EPL

Aguero could be out for two more months, says Guardiola

By Sports Desk September 18, 2020

Manchester City could be without star striker Sergio Aguero for the first two months of their Premier League campaign.

Aguero missed the conclusion of last season, including City's dispiriting 3-1 Champions League quarter-final defeat to Lyon, after suffering meniscus damage during June's 5-0 win over Burnley.

The 32-year-old Argentina international had to undergo surgery and was operated on in Barcelona by Dr Ramon Cugat, City manager Pep Guardiola's preferred surgeon.

Initially there had been hope Aguero could play a part in the latter stages of the 2019-20 Champions League and the player posted footage of himself dribbling a ball at City's Etihad Campus training base to social media this week.

But Guardiola looks set to be without the club's all-time leading scorer for a considerable time beyond Monday's trip to face a Wolves side who beat City twice last season.

"We knew that the injury was difficult," Guardiola said. "He is doing the [recovery], in maybe one month or two months he will be ready.

"Two months, because he has to come back on the pitch and regain the physical condition.

"Sergio was out for a long time and Sergio is not a guy who regains the physical condition quick, so I think in one month or two months he will be ready."

The time-frame outlined by Guardiola could mean Aguero misses City's first three Champions League group games of the season, along with Liverpool's visit to the Etihad Stadium on November 7.

Opta focus - Sterling and Jesus must find clinical edge in Aguero's absence

Earlier in the transfer window, it appeared possible Guardiola would have Aguero's international team-mate Lionel Messi to call upon.

As it is, a considerable weight of the attacking burden at City will now fall upon Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling.

Sterling and Jesus enjoyed their most prolific seasons individually in 2019-20, scoring 31 and 23 goals respectively across all competitions.

However, both missed glorious chances during the second half of that sapping defeat to Lyon, with Sterling's particularly glaring as he blazed over a gaping goal from five yards.

A look at how the Brazil and England forwards compare to Aguero in terms of their Premier League numbers does suggest City might be found wanting when it comes to having a clinical edge.

Although Sterling outscored Aguero in the English top flight for the first time in his career last term - scoring 20 to his team-mate's 16 - the former Atletico Madrid striker's goals came at a rate of one every 91 minutes, compared to Sterling's average of one every 133 minutes. Jesus' 14 Premier League goals came in at one every 144.8 minutes.

Aguero's conversion rate of 21.05 per cent also stood above his team-mates, although Sterling ran him close on 20.2 per cent. Jesus netted from 13.86 per cent of his 101 shots, which amounted to more attempts than Sterling (99) and Aguero (76).

However, the spectre of the Lyon game looms - as it does over much surrounding Guardiola and his squad for their forthcoming season - when considering Opta's 'big chances' metric.

Despite his well-earned reputation, Aguero was not infallible in such situations, converting 52 per cent of his big chances with 13 scored and 12 missed.

Sterling's big chance conversion rate was 42.2 per cent, with 19 missed and 14 scored, while Jesus scored from only 29.4 per cent of his most gilt-edged opportunities.

The 23-year-old Jesus missed 24 big chances, netting only 10. Those are numbers that will have to improve considerably in Aguero's absence if Guardiola's City are to once again locate the relentless rhythm that brought them back-to-back Premier League titles and make a case for dethroning Liverpool.

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  • Premier League data dive: Chelsea end poor away form, Leicester up to second Premier League data dive: Chelsea end poor away form, Leicester up to second

    Chelsea needed a late intervention from Mason Mount to overcome Fulham 1-0 on Saturday, relieving the pressure on boss Frank Lampard. 

    Brendan Rodgers - a man tipped to take over at Stamford Bridge if Lampard is removed as boss - saw his Leicester City side climb up to second in the table with a 2-0 win over Southampton. 

    There were also wins for Brighton and Hove Albion, West Ham and struggling West Brom. 

    Here is the pick of the Opta facts from Saturday's action in the Premier League.

     

    Fulham 0-1 Chelsea: Mount settles west London derby

    Chelsea left it late to overcome Fulham at Craven Cottage, Mason Mount scoring with 12 minutes remaining to end the Blues' run of three straight away Premier League defeats. 

