EPL

Guardiola has something up his sleeve – Carragher expects City to close gap on Liverpool

By Sports Desk July 02, 2020

Manchester City will close the gap on Liverpool in the Premier League next season if they address the centre-back position, according to Jamie Carragher.

Champions Liverpool face City at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday in their first match since winning a first English title in 30 years.

Carragher, a Champions League winner with the Reds, thinks City boss Pep Guardiola always has something up his sleeve for matches between the teams.

And he believes the contest will be the prelude to a closer title battle in the 2020-21 campaign, with Liverpool sitting 23 points ahead of the side they dethroned this time around.

"It's whether Guardiola comes up with something a little bit different for Liverpool's front three," Carragher said to Sky Sports ahead of the match.

"He could go with three at the back, or with a more defensive full-back, as he did in this fixture last year when he put [Aymeric] Laporte at left-back.

"He always seems to have something a little bit different up his sleeve against Liverpool, so I wouldn't be surprised if he did something like that.

"Can Liverpool control Kevin De Bruyne? And can City's back four cope with Liverpool's front three? I think those are the big questions, really.

"De Bruyne is, for me, the best player in the Premier League. If Liverpool can stop that man in midfield, that will stop a lot of City.

"No doubt Liverpool will have to deal with De Bruyne, because if they don't it will make it really difficult for them.

"City will want to put a marker down and win the game. At their best, they're almost unstoppable, but one of the few teams that can stop them are Liverpool, so it will be brilliant to watch." 

Discussing next season, Carragher added: "There's 23 points between the teams but I don't see the gap as being that big.

"There's no doubt that Liverpool have the edge, but I certainly don't think there will be that much next season – I don't think there's too much between the teams. 

"City are too good a team and Guardiola is too good a manager to have a gap like that between one of his teams and someone else's.

"I think a lot of it will [come down to] who City recruit. There's no doubt that City will do a lot more in the market than Liverpool will. 

"If City recruit well, it will bridge that gap that we've seen this season and then it becomes about how Liverpool deal with that.

"The big problem is how many goals City have conceded compared to Liverpool. That's the big difference. The centre-backs issue was a problem for City all season. 

"They need to rectify having lost [Vincent] Kompany. If they add in that position, they could certainly bridge the gap and make it really tight next year."

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  • Guardiola urges Man City to seal place among Europe's greats Guardiola urges Man City to seal place among Europe's greats

    Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City must win the Champions League to be considered one of the competition's great clubs.

    The City manager also vowed it should not be considered "a disaster" if his team miss out on European success during his tenure, yet he can now sniff glory after the last-16 victory over mighty Real Madrid.

    With LaLiga's champions ousted, and Serie A winners Juventus also eliminated, every team through to the quarter-finals will sense a genuine opportunity.

    Lyon, the team that edged past Juve on away goals, are next in City's crosshairs, with their meeting scheduled for next Saturday in Lisbon.

    Guardiola says he "would love" to bring Champions League glory to City, having missed out with Bayern Munich after achieving 2009 and 2011 successes while in charge at Barcelona.

    He recognises that although City are becoming part of the competition's establishment, there is still a next step they have to take.

    "You have to lift it, this title, to be 'okay, we've got it'," Guardiola said.

    "We beat Real Madrid, of course for us it's so important. We know the credit, the value, the prestige that Real has.

    "They are a massive club. To compete with them, beat them twice, for this season and for the future it will be so good."

    Guardiola agreed when it was suggested the rest of the tournament could feel like a World Cup, saying it would feel "quite similar".

    The last eight teams standing will head to Lisbon for one-off games in each remaining round rather than two-legged quarter-finals and semi-finals.

    "Now every game is a final. You are in, or you are out. We will see a final against Lyon," he said.

    But Guardiola's overriding message, as he spoke shortly after his side saw off Madrid, was that Champions League success can rest on fine margins, pointing to the errors from the usually unflappable Raphael Varane that helped City fend off Zinedine Zidane's side.

    Whether City experience Champions League success during his reign or not, Guardiola does not see it defining his stay in Manchester.

    "I live in Manchester, and an incredible club will be my memories. This is my happiness. Of course, we are going to try. But this competition is so difficult," he said

    "But I don't want to live right now being here [saying] if we don't win the Champions League it will be a disaster.

    "I know what I live is great. I've met incredible people. This is my life. And is it going to change my relations because I lift a title? Honestly, no.

