Pep Guardiola would love to stay at Manchester City beyond this season but believes he has work to do to earn a new contract.

Guardiola will begin a fifth consecutive campaign in charge of the same side for the first time in his career when he takes City to Molineux on Monday to face Wolves in their Premier League opener.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss has won six major hours in four seasons at the Etihad Stadium, including back-to-back Premier League titles in 2017-18 and 2018-19 - triumphs over the course of which they accrued a scarcely credible 198 points.

But Liverpool stormed to glory in England's top flight last term, finishing 18 points clear of City, who again fell short in the Champions League as Lyon punished a limp quarter-final showing in Lisbon.

It leaves one of the most celebrated coaches of his generation with plenty to prove heading into the new season, and Guardiola believes his employers are at the top of the list of those he must impress.

"I would love to stay longer here. It is a place I love to be, but I have to deserve it," he said.

"This club achieved standards in the last decade but we have to maintain that and I have to deserve it.

"I am going to see if I deserve it this season, in terms of how the club goes forward and improves."

At the same time, Guardiola was keen to explain his view of the situation was not down to an ultimatum of any kind.

He enjoys an easy relationship with City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak and his old Barcelona allies Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano - City's respective director of football and chief executive.

Both sides remain relaxed when it comes to talks over an extension.

"We didn't speak with the club in these terms," Guardiola said. "They allow me to do my job the best I can, with all my staff and the players, and this is [what I'm] going to continue to do.

"They didn't tell me you have to do this or you have to that, or you have to win this or you have to win that. They told me to play. In my feeling, I know the standards of the club and if I don't achieve the standards, I probably don't deserve [to stay] so I have to win to extend my contract.

"We have a game every three days so we don't have much time to think about it. I try to see Txiki and Ferran every day and I speak every week with Khaldoon.

"When it is going to happen, it is going to happen. Now we have other issues. The organisation is so strong in all departments. It will not be a problem for the club to do what we have to do in the future."

Guardiola cut an embattled figure after last month's 3-1 loss to Lyon, where his switch to a 3-5-2 formation was heavily criticised.

City moved quickly to sign Valencia winger Ferran Torres and Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake, but their moves to secure an elite centre-back have stalled, while the dream of bringing Lionel Messi to Manchester quickly faded having briefly looked like being realised.

Club record goalscorer Sergio Aguero could miss the first two months of the season as he recovers from meniscus surgery - all of which adds up to a tricky build-up as City aim to overthrow a formidable foe in Liverpool.

Nevertheless Guardiola insists he is ready for the challenges ahead as his career moves into the unchartered territory of season number five.

"I would not be here if I didn't feel the fire or the desire to play good," he added.

"I still want to help the players avoid making mistakes and still I have passion to do it, maybe more than ever.

"I want to try to be together and do a good season."

Fernandinho will be Manchester City's captain for the 2020-21 season, manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed.

David Silva took the armband after the departure of long-serving skipper Vincent Kompany last season before the Spain playmaker opted to call time on his decade-long stay at the Etihad Stadium.

It means the responsibility will now be passed to Fernandinho, another stalwart of City's modern era, after the 35-year-old was voted captain by his team-mates and other members of staff.

"He will be good [as a leader], as he always has been since I met him," Guardiola said of the Brazil international who joined City from Shakhtar Donetsk for £30million in 2013 and is out of contract next June.

"It doesn’t matter [whether or not Fernandinho has] the armband, he is always a guy who leads in the bad moments.

"We decided in the locker room, the players, the backroom staff, we decided that Fernandinho is captain and I am more than delighted with that."

A versatile performer across midfield throughout his career, Fernandinho reverted to centre-back last season and looks well-placed to retain that role in City's Premier League season opener at Wolves on Monday.

Aymeric Laporte only returned to training on Friday after a positive coronavirus test and is short of match fitness.

Guardiola did bolster his central defensive options with the £40m capture of Nathan Ake from Bournemouth but attempts to recruit Kalidou Koulibaly have stalled.

A report from Marca over the weekend claimed City were looking to Sevilla's Jules Kounde as an alternative and the Europa League winners had rejected an opening bid of £51.7m.

Irrespective of the position in which he adds to 314 appearances across all competitions for City, Fernandinho's role as a guiding influence to youngsters like Phil Foden could also be key.