    The scoreline perhaps should not come as a surprise, given Chelsea have won 131 Premier League games by that margin - the most common winning score for a single team in the competition's history. 

    The result also marked Chelsea's fourth away clean sheet of the season - a feat they managed just once last season. 

    It could have been a different outcome had Antonee Robinson not seen red shortly before half-time for a wild lunge on Cesar Azpilicueta. That dismissal was Fulham's third in the Premier League this season - no side has had more so far this term. 

    Defeat for Scott Parker's side means they are winless in their last 19 top-flight London derby matches since a 2-1 win over West Ham in January 2014.

    Leicester City 2-0 Southampton: Maddison and Barnes on target for flying Foxes

    Leicester moved up to second in the Premier League after earning their first home league win against Southampton since April 2016, ending a run of four without a win against the Saints at the King Power Stadium. 

    They were set on their way by James Maddison, who has now scored in consecutive top-flight games for the Foxes for the first time since October 2019, matching his goal tally at the King Power Stadium from each of the previous two campaigns.

    Harvey Barnes' 10th goal of the season sealed all three points, the winger equalling his best ever goals return in a single campaign. 

    Southampton, meanwhile, have now failed to score in four of their last five Premier League games, as many as they had in their previous 34 in the competition.

    The Saints' first 12 Premier League games this season saw 41 goals scored (F24 A17), at an average of 3.4 per game, while their last six games have seen just six goals scored (F2 A4).

    Wolves 2-3 West Brom: Pereira brace gives Allardyce lift off

    Sam Allardyce got off the mark with his first win as West Brom boss to revive his side's survival hopes against out-of-form Wolves.

    The veteran manager, previously without a win in five matches in all competitions since taking over, is now without defeat in six Premier League games against Wolves - his best unbeaten return against any side in the division.

    Matheus Pereira gave West Brom the lead from the penalty spot early on - the ninth league game in a row Wolves have conceded first - before Fabio Silva and Willy Boly turned the game in the home side's favour.

    In doing so, Boly became the first Wolves player to concede a penalty, assist and score a goal in the same Premier League game since Adlene Guedioura in May 2011 - also against West Brom at Molineux.

    Semi Ajayi levelled the game up with his ninth headed goal since the start of 2018-19 - no defender in England's top four tiers has scored more, level with Virgil van Dijk and Aaron Pierre - and Pereira scored the winner with another spot-kick.

    Wolves, who last lost successive home league games against West Brom between 1929 and 1931, are without a clean sheet in 12 Premier League matches - the longest ongoing run among sides in the division.

    Leeds 0-1 Brighton: Maupay haunts Bielsa's men again

    Brighton ended a nine-game winless run in the Premier League with a narrow victory at Leeds thanks to Neal Maupay's close-range finish after 17 minutes.

    Maupay rounded off a slick team move for his 10th away goal for Albion in the competition, making him just the second player to reach that tally for the Seagulls after Glenn Murray (11).

    It was the striker's fourth goal in five league appearances against Leeds and ensured a first ever away top-flight victory in this fixture for his side at the fourth attempt.

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    West Ham 1-0 Burnley: Antonio hits milestone goal in narrow win

    Michail Antonio made the difference as Burnley fired another blank, the versatile forward becoming the fourth West Ham player to reach the 40-goal mark for the club after Paolo Di Canio (47), Mark Noble (46) and Carlton Cole (41).

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  • Guardiola only has eyes for Palace amid Liverpool v Man Utd hype Guardiola only has eyes for Palace amid Liverpool v Man Utd hype

    Pep Guardiola has no interest in the outcome of Liverpool versus Manchester United, with his focus only on finding a way to defeat Crystal Palace.

    Manchester City host Palace in the Premier League on Sunday, by which point champions Liverpool will have taken on United.

    Guardiola was asked who he thought would come out on top in the big clash at Anfield, but swiftly made it clear there was only one fixture he was focused on.

    "Crystal Palace," he replied. "It's the only thing I want - I want to beat them. The rest, honestly, I don't care. 

