Sterling’s show-off moment enrages Guardiola

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Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata didn’t like Raheem Sterling‘s showing off late in the Red Devils’ loss to Man City in Sunday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium.

His manager Pep Guardiola liked it even less.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

Sterling had a wonderful day in City’s 3-1 win and was fresh off signing a new contract with the reigning Premier League champions.

But that was all for nought by the time Guardiola met Sterling on the field after the final whistle.

“I don’t like it when you make some movements with the hands. They know how to play simple and they did it but at the end he made the move with the legs and I didn’t like it so much. But again he’s young and I’m pretty sure it’s not going to happen again.”

[ MORE: 4 things | Player ratings ]

Guardiola admits sanctions possible over Man City finances

AP Photo/Michael Probst
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LONDON (AP) Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola raised the prospect Friday of soccer authorities punishing the Premier League champions over attempts to circumvent financial fair play rules.

City is leaving Guardiola to field questions about the leaked internal correspondence published by European media outlets, while executives decline comment. The club has not disputed the authenticity of internal messages showing how it used companies linked to the Abu Dhabi ownership to boost revenue in an attempt to curb losses and comply with UEFA regulations.

“If there’s something wrong we’ll be punished,” Guardiola said at a news conference ahead of Sunday’s derby against Manchester United.

City, which has been owned by Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour for a decade, was punished by UEFA in 2014 for breaching the “Financial Fair Play” program. The settlement agreement eventually saw the club only forfeit $23 million in Champions League prize money. UEFA this week has not said how aware it was of City’s schemes, reported by German magazine Der Spiegel, to hide expenses and evade monitoring of spending on players.

“At the end, UEFA, FIFA, English federation has to say if we were wrong,” Guardiola said. “If we were wrong (we) will accept it but I hear what my club said to me and I trust a lot of them.”

There was no response to an email sent to three City media officers seeking comment on Guardiola discussing the possibility of the club facing further punishment. City did, however, send an emailed statement announcing a new contract through 2023 for winger Raheem Sterling on Friday.

City has also not responded to questions from The Associated Press about Guardiola’s contract, specifically whether he receives income from entities in Abu Dhabi or other teams owned by Sheikh Mansour. The Football Leaks group published details showing how Roberto Mancini, who managed City from 2009 to 2013 and won the Premier League title in 2012, received more pay from a team Sheikh Mansour owns in Abu Dhabi to work as a consultant than from the Manchester club.

City has faced a week of damaging headlines about its conduct and financial arrangements since the first leaks were published a week ago.

Der Spiegel showed how the team’s holding company – state-backed Abu Dhabi United Group – sent cash to a shell vehicle which was created to supposedly buy the right to use players’ images in marketing campaigns. This helped turn almost $34 million into revenue instead of a cost, for the purpose of UEFA’s investigation of club accounts as the club tried to avoid being banned from European competitions for overspending.

While City said it “will not be providing any comment on out of context materials,” Guardiola was more open to discussing information related to the Football Leaks investigation. Real Madrid was revealed to be working with consultants on a 16-team Super League to kick off in 2021, effectively replacing the Champions League and outside the control of UEFA.

“I would like to know the ideas,” said Guardiola, who is in his third season coaching City. “But, for me, the Premier League, local leagues, are so important, with all the history.”

Top Premier League storylines for Week 12

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League midweek action has only set the table for what should be a remarkable weekend of movement on the Premier League table, highlighted by one of the best chess matches in recent managerial memory.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]


The Manchester Derby, subtitled Pep vs. Mou, Round 3
Man City vs. Manchester United, 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Manchester City is firing on all cylinders ahead of this one, with a 12-1 combined scoreline in its last two matches and just a single goal allowed in its last seven matches in all competitions, but its rivals have had that little bit of something to get the job done against the odds in recent weeks (Most recently a 2-1 smash-and-grab comeback defeat of Juventus in the Champions League).

Since Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho ascended to the top chairs of Manchester City and Manchester United, the home team has a record of 1W-1D-3L in the derby. The lone win is United’s 1-0 League Cup ouster of City in 2016.

The last one, of course, was the memorable 3-2 comeback win punctuated by a Paul Pogba– and Alexis Sanchez-authored “not so fast” as Man City attempted to clinch its Premier League title on April 7.

The Foxes return home from owner’s funeral for King Power tribute
Leicester City vs. Burnley, 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN
[ STREAM ]

Leicester’s defeat of Cardiff City one week after the death of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was emotional, but the heavy hearts extended into a trip to Thailand for his funeral and now a first home match without their beloved leader. It’s difficult to imagine what it will be like playing in the building for the first time since the helicopter crash outside the ground that claimed five lives including Srivaddhanaprabha following the 1-1 draw with West Ham. Our thoughts remain with the Leicester community.