Foden is aiming to build on a breakthrough campaign last time around but badly undermined his preparations for the new season when he broke coronavirus protocols while on international duty with England in Iceland and was sent home in disgrace.

Manchester United youngster Mason Greenwood also erred alongside Foden, with the duo entertaining women at England's team hotel in breach of strict self-isolation rules.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer went on the offensive last week, questioning England's handling on Greenwood at a time when he was physically and mentally fatigued.

However, Guardiola believes Foden should simply learn from an error of judgement for which he has must accept responsibility.

"I am pretty sure Phil is going to make a good season," he said. "He knows he made a mistake.

"If every one of us put the same high expectations on ourselves as we put on others, our society would be better.

"Look to what you have done in the past when you demand things of other ones and stick to what you have to do."

Liverpool and Wolves could be involved in another deal, while Arsenal's shortlist reportedly includes four players.

Premier League champions Liverpool confirmed the signing of Diogo Jota from Wolves on Saturday, with Ki-Jana Hoever heading in the opposite direction.

But the business between the clubs may not end there.

 

TOP STORY – WOLVES TARGET OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN

Wolves are eyeing a move for Liverpool midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, according to the Mirror.

The report comes after Liverpool signed star midfielder Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich earlier this week.

Oxlade-Chamberlain arrived at Anfield from Arsenal in 2017, and made 43 appearances in all competitions in 2019-20.

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- Arsenal could strengthen further. The Express reports the Premier League club have Lyon star Houssem Aouar, Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey, Dijon goalkeeper Runar Alex Runarsson and Brentford shot-stopper David Raya on their shortlist.

- Staying in the Premier League and Goal reports Atletico Madrid attacker Thomas Lemar has interest from two clubs in England's top flight. Arsenal, Wolves and Everton have been linked with Lemar previously.

- Manchester City are reportedly close to signing a centre-back. AS reports the Premier League giants are close to sealing a deal for Sevilla's Jules Kounde, a 21-year-old who is a France youth international.

- Arturo Vidal is finally set to get his move to Inter. Fabrizio Romano reports Inter have agreed a €1million fee with Barcelona for the midfielder, while he also says veteran defender Diego Godin will join Cagliari next week.

- After almost signing Daniel James in 2019, Leeds United could be set for another move for the attacker. The Sun reports Leeds are planning a move for James, who joined Manchester United in 2019.

- Staying at Old Trafford and another exit is expected. The Sun says the Red Devils are looking for a new club for Sergio Romero with the goalkeeper upset about missing last month's Europa League semi-final loss to Sevilla.

Andrea Pirlo was untouchable at the height of his playing career, a footballer whose grace and prowling presence drew widespread admiration and struck fear into rival teams.

As a coach, we can surmise but really it is a guessing game as to what we will be getting from Pirlo as the dugout rookie leads Juventus into the 2020-21 season.

On Sunday evening in Italy, the man who was a World Cup winner in 2006 takes charge of his first Serie A game with Juve, who play Sampdoria in Turin.

Maurizio Sarri's Juve reign lasted just one season, albeit another Scudetto-yielding campaign for the most successful club in the league's history. Pirlo will be expected to deliver at least that level of success, and encourage a swagger too.

He joins a host of significant former players plucked for leadership roles at an elite level, typically on a hunch rooted in familiarity, the chosen ones often still fresh from their playing days and with scant experience to call on. Top marks in coaching exams provide no guarantee that success will follow.

Many times, the gamble on a colt coach has paid off, with presidents and owners rightly sensing the novice harbours the innate expertise to lead and to inspire, and crucially to bring results. On other occasions, it has ended in frustration and tears, and in some instances the jury remains out.

Here is a look at just some of those cases, illustrating how there are no guarantees attached to such appointments.

PEP GUARDIOLA

The go-to example for any club that wishes to justify appointing a club legend to sudden seniority on the coaching side, former midfield general Guardiola was just 37 when he took charge at Barcelona in 2008, after a year coaching the B team. He departed four years and 14 trophies later, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League triumphs, and was vaunted as the world's best coach.

Further successes have come with Bayern Munich and Manchester City. Plainly, Pep was born to lead and Barcelona were wise to the fact.