    "In Munich, we won a lot of titles but we didn't win the Champions League. Am I going to tell you I was unhappy in Munich? No. That I don't have friends in Munich? I have many.

    "We're going to put in everything. But sometimes the opponents are better. Or you get wrong decisions of the strikers, or mistakes by the defenders. It's part of the life, it's part of the process, part of football. It's little details, margins, it happens."

  • Real football fans hard to find - #IAmNotAFan goes in search of Champions League predictions Real football fans hard to find - #IAmNotAFan goes in search of Champions League predictions

    With the Champions League back on, I went in search of predictions about who fans in Jamaica thought would win.

    What I found was there aren’t really fans. Well, I didn’t find what I expect from a fan.

    The term fan is an offshoot of the word fanatic. A fanatic is someone who shows so much loyalty to something that they, not only, have strong emotion about it, but are knowledgeable by virtue of spending so much time dedicated to understanding it.

    In seeking answers to my questions predicting the winner of the Champions League, I found humiliating explanations, shallow reasoning and anything but persuasive arguments for one team or another.

    Come to think of it, maybe they used a little strategy. There were two matches being played at the same time in the UEFA Champions League— Manchester City vs. Real Madrid and Juventus vs. Lyon. Fans were aware and had to develop a strategy to watch them both. But that's just about it.

    When I asked my ‘fair-weather friends’ who they think would win the Champions League and why, their responses were uninspiring.

    They usually started confidently enough, but that was where the solidity ended.

    “BARCELONA!”, “MAN-CITY!”, “CHELSEA!”, “REAL MADRID!” etc, came the answers even before the questions were completely out of my mouth.

    The problem they all encountered though, was the question of … why?

    Suddenly the confidence of the answers were replaced with almost incoherent, largely uninformed drivle.

    “Definitely you know it’s Barcelona. And I know other persons are going to say otherwise but this is the reason why: Barcelona is a champion...beyond champion, beyond champion, beyond champion, beyond champion…”

    Another picked Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) as his winner.

    “Neymar is a star baller,” was his ‘very solid’ reason.

    I wanted a response from a seasoned fan. I figured it would have some substance but a seasoned fan is not common place.

    “Man City definitely! I think they have the best ballers,” is the closest I could come to something resembling a thought-out explanation.

    That being the best of the answers left me, an admitted novice, dejected.

    Look, I’m not expecting fans to necessarily be able to provide reasons with the analysis of seasoned commentators like Lance Whittaker, but I would expect that a ‘fan’, has more to offer in the way of some understanding about the game.

    The Champions League is now down to eight teams, who will play straight knock-out games in Lisbon, Portugal beginning October 12.

    The teams in the quarterfinal are; Atalanta, Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, and Lyon.

    Who do you think will come out tops?

    Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

  • New Juve boss Pirlo is destined for greatness – Paratici New Juve boss Pirlo is destined for greatness – Paratici

    Juventus are confident Andrea Pirlo is "destined for greatness" and a natural fit for the club, says chief football officer Fabio Paratici.

    Juve dismissed Maurizio Sarri on Saturday in the wake of their Champions League exit at the hands of Lyon on Friday.

    Sarri spent just one season at the club, winning the Serie A title but failing in the Coppa Italia and Champions League and his replacement was surprisingly announced just hours later.

    Pirlo, who rejoined Juve as the Under-23s coach last week, has signed a two-year deal.

    However, despite the job being Pirlo's first in senior coaching, Paratici – whose future is also reportedly in doubt – has full faith in the former midfielder.

    "The decision for Pirlo was very natural, in the Juventus style, because he is someone who played with us, has always been in contact with everyone here and it felt natural," Paratici told Sky Sport Italia.

    "We also believe he is destined for greatness. He was as a player and we think with confidence he can do the same as a coach."

    Paratici reiterated Juve's decision to relieve Sarri of his duties was based on the entire 2019-20 campaign, not just the Champions League exit.

    "We had already said, one game does not decide the future of a coach. Our evaluations were based on the whole season and not just a single match," Paratici added.

    "A season is long, there are many moments and situations that then add up. There wasn't any spark.

    "We simply came to this consideration at the end of a very long season, even after winning the Scudetto. It's not just Europe that decides on success or failure. 

    "We are in unexplored territory, because nobody has won nine consecutive Serie A titles before. We achieved it with several eras, really, because they tend to last three to four years. We are at our third era in a row of success, it's almost inexplicable."

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