Marco Silva‘s Toffees meet massive test at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea vs. Everton, 9:15 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN
 [ STREAM ]

Everton is really finding itself, with Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson the standout performers for new boss Marco Silva. But its another first year manager who is exceeding expectations on the job. Given Man City’s task in facing United for a derby, it’s not crazy to think Maurizio Sarri will have Chelsea atop the Premier League table if it can handle the Toffees.

Reds hope to find mojo against defensively-challenged Fulham
Liverpool vs. Fulham, 7 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN
[ STREAM ]

The Reds just haven’t been right of late, and that’s underlined, italicized, and bolded by the 2-0 Champions League setback in Serbia. On paper, there is no way Liverpool doesn’t explode for a bunch of goals.

Palace looks to shake slump with derby date against Spurs
Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC
[ STREAM ]

It’s been 1-0 the last five times these teams have met, with Spurs on a four-match winning run. Tottenham came back to topple PSV Eindhoven earlier this week and kept its Champions League dreams alive, and it heads into Selhurst Park to meet an Eagles team which desperately needs a good and memorable performance.

Guardiola defends Man City amid allegations

AP
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Manchester City have been at the center of allegations of financial mismanagement from German outlet Der Spiegel as the ‘Football Leaks’ scandal continues to gather steam.

In the past few days City have denied allegations regarding striking a deal with UEFA to get a more lenient punishment for failing to meet Financial Fair Play rules, but there have been further damaging allegations when it comes to their Abi Dhabi owners.

The latest from Der Spiegel claims that City executives conjured up “Project Longbow” in a bid to help the club meet FFP parameters, with CEO Ferran Soriano involved as City hoped the project would “allow for many of the operational costs to be shifted either fully or partially away from the club.”

One of the examples was the marketing and image rights for players being transferred to an external company which was owned by people connected to the club and it would look like they were generating over $35 million in deals for player image rights. More detail on this, here.

Speaking ahead of City’s clash against Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, Guardiola somewhat brushed off questions regarding the reports of financial irregularities and instead believed that the success of the club could not be directly linked to money.

“I think that has been said for the last decade. People are saying that the club has only won because we have money. That is an issue always here because to stay at one level and then achieve another level you need a lot of time, and of course money, but a lot of time. That is normal. The big clubs have to spend,” Guardiola said. “Why? Because we need good players. All the ideas that we have, without good players we cannot do them. If the people say it is just about money? We have to accept it. But my point of view is completely different – we work a lot. That is why I always defend my players and what they do.”

Is it about more than money though, Pep?

Can we all be honest and admit that Man City would be at very best challenging for a Europa League place had it not been for the huge cash injection from Sheikh Mansour since 2008. Instead they’ve won three Premier League titles in that period, as well as paying some of the highest wages in the game and also developing one of the greatest training facilities in world soccer.

We haven’t heard the last of this.

Pep: Man City’s blowout win satisfying, but lots of work to be done

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When Manchester City’s attack is humming, the side is nearly impossible the take down.

Believe it or not, that wasn’t totally the case on Sunday despite the 6-1 score line against Southampton at the Etihad Stadium.

[ RECAP: Man City 6-1 Saints ]

Man City manager Pep Guardiola was “satisfied” with the performance — how kind of him — but says his side needs to do a lot of work to be more “stable,” especially when they start facing Champions League knockout round opposition.

From Goal’s Sammy Lee:

“I like to have that feeling that we have won 6-1, we are top of the table, we are satisfied again with the performance and how they fought until the last minute, but at the same time I have the feeling that we have improve in many many situations to be a stable team.”

Believe it or not, 6-1 aside, there’s plenty to admire from Guardiola’s sense of perspective. City scored on six of their seven shots on target, which certainly won’t always be the case, and Saints did manage their fair share of attempts. He won’t like the way his side conceded with a through ball springing Danny Ings on Ederson.

And the lead atop the table is just two points heading into a week with a Champions League visit from Shakhtar Donetsk and City’s home Manchester Derby. From the BBC:

“It is not decisive. It is important to be there than below but the distance of two or three points is nothing. We saw Arsenal yesterday and how good they did against Liverpool. Tottenham too, away at Wolves. United are always there. It is a tough league but it is important we are stable. It is most important that we don’t have regrets.”

Those regrets are feelings like Arsenal and Liverpool have after dropping points on Saturday, something City’s done against Liverpool and Wolves. The big win is nice, but we’ll see what lineup Guardiola uses Wednesday ahead of next week’s derby.

One other late arriving quote from Guardiola, who was asked about Raheem Sterling‘s success in his system. The English attacker has been in very good form, and played one of the best matches of his career in the win.

“I would like him to be happy to play for Man City not for me. We will not always play together. He is confident and aggressive with the ball. He has a desire to score. He is more mature now than he was when we first met at the club. He believes more in himself. Hopefully he can be more ambitious and think he can improve. He is 23 and he can be a better player.”

That last part is the same thing Guardiola said, in a sense, about Sergio Aguero when the pair were first united at City. It’s scary to think that Sterling may just be scratching the surface of his ability.