ZINEDINE ZIDANE

How would Zidane, the mercurial playmaker – the only rival to Brazil striker Ronaldo when assessing the greatest player of their generation – take to coaching? Could the erstwhile Galactico tease out the best from those who can but dream of matching the twinkling feet and god-gifted balance with which he was blessed? Could the former Real Madrid maestro really be a suitable fit for the Bernabeu job that has swallowed up many an experienced coach?

Three Champions Leagues and two LaLiga titles later, we probably have a decent idea of the answer to those questions. There have still been ups and downs, and a brief split along the way, but 18 months in charge of Madrid's B team – Castilla – hardened Zidane for the obstacles he would face in the top job. His Madrid sides have at times lacked the verve that was his signature as a player, but they have delivered results and abundant trophies, and ultimately that is what counts.

MICHEL PLATINI

Before there was Zidane, France had Platini. A wonder of an attacking midfielder with Nancy, Saint-Etienne and Juventus, Platini was also a goalscoring titan of the France team that won Euro 84 and reached semi-finals at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups. It followed, to those that knew him, that Platini would go on to become a great national-team coach too, and at the age of 33 he was appointed to lead France, having retired as a player a year earlier. Platini took over with France already at a low ebb and defeats under his charge against Yugoslavia and Scotland meant they missed out on reaching the 1990 World Cup.

Could Platini bounce back? It seemed he might when France reached Euro 92 in style, with eight wins from eight qualifiers, Platini nurturing the likes of Didier Deschamps and Laurent Blanc, but Les Bleus flopped at the tournament itself as they and England bowed out of a group from which Sweden and Denmark advanced. Platini resigned not long afterwards, began to forge a solid reputation in football administration, and by the late 1990s had built a strong, ultimately fateful, alliance with the then FIFA secretary general Sepp Blatter. He would never coach again.

DIEGO MARADONA

If there were ever a case of being blinded by celebrity, then some of the presidents who have given Diego Armando Maradona coaching work surely have fallen victim. The biggest star of his generation, Maradona retired from playing in 1997 and, with barely a sniff of coaching experience and just about as much baggage as an airport carousel, was named boss of his native Argentina in 2008, tasked with taking the Albicelestes to the World Cup two years later. Argentina scraped their way into the finals and were thumped 4-0 by Germany in the quarter-finals. Maradona's contract was not renewed.

He has continued to pick up coaching work, one curious-looking appointment after another, most recently with Gimnasia in the Argentinian top flight. Maradona the coach has been no match for Maradona the player, and it was naive surely for anyone to think that was ever remotely possible.

FRANK LAMPARD

Pirlo was an artist of the 21st century game, and he is considered a deep thinker, while the common theory is that English midfield counterpart Lampard achieved much of his success through hard graft and maximising his rather more rudimentary talent. Whether either categorisation fits the bill is a moot point, but Lampard has a wiser head on his shoulders than many footballers, was top of the class in his school days, and his IQ is reputed to be through the roof.

Derby County gave him a first break in coaching but it took Chelsea just a year to pounce and parachute Lampard into his first Premier League manager's job. A Stamford Bridge great as a player, Lampard had an acceptable first season as Blues boss but the acid test comes in this new term after a spree of big-money signings. A high-stakes London gamble will play out in the coming months.

ALAN SHEARER

As Pirlo takes charge of those in the Bianconeri stripes he once wore – Cristiano Ronaldo and all – it bears remembering that returning black and white messiahs can fail. Former Newcastle United striker Shearer returned to St James' Park in April 2009, the club's record goalscorer aiming to rescue the team from the threat of relegation, but a dismal return of five points from eight games saw them sink out of the Premier League.

Shearer left and has not coached since, happily staying in his niche as a television pundit. There are pressures but also a certain comfort to that studio role. Two months at Newcastle was the sum of Shearer's coaching career: as Pirlo may yet find out, that can be all it takes to destroy the notion of it being a natural next step.

Liverpool's transfer activity is ramping up.

After securing the services of Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcantara, Diogo Jota is reportedly next on the list.

Could there be more arrivals?

 

TOP STORY – JOTA LIVERPOOL BOUND

Premier League champions Liverpool are set to complete the signing of Wolves star Diogo Jota, according to Goal.

Liverpool announced the arrival of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich on Friday as they look to retain their Premier League crown in 2020-21.

Now, Jurgen Klopp's men are poised to bring former Atletico Madrid forward Jota to Anfield amid widespread speculation.

