Fernandinho

OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

Guardiola pretty happy with Man City’s 8-star win

Leave a comment

Pep Guardiola isn’t here for your storylines.

It’s fair to say that a lot of faith has been restored in Manchester City following last weekend’s loss to Norwich City.

[ RECAP: Man City 8-0 Watford ]

The reigning champs hung a collective 11-0 score line in wins over Shakhtar Donetsk and Watford over the past four days, eight of those goals coming in an utterly rampant roll over the Hornets on Saturday.

So, point proven? Nope, says Pep.

“Do you think after what these guys have done for two seasons they have to prove something?”

A rhetorical question, sure, but this City team had lost to a newly-promoted team days after losing its best defender for six months. Then another center back, John Stones, fell victim to the injury bug.

Enter Fernandinho at center back. And two clean sheets.

“What I like the most is normally when it’s 5-0 at half time the second half is not serious, it’s boring but we did the opposite and we were more aggressive and made a very good second half,” Guardiola said. “People still don’t understand, journalists, pundits, former players, losing games is part of life. Opponents always deserve respect. The same feeling I have now I had after Norwich so it was not a bad performance. We can lose the games but the important thing is the approach and how we react.”

The BBC also had a pretty snarky response to Guardiola being asked about just missing the Premier League single game goals record, held by Manchester United with nine.

Bookmark this, because if he didn’t know it before the post-match, he knows it now.

“I didn’t know the record. Who is it? They deserve it, congratulations.”

Premier League Preview: Man City v. Watford

Leave a comment
  • Manchester City looking to bounce back after stunning loss to Norwich City
  • Watford enjoyed thrilling comeback draw last weekend v. Arsenal
  • Manchester City have won their last 11 meetings with Watford in all competitions, scoring at least twice in each match and 38 times in total. 
  • This will be the fourth managerial meeting between Pep Guardiola and Sanchez Flores but the first in England. Sanchez Flores won the first match as Atletico Madrid manager in February 2010 against Guardiola’s Barcelona.

Coming off the club’s first Premier League in 19 matches last weekend, Manchester City returns home to the friendly confines of the Etihad Stadium to face a team they’re quite familiar with in Watford. (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Man City of course obliterated Watford, 6-0, in the FA Cup final last May, but it’s a new Watford with Quique Sanchez Flores in charge. Watford as well looked the best it had all season in the second half of last Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal, though that very easily could have just been because Arsenal’s midfield was non-existent in that half.

In any case, it all shapes up to be an exciting match, especially if new Watford signing Ismalia Sarr can get a start and run at Man City’s makeshift backline. Then again, if Raheem Sterling is back to his usual clinical self, it could be a long afternoon again for the Hornets.

Injuries/suspensions

Manchester City: OUT – Aymeric Laporte (knee), John Stones (thigh), Leroy Sane (knee); QUESTIONABLE – Phil Foden (illness)

Watford: OUT – Craig Cathcart (muscle), Isaac Success (groin), Troy Deeney (knee)


Projected lineups

Manchester City: Ederson – Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Zinchenko – Gundogan, Rodri, Silva – Sterling – Aguero, De Bruyne

Watford: Foster – Femenia, Dawson, Kabasele, Holebas – Capoue, Cleverly, Dacoure – Pereyra, Sarr, Deulofeu

What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola, on striker Gabriel Jesus after his goal in mid-week v. Shakhtar Donetsk: “It’s difficult to find anywhere in the world a striker like Gabriel. The number nine for Brazil, his behaviour in training is outstanding and he has to fight with one of the best strikers I have ever seen in my life in Aguero [for a place in the side]. I will not find a player like Gabriel. To sub Sergio you have to have a top player. I am so delighted with the strikers. When Gabriel plays, he does absolutely everything. Like he did in Ukraine, not just for the goal, he fights and plays.”

Quique Sanchez Flores, on last week’s comeback v. Arsenal: “We have good feelings. We need to make sure we don’t go too much about this match as the next one is completely different. It is not a time to talk about how many shots or how many attempts we had. It is time to be realistic. We still need to change the dynamic – this is the first step and then change for the next opponent.”


Prediction

Manchester City will be ultra focused this weekend to get back to winning ways, and even with a makeshift centerback duo, there’s still more than enough attacking firepower to demolish Watford. The Hornets looked better last week after making the coaching change during the international break, but this will be a step back for Watford.

Man City 3-0 Watford

Top Premier League storylines: Week 6

Leave a comment

Of the seven Premier League sides to handle midweek Europeans challenges, only two face-off and that predictably is the hallmark of the weekend in England.

[ MORE: Silva to Inter Miami? ]

What else is cooking? Smell the aromas of the weekend ahead, below.


How will Frank Lampard attack Liverpool?

  • Chelsea v. Liverpool, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The Blues’ 5-2 defeat at Wolves last week did not help spin a win over Valencia in the Champions League, and Frank Lampard’s next chance to make a statement comes against a team that is perfect in PL play and finds itself licking its wounds from a subpar performance at Napoli. Can a very fresh Christian Pulisic make the difference for Chelsea? Will Callum Hudson-Odoi take the positive vibes from his new contract and solid PL2 appearance into the fray?