    "The last two seasons against Crystal Palace at home we got one point. We lost and we drew. Our performance in Selhurst Park was much better than the Etihad Stadium. 

    "That's what the only concern I have is - winning against Crystal Palace. 

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    No side has kept more Premier League clean sheets this season than City (eight) and they are only four points behind leaders United with a game in hand.

    Despite their fine form, Guardiola is not concerned with the two sides ahead of them in the table getting all the attention.

    "I didn't talk with the players about that," added Guardiola. "Teams make confidence and make a positive for the next game they are going to play by how you performed in the last one.

    "I don't think the players are more optimistic or angry or upset because the people consider us not contenders this season, or maybe United or Liverpool are better than us.

    "Against Brighton [in the 1-0 win last time out] we played good. In the moments we didn't play good Brighton were brilliant. 

    "It is best to visualise we are in a good moment, because when you dream you want to be top of the league, you want to be in a better position when you don't play good, you are not going to achieve it. We won't get it."

    City will be eyeing an eighth straight victory in all competitions and a fifth consecutive Premier League win when they take on Palace.

    Only United (11) are on a longer current unbeaten run in the Premier League than City (eight), but Guardiola does not pay attention to such sequences.

    He added: "When we have had incredible runs I have never thought about how many wins or how many marathons we have to do to win something. 

    "When we won 18 games in a row in the season we got 100 points, after the win in the second game we said, 'okay, let's try to win the next one'. 

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    "This is the best way. I don't care how many games we are able to win or not win in a row. Absolutely zero. 

    "It is just Crystal Palace, Wilfried Zaha, Eberechi Eze, Christian Benteke, Roy Hodgson, Luka Milivojevic - this is the only way I am concerned since the day after we beat Brighton."

    DE BRUYNE EYES THREE FIGURES

    Kevin De Bruyne has racked up four assists in his last six appearances for City and will be looking to continue a strong individual run in matches with Palace.

    The Belgium international has been involved in eight goals in 10 Premier League games against Palace (two goals and six assists) – only against Southampton (two goals, seven assists) has he been involved in more in the competition.

    No Premier League player has provided more assists in all competitions than his 14 this season.

    In-form De Bruyne is hoping to reach a milestone against Palace, as his next assist will put him on to 100 for the club in all competitions.

  • Lampard thrilled with Mount: I wasn't blowing the world away in my first year or so Lampard thrilled with Mount: I wasn't blowing the world away in my first year or so

    Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard has expressed his delight at Mason Mount's performance against Fulham and Callum Hudson-Odoi's recent form.

    Mount scored the winning goal in the Blues' narrow 1-0 victory at Fulham, who played more than half the match a man light following Antonee Robinson's sending off just before the break.

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    "I thought Mason's performance all round was fantastic," Lampard told reporters. "He has been very, very good for us in the past year, this year. He is a big example of why I talk about youth.

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    Hudson-Odoi was bright after coming off the bench in the final 15 minutes, though he was seemingly unfortunate not to start.

    The winger endured a difficult 2020 due to fitness problems and a lack of form, but he is starting to show why he had been so highly rated in his teenage years.

    In the past month, only Mount and Pulisic have created more Premier League chances than his six among Chelsea players, despite Hudson-Odoi playing just 176 minutes.

    That means he is averaging 3.1 key passes per 90 minutes in that time – Mount (4.2) is the only other player with a tally of more than two, and Lampard has been impressed by the 20-year-old's attitude.

    "There has been a real uplift in his form," Lampard added. "That's a sign of his development, he is coming on, going by people and showing confidence. And a lot of that will be down to the injury he had to get over last season.

    "Hakim [Ziyech] obviously gives us something different and was outstanding when fit. Christian [Pulisic] is always a threat. When I have the three, there is one who maybe can't start the game, but they must then come on and impact the game. Generally, a winger is where you make your changes.

    "Yes, I had Leicester in mind [when selecting the team] and we will see how players react in the next day or two. In this busy, busy period players will have to accept to be an impact player sometimes and then come in and start.

    "For Callum, I am delighted with how he is playing at the minute and he is approaching it in the right way. He will get many, many minutes for us."

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