 

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- RMC claims Porto full-back Alex Telles has agreed terms with Manchester United over a five-year deal. However, Paris Saint-Germain are also considering a move for the 27-year-old Brazilian following Juan Bernat's knee injury.

- Liverpool have enquired about Schalke star Ozan Kabak, reports Chris Williams. Bundesliga strugglers Schalke are reluctant to sell the 20-year-old centre-back.

Atletico Madrid are finalising a deal for Bayern Munich utility Javier Martinez, says Marca. Martinez played for Athletic Bilbao before joining Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern in 2012.

- The Daily Mail claims Manchester City are eyeing Sevilla defender Jules Kounde as an alternative to Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly. Pep Guardiola's City have been tipped to sign Koulibaly, though they have struggled to find an agreement with Napoli as PSG reportedly circle.

Milan have overtaken Barcelona in the race to sign Lyon captain Memphis Depay, according to Sky Italia. Tipped to reunite with former Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman at Barca, Depay could now join Milan in a swap deal involving Lucas Paqueta.

- The front page of Saturday's Mundo Deportivo says Barca are looking to sell Nelson Semedo to fund new arrivals, with Ajax sensation and Bayern target Sergino Dest, City defender Eric Garcia and Depay wanted.

- Goal confirmed Juventus are working to bring Everton forward Moise Kean back to Turin in addition to signing Roma's Edin Dzeko. Juve are interested in a loan deal, though Everton are asking for a permanent transfer or loan with an obligation to buy.

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.

Pep Guardiola had no interest in signing Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich because he believes Manchester City are well enough stocked in central midfield.

Thiago broke into Barcelona's first team during Guardiola's time in charge at Camp Nou and the Catalan tactician made him the flagship signing for his first season at Bayern in 2013-14.

Nevertheless, the Spain playmaker is now on the brink of joining Liverpool and bolstering Jurgen Klopp's bid for back-to-back league titles at Anfield.

Speaking ahead of City's season opener at Wolves on Monday, Guardiola told reporters that even the departure of club great David Silva at the end of last season - a man with similar qualities to Thiago when it comes to dictating the tempo of the play and operating shrewdly in tight spaces - did not make him feel the need for reinforcements.

"We have in this position enough players and normally we have to move the players when we need someone in that position," said Guardiola, whose club were linked with a sensational swoop for Lionel Messi before the six-time Ballon d'Or winner announced he would remain at Barcelona. "We have enough players in this position."

The likes of Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan will be among those vying for places alongside Kevin De Bruyne in City's creative department, although Guardiola acknowledges Thiago is likely to thrive for their title rivals.

"I'm happy to see him in England, England is going to enjoy a really good player," he said.

The hope that City youth product Foden can make another significant step forward this season was compromised by the 20-year-old's widely discussed antics on international duty with England earlier this month.

Foden and Manchester United teenager Mason Greenwood were banished from Gareth Southgate's squad, having broken coronavirus protocols by entertaining women at the team hotel in the aftermath of making their international debuts in a 1-0 win over Iceland.

"In the time I saw him, these three or four days we were together, he's well" Guardiola said. "He knows he made a mistake and that's all."

Foden excelled in the wide attacking positions for City after lockdown last season but Guardiola confirmed he will be considered as an option in a central role so familiar to the likes of Silva and Thiago.

"He can play in that midfield position, or striker, or winger," the City boss added. "He can play up front without a problem."

Pep Guardiola insisted it was not right for him to talk on Lionel Messi's behalf after the transfer saga that saw the Barcelona superstar heavily linked with a move to Manchester City.

Messi asked to leave Barca in the tumultuous aftermath of their humiliating 8-2 defeat against Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

City were widely viewed as the frontrunners for his signature, with a reunion between Messi and Guardiola heavily tipped to happen before the six-time Ballon d'Or winner announced he would remain at Barcelona for the final year of his contract, accusing president Josep Maria Bartomeu of going back on his word and making the financial cost of any deal for a buying club "impossible".

LaLiga backed Barca in confirming the €700million release clause in Messi's contract remained valid.

Speaking ahead of Monday's trip to Wolves, where City will begin their attempt to unseat Liverpool and win a third Premier League title in four seasons, Guardiola was keen not to cause any friction with his former employers.

"I think I don't have to explain anything," he said. "Leo explained quite well his feelings, I don't have anything to add.

"He's a football player for FC Barcelona, the club I love, and there is nothing more to say."