Will Fernandinho help stabilize Man City against improving Watford?

  • Man City v. Watford, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN

City went to Ukraine and blanked Shakhtar Donetsk with Nicolas Otamendi and Fernandinho at center back, and the Brazilian center midfielder says he’s been preparing for his possibility for some time. If Watford looks anything like it looked in a 2-2 draw with Arsenal, we could see a very decent test for City’s back line.


Weary Spurs get top-half test from Leicester City

  • Leicester City v. Tottenham Hotspur, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Inconsistent Tottenham meets a Leicester City side with Top Six ambitions, licking its wounds from a 1-0 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford which probably deserved a point. Spurs aren’t feeling great following another blown 2-0 lead in a big spot away from home. How will they react in Leicester?


Will Solskjaer’s midweek rest risk reap rewards on Sunday?

  • West Ham United v. Manchester United, Sunday, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to hand heavy minutes to youngsters and second-choice players against Kazakh side Astana on Thursday at Old Trafford. Will that pay off when trying to stop Sebastien Haller, Felipe Anderson, and Manuel Pellegrini‘s Irons on Sunday morning?


Early season six-pointer at St. James’ Park

  • Newcastle United v. Brighton and Hove Albion, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Look, it’s Week Six and normally we’d say anything can happen in a Premier League season, but let’s be reasonable: If you’re looking at the teams for Newcastle and Brighton, this result will matter as many as any down the stretch in determining Premier League status for 2019/20.

Guardiola credits Gundogan for ‘outstanding’ match in Ukraine

Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester City bounced back from its weekend loss to Norwich City by dominating Shakhtar Donestk, collecting a 3-0 win in Ukraine to start life in this UEFA Champions League season.

Ilkay Gundogan, a scapegoat for some in the weekend’s loss to Norwich City, came back to form, too, chipping in a goal and an assist in the win.

[ RECAP: Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 Man City ]

City manager Pep Guardiola was asked whether the German midfielder flies under the radar.

“He gets the credit from all of us, not just myself,” Guardiola said, via The Manchester Evening News. “He’s an exceptional player. Also he knows how good he has to play, as there are many others in that position.”

Guardiola also credited Gundogan for his work last season. Just like Fernandinho is playing out-of-position now, Gundogan was filling in for the Brazilian last season.

“People are starting to look at what he’s done. Without him last season when Fernanindho was out we couldn’t have won the Premier League in the way we did. He can play in two or three different positions and against Shakhtar he made an outstanding performance.”

As for Fernandinho, the Brazilian said that he’s been training at center back plenty this season, even before injuries to John Stones and Aymeric Laporte.

Fernandinho said “everyone should be ready” for any role under Guardiola.

He was good enough on the day, partnering with Nicolas Otamendi in a move that has many making comparisons to what Guardiola did with midfielder Javier Mascherano at Barcelona.

That’s one of the things for which Guardiola, perhaps, has not received enough credit. Center midfielders Fabian Delph or Oleksandr Zinchenko have been serviceable left backs in two of the best seasons in Premier League history (The latter did get some minutes in the middle when Benjamin Mendy subbed in on Wednesday). And Gundogan is playing a more defensive role than usual, while Fernandinho is a center back.

If that works out, and City claims a UCL crown or PL three-peat, how could you not call this man the clear-cut best of the modern era?

Man City midfield controls Shakhtar in Ukraine

SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester City got its UEFA Champions League run off to a convincing start, easing some nerves from the weekend with a 3-0 defeat of Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan set each other up for goals, Gabriel Jesus also scored, and Fernandinho partnered with Nicolas Otamendi at center back to earn the clean sheet.


Three things we learned

1. Midfield runs the match: Center backs aren’t all that vital if the ball never gets to them, and Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri were exceptional (even with the latter taking an early yellow card). Rodri completed every single one of his 82 passes in helping City control the park, departing with less than a quarter-hour to play. Pep Guardiola had a lot of love for Gundogan’s day.

2. De Bruyne dangerous on an off day: Kevin De Bruyne just couldn’t find that final ball, constantly in dangerous areas but unable to execute that moment. Credited with three key passes including th, his shooting was the glaring difference between 3-0 and 5-0.

3. Shakhtar shows creative flair: Taison and Marlos both showed a knack for taking on defenders, each credited with four dribbles on the day. It was Shakhtar’s best chance to break down a disciplined City, and the closest the hosts came to succeeding on the day.

Man of the Match: Rodri


A Kevin De Bruyne free kick provided an early threat, but Rodri’s header was a bit off and unable to open the scoring in Ukraine.

Shakhtar then had a nice spell of possession, but City was up to the task. Rodri led a chance in the other direction and sent a ball back De Bruyne for a header, which was wide like the first.

Mahrez put City ahead on a rebound after Ilkay Gundogan took a Gabriel Jesus feed and pushed the ball off the post.

The Algerian didn’t need a post to return the favor, sending a delightful pass into the path of Gundogan for a smooth finish an 2-0.

De Bruyne finally got his assist when he took care of a bounding ball to Jesus for a chop into the goal.