Ilkay Gundogan

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Four things from the Manchester Derby

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Three more wins.

That’s all Manchester City needs to guarantee a second-straight Premier League title under Pep Guardiola following a 2-0 defeat of Manchester United on Wednesday at Old Trafford.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 0-2 Man City ]

How did City get there? A gritty first half stepped aside for a clear gulf in class.

That pregame fouling banter was more than a subplot

On Tuesday, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed that City is a kicking foul machine to limit counter attacks and Pep Guardiola responded by, and I’m paraphrasing, “We aren’t, but let’s talk after the game, bruh.”

Well, City snapped into those tackles with a little more vigor on Wednesday, willing to take yellow cards in exchange for some angry staredowns with United and its bench.

Sometimes the Manchester Derby doesn’t get the true derby vibe because neither side is known for snapping into the other with tackles, but Vincent Kompany‘s NHL-style open-ice hit to earn a first half yellow served notice that the physical play wasn’t going away.

Gundogan steps up at both ends, helps Bernardo open scoring

German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan was not at his best when City fell to Spurs in the UEFA Champions League, but he was versatile and vigorous on Wednesday at Old Trafford.

Neither David De Gea nor Luke Shaw covered themselves in glory on Bernardo Silva‘s opener, but Gundogan cued it up with a tougher-than-it-looks pass to the right side of the 18.

And with key piece Fernandinho on the bench with injury, Gundogan put forth a strong performance as a combination holding/defensive midfielder.

Zinchenko as Pep’s safer Sane

Follow me here: Twenty-two year old Oleksandr Zinchenko is not the elite-level threat presented by an in-form Leroy Sane, but he doesn’t have to be when Pep Guardiola wants to play it a little safe.

Sane attacking from the left was the key to Guardiola’s 2017-18 masterpiece, but the winger has been a less important piece given the MVP-level season of Raheem Sterling.

A capable center midfielder turned left back, what Zinchenko gives Guardiola is a relentless engine up-and-down the left who can dribble to start plays and pass as well as most on the pitch.

Just look at the matches when Zinchenko has not been available to Guardiola and witness the struggles at left back. The Ukrainian was linked with a move away from the Etihad before the season, but it seems more likely he’ll be choice A for Pep moving forward.

Pogba not enough, Rashford still stuck in rut

Both Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford are remarkable talents, but neither delivered on Wednesday relative to ability.

Pogba hit a delightful pass that could’ve been an assist if Jesse Lingard has his legs correct, and also won a few tasty free kicks, but was not the world-class talent we’ve seen so many times.

And Rashford will be a fine forward in the Premier League for a long time, but was again not the consistent force we’ve seen Romelu Lukaku be more often. Rashford has to get that experience to get there, but this was a big spot for him and he was not able to deliver the goods.

Extra things

— Raheem Sterling’s assist on the Leroy Sane insurance goal is a perfect illustration of how much he’s grown as a player. He saw the pass before we saw it on television, and still waiting that extra moment to give Sane time and the perfect weight. He’s my Player of the Year if City wins the title (Otherwise, Virgil Van Dijk).

— Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a good tactical move out of halftime to harry Man City in possession near the halfway line, but never found an answer to the introduction of Sane and Gundogan’s more than capable answer to Fernandinho’s injury.

— Jesse Lingard could’ve scored a handful of goals but his technical skills didn’t reward his utility and intelligence. He’ll sleep poorly tonight.

How will Man City and Man United line up for critical derby?

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There is as much on the line in Wednesday’s Manchester derby than anyone could have hoped for, and the enormous stakes will only feed the excitement on the pitch.

Whereas these big matches often end in cagey draws in the first half of the season with little incentive for the teams to do anything other than avoid losing, a draw won’t do for either side this time around, and there could be goals on the cards. So with everything on the line, how will these teams line up on the field?

[ MORE: Hudson-Odoi injury renews contract talks ]

There are injuries to consider on both sides. Pep Guardiola confirmed that Kevin De Bruyne will not be available tomorrow for Manchester City after his injury against Tottenham left the rest of his season in doubt. Manchester United, meanwhile, will reportedly be without defender Phil Jones after he was withdrawn in the heavy defeat to Everton last time out. Other than that, both squads are fully healthy minus the long-term injury to City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

The biggest question for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be how to deploy his back line against the vicious Manchester City attack – particularly on the flanks. He left Ashley Young on the bench each of the last two matches, with natural center-backs Victor Lindelof and Marcos Rojo deputizing at full-back, but that experiment could come to an end with Luke Shaw returning from suspension. In Jones’ absence, Rojo or Lindelof could be moved back to the middle, or Solskjaer could bring Eric Bailly back into the fold after failling to see the field in the last two months. The midfield has also been a conglomeration, with the third spot up in the air next to Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic. Fred and Juan Mata have both seen time, but Ander Herrera will be reportedly returning from his injury and could see the field.

[ MORE: Solskjaer hoping for turnaround ]

For Manchester City, Guardiola’s headache will be constructing his midfield without De Bruyne. He has had Fernandinho in and out of the lineup over the last few weeks due to nagging injuries, and it remains to be seen if he utilizes the defensive midfielder to anchor the formation. Ilkay Gundogan has played deeper when Fernandinho has been absent, and he’s played well in that spot, but at times they still seem to be missing a natural anchor, and it was Fernandinho who came in to replace De Bruyne after his injury.


MANCHESTER UNITED

—– De Gea —–

— Dalot — Rojo — Smalling — Shaw —

—- Matic —- Herrera —-

—- Martial —- Pogba —- Rashford —-

—– Lukaku —–


MANCHESTER CITY

—– Ederson —–

— Walker — Stones — Laporte — Zinchenko —

—– Fernandinho —–

—- Gundogan —- Foden —-

— B Silva —- Aguero — Sterling —


Guardiola defends not starting healthy De Bruyne

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There are a few manners of losing for a manager, and one is when an in-form and up-for-it squad completely overruns yours.