Asked whether City would be interested in signing Messi were he to become available, at the age of 34, when his contract expires in June, Guardiola replied: I don't know. It's a question for Leo Messi. I cannot talk about the intentions of other people."

Guardiola's forward line at Molineux will be entirely without Argentinian talent after he confirmed City's record goalscorer Sergio Aguero is yet to resume full training following meniscus surgery in June.

Riyad Mahrez is set to feature after time in isolation following a positive coronavirus test, although centre-back Aymeric Laporte only returned to training from his own COVID-19 absence on Friday, so is a doubt.

That could mean a debut for Nathan Ake at centre-back, one of two major close-season acquisitions for Guardiola, alongside winger Ferran Torres from Valencia.

"So far really good," he said of how Ake and Torres had settled.

"What we have to do with all the players and staff, the people close to them, is to help them to settle as quickly as possible.

"They are two nice people and it's good to have them with us."

City have been extensively linked with a move for Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, with the deal appearing to have stalled over recent weeks.

Nevertheless, Guardiola has no qualms over how his club have backed him in the transfer market.

"Since day one, when I arrived here, I was more than satisfied with what I had in the team," he added.

"The club do absolutely everything to do their best for all of us. I'm a lucky person to have these players and be in this club."

Tottenham could face Chelsea in the fourth round of the EFL Cup, while Liverpool will meet Leicester City or Arsenal if they advance.

With the early rounds of this year's competition packed into the month of September due to the coronavirus pandemic, the fourth-round draw took place on Thursday before next week's third-round fixtures.

The premature process means Spurs and Chelsea each have work to do - against Leyton Orient and Barnsley, respectively - if they are to set up a mouth-watering last-16 meeting.

Former Blues manager Jose Mourinho will hope to guide Tottenham towards their first piece of silverware since 2008, when they won this competition.

With Spurs advancing in the Europa League, they are still on course to play a staggering nine matches before the October international break.

Meanwhile, the pick of the third-round ties takes Arsenal to Leicester, yet the winners are likely to face another difficult fixture as Liverpool will be their opponents if they beat Lincoln City.

Holders Manchester City must beat Bournemouth to reach a trip to either Millwall or Burnley, while Manchester United will go to Preston North End or Brighton and Hove Albion if they get past Luton Town.

 

EFL Cup fourth round draw in full:

Lincoln City or Liverpool v Leicester City or Arsenal
Millwall or Burnley v Manchester City or Bournemouth
West Brom or Brentford v Fulham or Sheffield Wednesday
Fleetwood Town or Everton v West Ham or Hull City
Bristol City or Aston Villa v Stoke City or Gillingham
Leyton Orient or Tottenham v Chelsea or Barnsley
Newport County or Watford v Morecambe or Newcastle United
Preston North End or Brighton and Hove Albion v Luton Town or Manchester United

Gareth Bale is returning to Tottenham.

Linked with a move from Real Madrid after being frozen out, the Wales international was reportedly a target for Manchester United.

But it seems Bale is heading back to Spurs.

 

TOP STORY – BALE TO COMPLETE TOTTENHAM RETURN

Bale is completing a return to Tottenham from Madrid, according to The Daily Mail.

The report says Bale has agreed to a season-long loan deal worth more than £13million, part of which will be financed by Madrid.

It comes as ESPN reported Spurs head coach Jose Mourinho sanctioned the move despite being warned Bale would struggle to meet expectations in the Premier League.

 

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- Staying at Tottenham and Sergio Reguilon will complete a medical at the club on Thursday before sealing a move from Madrid, according to the Evening Standard. The left-back, who was also linked to United, is set to cost around £25m (€27.5m) and the deal will include a buy-back option for LaLiga's champions. Meanwhile, the Mirror reports Danny Rose is set to leave Tottenham and join Genoa.

- Arsenal could be set to make a move for Lyon star Houssem Aouar. Telefoot reports Arsenal are set to make a £36.4m (€40m) offer for Aouar, who is also apparently a target for Manchester City.

- Still linked with a move for Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, United are also apparently targeting other attackers. The Manchester Evening News reports the Red Devils are considering a move for Atalanta's 18-year-old attacker Amad Traore.

- Barcelona may be close to strengthening. The Daily Telegraph claims the Catalan giants are set to sign Ajax defender Sergino Dest, who was also linked to City and Bayern Munich.

