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Mahrez, Man City share No. 1 goal: Win Champions League

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After winning the Premier League in historically dominant fashion last season — Pep Guardiola‘s second at the club — every new signing Manchester City make from here on out will be made, and judged, with one goal in mind: winning the UEFA Champions League.

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Guardiola and Co., won’t be splashing out $80 million for a player with the lowly intent of consolidating domestic power and merely hanging on to the PL title, Riyad Mahrez, who completed his transfer from Leicester City for that very fee on Tuesday, knows it. It’s why he’s at the club.

Having already led the Foxes to the unlikeliest of PL titles two seasons ago, Mahrez has bigger fish to fry, and his targets are perfectly aligned with those of his new employer — quotes from the BBC and the Guardian:

“The Champions League is for big clubs, they’re a big club, they have everything to try to win it.

“City have ambition to go further than the Champions League quarterfinals like they did last season. I made the decision to come here because I want to be part of that.

“Pep [Guardiola] is a big manager, he’s won a lot of things and made history with this club. I’ll give my best to achieve for the club.”

“I haven’t talked about my precise position with the manager yet, but City wanted me and that means a lot. The price tag doesn’t affect me — fees for players have got very big in the last couple of years. I am very happy to be here and will try to give my best for the club. I thought what City did last year was amazing, it was unbelievable to break all those Premier League records, but I am confident about myself. I want to help this team improve and I believe that is what the manager wants.”

“Players at top clubs always have to face competition for places, it is normal for big clubs to have a lot of great players and City are a big club with a big manager.”

Mahrez is an ideal signing for a side with Man City’s ambitions and embarrassment of mega-bucks talent. Sure, he cost the club $80 million — a club-record fee — and you can say that he won’t get enough games with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, David Silva and Bernardo Silva also in the team, but injuries will inevitably rear their ugly heads, and Mahrez’s presence will make City two-deep at three positions behind strikers Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero.

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The goal is to win the Champions League while retaining the PL title as an absolute bare minimum expectation. They made it look easy in 2017-18, but their pursuit of all-time records likely played a part in coming up short in European competition. City have an unfair advantage in terms of resources and weapons, but winning a treble (or a quadruple) would amount to a massively unfair achievement.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Mahrez to Man City nearly complete, Arsenal adds Torreira, and more

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Riyad Mahrez is finally getting his big money move.

According to multiple reports in England, Mahrez is closer than ever to completing a long-reported $80 million transfer move to Manchester City, where he’ll join the Premier League champion as it looks to repeat in the league and finally win the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

The Leicester City midfielder, who is reportedly expected to sign a contract worth $13.8 million per season, was left behind in England as Leicester City traveled to Mahrez’s native France for preseason training. The Telegraph reported the move could be completed by this weekend.

It’s a big move for both Mahrez and Leicester City, adding a proven Premier League attacking star that will add to the squad’s depth, while bringing in more funds for Leicester City to spend on improving its roster. Unfortunately for Leicester, it’s another blow in breaking up the 2016 Premier League championship side, which has since lost both N'Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater, though Jamie Vardy has remained.

Here’s some more transfer news from across the Premier League and Europe:

(more…)

Report: Riyad Mahrez closing in on Man City move

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The NBA has the Golden State Warriors, and the Premier League could be seeing a superteam of its own growing before its very eyes.

[ MORE: World Cup players juggle national team and fatherhood ]

Fresh off the PL title last season, Manchester City is on the brink of adding another star attacker in 2018/19, with a Leicester City man their target.

Sky Sports is reporting that Pep Guardiola and the Citizens are nearing a move for Leicester winger Riyad Mahrez.

The 26-year-old is expected to have medical with the club this week, prompting the completion of a $79 million transfer fee.

In five seasons with the Foxes, Mahrez tallied 48 goals in all competitions, including an 18-goal campaign in 2015/16 — which saw Leicester capture their first PL title in club history.

The Algeria international would become the latest star to join an already-loaded Citizen attack, which features Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sane.

How would Liverpool line up with Fekir? And can they catch Man City?

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Liverpool’s attack has not been questioned much, and for good reason, but the addition of Nabil Fekir asks two big questions.

  1. Is his playmaking ability in the center of the park, combined with Fabinho and Naby Keita behind him, enough to push Liverpool to Manchester City’s level?
  2. Is he enough to lead Jurgen Klopp to abandon a 4-3-3 that served him so following the sale of Philippe Coutinho?

First things first, Fekir is a great get. Even coming off a career year that begs a comparison to Liverpool selling high on Coutinho, this is a nice add for the Reds.

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Fekir brings a silky skill set and a very good 85 percent pass completion rate given he plays in an advanced part of the pitch and takes a lot of audacious chances will the ball. Eighteen league goals and eight assists are no jokes, either.

He was, however, deployed in a manner inconsistent with how Jurgen Klopp uses his midfielders in a 4-3-3. Fekir played a lot in the 4-2-3-1, a formation Klopp stopped using after the sale of Philippe Coutinho.

In fact, when Lyon boss Bruno Génésio opted for a 4-3-3, it was usually because Fekir was injured or unavailable. Génésio used Fekir once as a right wing in the 4-3-3, and twice as a right central midfielder in an inverted triangle. One time, they beat PSG. Conversely, they also lost to Bordeaux.

Klopp could easily opt to go back to a 4-2-3-1, especially with more safety in defensive midfield thanks to the arrivals of Fabinho and Naby Keita (It’s also worth noting that the trio combined for 23 yellow cards and two red cards last season, so Liverpool could set some sort of record there).

Liverpool used a 4-3-3 in all four of their meetings with Man City last season, the only loss coming when the Reds had 10 men. City used a 4-3-3 twice against Liverpool, a 3-1-4-2 in the 5-0 win, an a 3-5-2 when chasing the second leg of the UEFA Champions League tie.

The Reds had so much success in the 4-3-3 late last season, and especially against City, even if the formation was demanded largely due to injury. Klopp will probably use both, but perhaps it’s best to expect a lot more 4-2-3-1.

And it would probably look like this:

— Karius —

— Alexander-Arnold — Matip — Van Dijk — Robertson —

— Fabinho — Keita —

— Salah — Fekir — Mane —

— Firmino —

That is a very good lineup, and it’s unreasonable to think any of the players take a dramatic step back next season.

But going to a 4-3-3 with Fekir in the center of the park is not a formation I’d hazard against Man City. And using Fekir on the wing means benching Sadio Mane (likely to use Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Keita on top of Fabinho).

As good as Man City was last season, it’s difficult to believe they are going to find another 100-point season. Bounces alone should knock them down to 95. Can the Reds be 15-20 points better?

It’s possible, sure, but don’t forget that City is going to be improved by familiarity with the system alone (not to mention additions like (probably) Riyad Mahrez).

Is it August yet? Oh yeah, we’ve got a World Cup first.

Yaya Toure makes wild racial claims about Pep Guardiola

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Yaya Toure is proffering some audacious claims about ex-manager Pep Guardiola, claiming a need to “break the myth” of the Manchester City architect while essentially decrying him as racist against Africans.

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The BBC contacted Man City, which declined comment. That seems smart given Toure’s combustible reputation and knack for living on the lunatic fringe.

While claims of racial inequity in football need to be carefully examined, this one seems a head-scratcher at first blush. Guardiola re-signed Toure to a one-year deal after the 2016-17 season despite being a headache for Pep during the boss’ first season, and really across two clubs.

In his career, Guardiola has managed African players like Toure (Ivory Coast), and signed Seydou Keita to Barcelona (Mali) and Mehdi Benatia (Morocco) to Bayern Munich. He’s linked with Riyad Mahrez (Algeria) again this summer, and has sold Wilfried Bony (Ivory Coast) and Kelechi Iheanacho (Nigeria).

This, of course, is without mentioning the myriad players of African descent who’ve thrived under the Catalan boss.

Guardiola butted heads with Toure at both Barca, selling him, and Man City, suspending him, but it all seemed to come together this season for the pair. Toure even had his name put on one of the club’s training fields.

And Yaya, like a man flicking a lighter, has set it ablaze again , and not like a birthday candle. Why did it not come off well with Pep and Yaya in stint No. 2 at City? From the BBC’s translation of Toure’s France Football interview.

“I do not know why but I have the impression that he was jealous, he took me for a rival. As if I made him a little shade.

“He was cruel to me. I came to wonder if it was not because of my colour. I am not the first to talk about these differences in treatment. In Barca, some have also asked the question. When we realize he often has problems with Africans wherever he goes, I ask myself questions.

“I want to be the one who breaks the myth of Guardiola.”

And again, comments like these are a concern in most cases, but Toure is a pretty unique case with a penchant for making controversy. Whether cake-related or other.