For a managerial wizard like Pep Guardiola, that kind of loss is probably easier to take than Man City’s 1-0 loss to Spurs in Tuesday’s first leg of a UEFA Champions League quarterfinal.

[ MORE: Match recap | Kane hurt | 3 things ]

That’s because Guardiola’s lineups and tactical decisions backfired against a stingy and determined Spurs back line and midfield.

Riyad Mahrez started in place of injured Bernardo and over Leroy Sane . The former Leicester City maestro was poor. Kevin De Bruyne was left out of the XI and Guardiola stubbornly waited until the 89th minute to introduce the Belgian (and Sane).

By that time, with Harry Kane injured and Spurs still finding an opener, the plot was lost.

And with City in a left back injury crisis, Fabian Delph was unable to replicate his left back form of last season, coming in from the cold and looking like it. From The Manchester Evening News:

“I saw him really well in the last few days,” Guardiola said. “After four or five months being injured, two games in four days for Mendy was too much. Bernardo could not play so we played Riyad and he played good especially in the second half when he had someone close to him because in the first half it was not easy for him.”

Guardiola explained the choice to not use De Bruyne, one of the best playmakers in the world, by insisting the player is healthy.

“I decided to play with two holding midfielders in that position, Gundogan and Fernandinho, to be a bit more solid. It’s not the issue. I know it’s tough for him but we have the second leg. We spoke about that. It’s 180 minutes.”

To be fair to Guardiola, a good tactical idea can fail if the players don’t perform well. Maybe Gundogan and Mahrez on their average day meet Aguero converting his penalty and Man City wins 3-1. It’s not like they were completely played out of the stadium.

Guardiola didn’t seem too bothered by the performance, though we have to imagine the room will hear another story. Whether you believe in motivation or momentum or whatever at this stage, there was something about this match that made loose balls and tackles appeal a bit more to Spurs than City. The Tottenham men took their bodies to Man City and the reigning Premier League champions couldn’t adjust to the demands in time to score an away goal.

And like that, Man City is 90 minutes away from looking a lot like Paris Saint-Germain: League monsters — albeit in a better league — that find a way to fail in the latter stages of the one trophy it wants more than the others.

Sane, Gundogan allegedly racially abused on Germany duty

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Three men have turned themselves in to authorities following allegations that they racially abused Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan while the Manchester City duo was on international duty in Germany.

[ MORE: Report: Man United stars lined up for exit ]

The phrases “Negro” and “Turk” were allegedly shouted at Sane, who is black, and Gundogan, who was born (in Germany) to Turkish parents, during Germany’s 1-1 draw with Serbia in Wolfsburg. “Heil Hitler” is also alleged to have been used, according to a report from a German publication.

The abuse lobbed at Sane and Gundogan was “constant” from a certain sect of the crowd in attendance, according to a statement from the German federation immediately after the game.

[ MORE: Sane escapes serious injury despite “vicious foul” ]

“The DFB condemns the racist incident in the international match against Serbia on Wednesday in Wolfsburg in the strongest terms. During the match at the Volkswagen Arena, national team players Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan were constantly insulted by a small group of spectators.

“Thanks to the support of a fan, the DFB was able to locate the ticket buyer for the seats where the spectators were sitting. The police have been turned on and are now investigating.”

Manchester City destroy Chelsea (video)

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  • Aguero earns two league records via another hat trick
  • Sterling scores two
  • Chelsea sinks 6th, below Arsenal

Sergio Aguero wrote his name twice more in the record books as Manchester City smashed Chelsea 6-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Aguero scored a hat trick for the second week in-a-row, joining Alan Shearer as the only players to register 11 Premier League hat tricks. He also went atop the Man City leaderboard for league goals.

Other guys played, too, with Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan scoring while Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva put on playmaking and possession master classes.

City goes back atop the Premier League table on goal differential, now nine better than Liverpool having played one more game. Chelsea drops below fifth place Arsenal on goals scored, the goal differential level.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

City’s habit of striking quickly continued with a 4th minute goal off the boot of Sterling.

Left all alone at the back post to collect a David Luiz-deflected cross from Bernardo Silva, Sterling hammered the ball into a gaping space.

Aguero also worked himself into a back post position and skewered his chance to tap in Bernardo’s unreal dribble and pass through the six.

Eden Hazard work Chelsea up in the 12th minute with a long dribble down the left producing a shot that Kepa Arrizabalaga collected wide of the post.

Maybe the tap-in was too easy, because Aguero then took a Kevin De Bruyne feed and curled a 20-yard beauty around a flying Arrizabalaga.

Aguero helped produce the fourth, his dribble blocked by Antonio Rudiger onto the path of Gundogan for another long distance goal.

Ederson made a second decent save of the half when Gonzalo Higuain tore into a shot from distance, but Chelsea did not pull any goals back before halftime.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Aguero nearly nodded home for his hat trick when his header of a De Bruyne cross hit the cross bar.

Mike Dean pointed to the spot after Cesar Azpilicueta took down Sterling in the 55th minute, and Aguero had his chance for back-to-back hat tricks and a share of the Premier League hat trick record.

De Bruyne sent an arrow of a free kick around the wall, but Arrizabalaga stopped it.

Substitute Gabriel Jesus was shoved by Luiz as he attempted a 1v1 shot on Arrizabalaga, but Dean stopped short of awarding another penalty.

Sterling got his second in a similar enough fashion to his first. It was 6-0 with 10 minutes to play.