- Could Inter make a move for United defender Chris Smalling? The centre-back seemed set to join Roma, where he was on loan last season, but no switch has materalised. Now, CalcioMercato reports Inter could step in and offer one of Ivan Perisic, Marcelo Brozovic or Joao Mario to the Premier League club.

- Leicester City are set to land Cengiz Under from Roma. Fabrizio Romano says a £2.7m (€3m) loan bid with a £21.8m (€24m) obligation to buy the 23-year-old attacker has been accepted.

Manchester City's latest Premier League title pursuit belatedly gets under way at Wolves on Monday.

Prior Champions League involvement saw Pep Guardiola's men sit out the opening weekend of the new season, while their meeting with Wolves is the final fixture of the second round.

City's rivals will have played twice by the time Kevin De Bruyne and Co take to the field, meaning they will be desperate for a fast start at Molineux.

But Wolves beat City twice last term as their championship defence came off the rails.

Do Guardiola's side have a problem with opponents like the high-flying Wanderers? Opta advanced metrics delve deeper...

ARE THREE-MAN DEFENCES AN ISSUE?

Wolves have regularly lined up with a back three since their promotion to the Premier League two years ago, even if the shape in front of that defence occasionally changes.

The ever-present Conor Coady was flanked by Willy Boly and Romain Saiss in a 3-5-2 at the Etihad last term, while Leander Dendoncker joined Coady and Saiss in the back line for a 3-4-3 for the return fixture.

Nuno Espirito Santo's side came out on top in both matches, yet of the nine occasions City faced a three-man defence between the start of last season and January 26, those were the only two defeats for Guardiola's men. They also drew with Atalanta's 3-4-1-2.

However, in the remainder of the season, that statistic was turned on its head. Other teams followed Wolves' lead and City struggled to break down their opponents.

Manchester United's 3-4-1-2 twice toppled City, while Arsenal's 3-4-3 and Lyon's 3-5-2 also secured victories. City scored only once across those four matches and were regularly caught out on the counter.

A 1-0 win at Leicester City - who played 3-5-2 - on February 22 represents the last time City beat a team using a back three.

 

WHAT HAPPENED TO CITY'S PRESS?

Such systems have been particularly prevalent in the Premier League since Antonio Conte's Chelsea won the title in 2016-17, so why are City - champions in 2017-18 and 2018-19 - suddenly struggling?

The season before last, when Guardiola's men held off a challenge from Liverpool, City's pressing clearly led the way.

They ranked top in the division for high turnovers within 40 metres of an opponent's goal (217), high turnovers that led to either shots (43) or goals (nine), pressed sequences where opponents managed three or fewer passes within 40 metres of their own goal (578), the average starting position of their open play attacks (46.1m up the field) and opposition passes allowed per defensive action (10).

Teams like Wolves, who could defend in numbers and aim to counter, would quickly find sky blue shirts in their faces as they tried to launch attacks.

But while City actually improved in some respects in 2019-20, rivals also got to grips with the system. City had 252 high turnovers but were only joint-best in the Premier League. An increase to 587 pressed sequences was merely the third highest tally.

One new area for concern as City pressed their opponents was an inability to capitalise on their high turnovers, meanwhile, scoring only six times despite creating 65 shots.

And now facing an effective press, City increasingly committed costly mistakes at the back. There were 21 defensive errors that led to shots last season, up from 15 the previous campaign, while the number that ended in goals rose from two to a worrying seven.

The defeats to Wolves were littered with loose passes and rash decisions. In the 3-2 at Molineux, Ederson was sent off early and then Raheem Sterling and Benjamin Mendy each lost possession prior to goals.

IS AYMERIC LAPORTE THE KEY?

A calming presence at the back as well as an excellent defender, Aymeric Laporte might prove key to these tricky encounters for City.

The Frenchman was missing for both matches against Wolves, defeats that contribute to a tally of eight in the league when he has been absent since joining the club. By contrast, City have only lost six Premier League matches with Laporte in the side.

His winning percentage is a remarkable 84.7, compared to 61.3 for the team when he is out. City earn 2.6 points per game with Laporte and 2.0 without him.

Laporte scored an equaliser at Wolves in 2018-19, although City could not go on to win on that occasion in the first of a series of well-matched meetings between the sides.

Guardiola has won just 20 per cent - one of five - games against Nuno, his lowest such record against any one coach.

Yet City are not the only elite team to struggle against Wolves, who have taken 28 points over 24 clashes with the 'top six' since returning, a haul only bettered by Liverpool and City themselves. Guardiola's side have been warned.

Borussia Dortmund head coach Lucien Favre is making the same mistakes as Pep Guardiola with his team selection, according to Bayern Munich great Lothar Matthaus.

Dortmund finished 13 points behind Bayern in the Bundesliga last season, with May's 1-0 home loss to Hansi Flick's side proving pivotal in a previously tight title race.

Joshua Kimmich's wonderful chip proved decisive at Signal Iduna Park as Bayern opened up a seven-point lead at the summit that they would only extend.

Favre left attacker Jadon Sancho and Emre Can on the bench until half-time due to fitness concerns, which Matthaus believes proved costly in the grand scheme of things.

And in his latest swipe at Manchester City boss Guardiola, who he described as "egocentric" earlier this month, Matthaus accused Favre of unnecessarily tweaking his side. 

"Not starting Sancho and Emre Can in a top game like against Bayern made the difference in the 1-0 defeat in the second half of the season," he told Sport Bild.

"It reminds me of Pep Guardiola's mistake in the Champions League against Lyon when he put Kevin De Bruyne on the right instead of his regular position."

Dortmund thrashed Duisburg 5-0 in round one of the DFB-Pokal on Monday and take on Borussia Monchengladbach in their opening 2020-21 Bundesliga fixture this weekend.

Despite last term's runners-up keeping hold of most of their key players this window and adding Jude Bellingham, Thomas Meunier and Reinier, Matthaus cannot see past a ninth title in a row for Bayern.

"Dortmund would become champions if Bayern weren't in the Bundesliga," he said.

"Otherwise, BVB need a 100-per-cent season and Bayern to make mistakes at the same time. But it was Favre who made these mistakes last season." 

Could Tottenham and Gareth Bale reunite?

Bale, who left Tottenham for Real Madrid in 2013, is not wanted in the Spanish capital.

While Manchester Untied are reportedly interested, former club Spurs are Bale's preference.

 

TOP STORY – SPURS LEAD BALE RACE

Tottenham are ahead of Premier League rivals Manchester United in the pursuit of Real Madrid outcast Gareth Bale, according to ESPN.

Bale has reportedly been told he can leave Madrid after falling out of favour with head coach Zinedine Zidane.

The Welshman wants to return to former club Tottenham after leaving Spurs for Madrid in 2013 and the Telegraph claims Dele Alli could be included in a deal to bring Bale back to London.

While United's interest is believed to be serious, it all depends on whether they are able to sign number one target and Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Transfer Podcast reports United believe that if they leave final negotiations for Sancho until the last week of the transfer window, Dortmund will eventually cave in and sell the England international. Dortmund have refused to budge on their €120million (£108m) valuation.

- The Mirror claims Arsenal are close to offloading unwanted trio Sead Kolasinac, Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira. Kolasinac has been linked to West Ham, Valencia are considering Guendouzi and Torreira has been tipped to join Torino. The Gunners want to keep full-back Hector Bellerin but he may be sold to Paris Saint-Germain.

Roma are poised to sign Juventus full-back Mattia De Sciglio, reports Fabrizio Romano. It comes as Juve close in on Roma striker Edin Dzeko, while Roma Press says the latter are set to complete the capture of Hellas Verona defender Marash Kumbulla. He had been linked to Inter, Lazio and Juve.

-  Luis Suarez's move to Juve has collapsed, says RAC1. The Barcelona veteran had been tipped to leave Camp Nou for Turin but a delay in an Italian citizenship test has reportedly scuppered the deal. Atletico Madrid are now an option for the Uruguayan.

- The Mail claims Bayern Munich are ready to renew their interest in Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi. The Englishman was linked to Bayern last year before opting to sign a new deal. Now, Hudson-Odoi could swap London for Munich before the October 5 deadline, with Juve also reportedly eyeing the Chelsea star.

- Diario AS reports Turkish giants Fenerbahce are eyeing Atletico's Diego Costa. Fenerbahce just sold striker Vedat Muriqi to Lazio and may use the transfer funds to bring Costa to Istanbul.

United had been favourites to land Sergio Reguilon from Madrid but the Telegraph and widespread reports say Tottenham are poised to sign the Spanish full-back. United have been reluctant to include a buy-back clause in any deal with Madrid.

- According to Sport Bild, Liverpool have contacted Bayern regarding Thiago Alcantara but the asking price is too high. United and Barca are also reportedly interested.

Memphis Depay will reportedly join Barcelona, who are having problems in their pursuit of Lautaro Martinez.

After a trophy-less 2019-20 season, LaLiga giants Barca are rebuilding under Ronald Koeman.

They have been linked with numerous forwards, and one looks set to join as early as this week.

 

TOP STORY – DEPAY TO JOIN BARCELONA

Lyon star Depay will join Barcelona and his €30million move could be announced this week, according to De Telegraaf.

The move would see the forward reunite with his former Netherlands coach Koeman.

Depay scored 15 goals in 22 games for Lyon last season, during which he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona's move for Martinez is more complicated. Sport reports they are waiting for exits before making a move, while Real Madrid and Manchester City are keeping an eye on the forward. Meanwhile, Fabrizio Romano claims Inter will have another meeting with Martinez's agents after the transfer window to extend his contract beyond 2023. It comes as Sport also believes former Paris Saint-Germain star Edinson Cavani has offered his services to Barca.

- Staying at Barcelona, Mundo Deportivo reports they will make a second offer for Eric Garcia. It says they are prepared to pay €15m (£13.9m) for the Manchester City defender, but the Premier League club want €18m (£16.7m). Meanwhile, Marca says Atletico Madrid have rejected a £92.5m (€100m) bid from City for defender Jose Gimenez.

- At Madrid, the attention is on a possible move for Kylian Mbappe next year. AS reports Los Blancos have an advantage over other clubs in their pursuit of the France international due to the forward's admiration for French coach Zinedine Zidane.

- Gareth Bale continues to be linked with Manchester United. The Sun reports United are preparing to make a loan move for the Real Madrid forward, whose high wages have seemingly made an exit from the Santiago Bernabeu difficult.

- United are also poised to make other moves. The Premier League giants are considering a move for Valencia midfielder Uros Racic, according to The Sun, which says the Serbian midfielder could be available for £28million (€30.3m). Meanwhile, Fabrizio Romano claims United are in talks with Sergio Reguilon's agents, but club officials are unwilling to accept Real Madrid retaining a buy-back clause for the left-back.

- Lucas Torreira could be set for the Arsenal exit. CalcioMercato reports Torino have agreed to pay €24m (£22.2m) for the 24-year-old midfielder.

Manchester United may have to wait until Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola leave Liverpool and Manchester City respectively before they win another Premier League title, according to Gary Neville.

Not since legendary manager Alex Ferguson's final campaign at Old Trafford in 2012-13 have United lifted the top-flight crown, finishing in the top two just once since then.

Despite an upturn in form in the second half of last season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side ended 33 points behind dominant champions Liverpool and 15 points adrift of runners-up City.

Klopp ended Liverpool's 30-year wait to finish top of the pile in English football, coming on the back of successive triumphs for City under Guardiola, including a record points haul in 2017-18.

Former United full-back Neville is confident United will add a record-extending 21st title to their list of honours, but only once there has been a changing of the guard at the Etihad Stadium and Anfield.

"The one thing I can guarantee you is that United will win again," he told The Mirror.

"That might not be this year or next year, but it will be amazing when they win again, and the longer it builds up, the greater the actual feeling is when you do it.

"I'm not sitting here, as a United fan, thinking, 'We must win the league this year'. Yes, we'd like to, but you know when it's your time and it's not yet.

"It will be, maybe, when Klopp and Guardiola leave Liverpool and City - hopefully in the next couple of years!

"That will be the chance, as they're two outstanding managers who have built really good teams, but they'll leave in the next one, two or three years.

"That will be the point when United can come back in and capitalise - I'm sure Chelsea are thinking that way as well.”

Neville has been critical of United's transfer business during the close season, having only brought in midfielder Donny van de Beek from Ajax so far.

United have been strongly linked with Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho all window, but Neville suggested four more signings are needed if his old club are to challenge for the title this term.

"That's out of the question for me, if you ask me today, with the squads that they've got," he said.

"If United were to sign two outstanding forwards, an amazing centre-back and a fantastic left-back in the next three weeks, then maybe."

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