering back-to-back Premier League titles with huge points tally and smashing records along the way, plus the FA Cup and two League Cups, Guardiola has told our partners Sky Sports in the UK that he could be fired if they don’t beat Real Madrid in the last 16 of the UCL and don’t win the one competition that crave above all else.

“I want to win the Champions League. I dream [of it] and I will enjoy preparing for the games against Madrid, to see what we can do and this process, two weeks before, will be the happiest moments of my profession, to imagine what we can do to beat them,” Guardiola said. “If we don’t beat them, OK, come the chairman or the sport director and say, ‘It’s not good enough, we want the Champions League, I’m going to sack you’. OK, [I’d say], ‘Thank you, it was a pleasure’. I don’t know [if this would happen]. It has happened many times and could maybe happen.”

Guardiola was pushed by the reporter as he said this as they said ‘but the owners aren’t going to say that, are they?’ Pep, ever Mr. Serious, said they could.

Two things go through my mind here: 1) is Pep trying to look for a way out of Man City? 2) is he sending out a message to his players that they better deliver in the UCL or risk being sold in the summer?

A bit of both may be true. Guardiola knows the expectation levels at Man City are huge and he’s lived up to them so far but the one thing missing is what he was brought into do: win the Champions League. However, with City so far behind Liverpool in the title race but in no real risk of not finishing in the top four, all of their focus has to be on winning the Champions League.

They are in the League Cup final and the last 16 of the FA Cup too, so could end the season with four trophies (if we are counting the penalty kick win against Liverpool to win the Community Shield) and second place in the PL.

Not bad at all but only winning the Champions League will salvage the season in the eyes of Pep and the Man City hierarchy. The pressure is on.

Fernandes scores first goal, says Ronaldo backed Manchester United move

Bruno Fernandes Ronaldo
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It’s probably not a surprise that a young Portuguese player would fancy Manchester United given the heroics of Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford early his career.

Bruno Fernandes admits that those images danced through his head well before he signed with the Red Devils in January.

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It’s also not a shock that United would turn to their former player for a take on the playmaker before buying him from Sporting Lisbon.

Fernandes says he’s grateful that CR7 endorsed BF18. From Sky Sports:

“I know some people asked Cristiano what he thought of me and what I was like as a player and a person,” Fernandes said. “I know he spoke highly of me and gave me a good reference, so I sent him a message after to thank him for his kind words.”

Fernandes has 19 caps and two goals for Portugal, while Ronaldo has a few more with 164 and 99.

He now has a goal and an assist in four appearances for United. Ronaldo finished with 118 goals and 69 assists in 292 appearances for the Red Devils.

Here’s the finish:

Eden Hazard suffers fracture ahead of Man City in UCL, El Clasico

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Eden Hazard is set to miss the Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League first leg against Man City with a broken fibula.

Hazard had only returned to the lineup for two matches following a three-month absence with an ankle injury.

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The 29-year-old has made just 15 appearances for Real since arriving in a big-money move from Chelsea, scoring once with five assists.

He has never appeared in less than 30 league matches over the course of his career, five times missing one or zero matches.

Of course, all of his absences show that Real is very comfortable playing and winning without Hazard. Zinedine Zidane’s men lost Sunday to drop behind Barcelona in La Liga, but that was just its second loss of the league season.

Real will be taxed in depth like its rivals, with Wednesday’s visit from Man City followed by an El Clasico at the Bernabeu on March 1. Barcelona hosts Napoli on Tuesday.

Whether you like the playmaker or despise him, there must be some sense of sympathy for his latest ailments (even if Man City and Barca fans will likely offer a Jerry Seinfeld-esque, “That’s a shame”).

Watch Live: Manchester United, Wolves host bottom three battlers

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A pair of Premier League basement dwellers face stiff tests in their bids to win another season in the top flight.

Manchester United hosts Watford on NBCSN while Wolves welcome Norwich City on CNBC as both home sides aim to improve the health of their top four hopes in 9 a.m. ET kickoffs.

[ WATCH: Man Utd-Watford | Wolves-Norwich ]

Lineups notes from both matches:

LINEUPS

Manchester United

Watford


Wolves

Norwich City

Three Serie A matches suspended due to virus deaths in Italy

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ROME (AP) Three Serie A soccer matches scheduled for Sunday in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto were suspended late Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the virus from China.

On orders from the Italian government, the games called off were: Inter Milan vs. Sampdoria, Atalanta vs. Sassuolo and Hellas Verona vs. Cagliari.

Three other matches in Genoa, Turin and Rome on Sunday are going ahead as scheduled.

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A dozen towns in northern Italy effectively went into lockdown on Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the coronavirus from China, and a growing cluster of cases with no direct links to the origin of the outbreak abroad.

“The government is working on urgent measures to decisively confront and contain the cases of coronavirus contagion,” read a letter from Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora to Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago shortly before midnight local time on Saturday. “Those measures also include the sports world in order to prevent risks and to better take care of the health of those involved in the events and competition.

“Following measures taken by the cabinet for protective reasons and maximum precaution, on orders of the government I’m asking you to suspend all sports events of every level and discipline planned for the Lombardy and Veneto regions on Sunday.”

The secondary contagions prompted local authorities in the Lombardy and Veneto regions to close schools, businesses and restaurants and to cancel sporting events and Masses.

The mayor of Milan, Italy’s business capital and the regional capital of Lombardy, shuttered public offices.

A 78-year-old man infected with the virus died in Veneto. A postmortem on a 77-year-old woman in Lombardy came back positive, though it wasn’t clear if illness from the virus caused her death.

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

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf