File image of Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola.(AFP)
File image of Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola.(AFP)

Pep Guardiola in new territory with English title fight

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss, seven times a league champion in the three countries in which he has managed, takes City to Leicester on Boxing Day trailing leaders Liverpool by four points.
By AFP | Manchester
UPDATED ON DEC 25, 2018 09:20 AM IST

Pep Guardiola ends the calendar year with his Manchester City side embroiled in what has suddenly become a thrilling title race for the first time in his Premier League managerial career.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss, seven times a league champion in the three countries in which he has managed, takes City to Leicester on Boxing Day trailing leaders Liverpool by four points.

There is also now unexpected pressure beneath him, with Tottenham’s superb 6-2 win at Everton having hauled Mauricio Pochettino’s talented side to within two points of City.

It is a far cry from last season when, after 18 games, City held a commanding 11-point lead over second-placed Manchester United and were already, in the eyes of most pundits, as good as champions.

Twelve months earlier, in Guardiola’s first season in English football, City were seven points behind leaders Chelsea at the corresponding stage but in the middle of a run of poor form which would eventually see them end the season in third place, 15 points behind Antonio Conte’s title-winners.

City’s shock 3-2 home defeat by struggling Crystal Palace on Saturday has certainly put a new perspective on the league table heading into the busy holiday period which culminates with current leaders Liverpool visiting the Etihad to face City a week on Thursday (January 3).

For the first time since his days at Barcelona, Guardiola currently finds himself caught up in a potentially tense and exciting title race, with all that entails.

Former Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson, whose Palace side inflicted such an unexpected blow on City at the weekend, believes, however, that Guardiola will have all the necessary perspective to cope with a rare setback.

“Pep Guardiola is a very intelligent guy, it means that they haven’t caught up those four points but he knows there are 20 matches left to play and one of those is going to be against Liverpool,” said Hodgson.

“I don’t think he will be concerned about that and he’ll know that no matter how Liverpool play they will come up against a game like this. They will go somewhere and someone will beat them against the odds. There is a long way to go yet.”

Certainly, Guardiola’s three seasons in Germany offered him little in terms of preparation for a close, down to the wire title race, with Bayern winning the league by at least double digits in points in each of his three seasons -- including 2014 when Munich beat now Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund into second place by a staggering 19 points.

But his four seasons in charge of Barcelona were more competitive, given Barca’s intense rivalry with Real Madrid, although in his first and last seasons he won and lost the league, respectively, by nine points.

In 2009/10, however, Barca pipped Real by just three points -- Guardiola’s closest title race to date -- and retained their crown 12 months later, this time by only four.

Now Guardiola faces several selection dilemmas over a holiday period which also includes a trip to a suddenly resurgent Southampton before the showdown with Klopp.

Holding midfielder Fernandinho missed the Palace defeat with a slight injury concern and proved a major miss, while Guardiola opted to start Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero -- two key attacking players who are returning from injury lay-offs -- on the bench.

The pair are likely starters at Leicester, although their manager will clearly also be looking ahead to the Liverpool game in which victory has now taken on added importance for his side.

Perhaps more alarming for Guardiola was the performance of England right-back Kyle Walker against Palace, with the City defender badly at fault for two of the opposition’s three goals.

The City manager may opt to play John Stones in that position to take Walker out of the firing line.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Barcelona's Gerard Pique holds his knee after getting injured during the the Copa del Rey semifinal, second leg, soccer match between FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday March 3, 2021. (AP)
Barcelona's Gerard Pique holds his knee after getting injured during the the Copa del Rey semifinal, second leg, soccer match between FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday March 3, 2021. (AP)

Barcelona confirm Pique knee injury

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 09:26 PM IST
Injuries have restricted the 34-year-old to just 15 appearances this season and local media have reported that Pique faces a further three weeks on the sidelines.
Close
Barcelona's head coach Ronald Koeman (AP)
Barcelona's head coach Ronald Koeman (AP)

Koeman transforms Barcelona amid club chaos, elections

AP
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 06:51 PM IST
  • Barcelona faces an even bigger hurdle next week when it visits Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League trailing 4-1 from the first leg. But the team can aspire to keep up its positive momentum in the Spanish league.
Close
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League - Round of 16 First Leg - RB Leipzig v Liverpool - Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary - February 16, 2021 General view inside the stadium before the match REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/File Photo(REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League - Round of 16 First Leg - RB Leipzig v Liverpool - Puskas Arena, Budapest, Hungary - February 16, 2021 General view inside the stadium before the match REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/File Photo(REUTERS)

Liverpool vs Leipzig Champions League game moved to Budapest again

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 04:18 PM IST
  • The first leg, originally scheduled to be held at the Red Bull Arena in Germany, was shifted to Budapest after German authorities denied Liverpool entry into the country due to Covid-19 protocols.
Close
Manchester United's Luke Shaw, left, and Crystal Palace's Andros Townsend challenge. (AP)
Manchester United's Luke Shaw, left, and Crystal Palace's Andros Townsend challenge. (AP)

Toothless Man United held to goalless draw at Palace

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 01:28 PM IST
It was a third successive 0-0 draw for United after a stalemate at Chelsea on Sunday and against Real Sociedad last Thursday which completed a 4-0 aggregate win over the Spanish side in the Europa League.
Close
Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes.(AP)
Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes.(AP)

United may not release Fernandes for Portugal duty: Solskjaer

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 01:25 PM IST
Fernandes could face 10 days in isolation on his return from international duty because Portugal falls under the United Kingdom's COVID-19 travel 'red list'.
Close
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta Pool via REUTERS/John Walton(Pool via REUTERS)
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta Pool via REUTERS/John Walton(Pool via REUTERS)

Spurs handed advantage ahead of north London derby, says Arsenal boss Arteta

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 01:21 PM IST
Spurs will now host Zagreb in London, while Arsenal will travel to face Greek champions Olympiakos Piraeus three days before their derby.
Close
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer bumps fists with an assistant referee after the match.(Pool via REUTERS)
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer bumps fists with an assistant referee after the match.(Pool via REUTERS)

Toothless Man United held to goalless draw at Palace

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 08:10 AM IST
Runaway leaders City have 65 points from 27 games and are in a commanding position after second-placed United lacked edge in foggy conditions at Selhurst Park, failing to break down a resolute Palace who had the game's best chances.
Close
Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp: File photo(AP)
Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp: File photo(AP)

Klopp won't allow players to travel if need to quarantine

AP, Liverpool, England
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 11:48 PM IST
Under current coronavirus guidelines, arrivals from countries that Britain regards as high risk are subject to 10 days of hotel confinement.
Close
Paris St Germain's Moise Kean: File photo(REUTERS)
Paris St Germain's Moise Kean: File photo(REUTERS)

PSG striker Kean isolating after testing positive for virus

AP, Paris
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 10:07 PM IST
PSG said that Kean tested positive on Wednesday morning and stayed in Paris while his teammates travelled to Bordeaux for a league game.
Close
Juventus' Weston McKennie(REUTERS)
Juventus' Weston McKennie(REUTERS)

Juventus makes Weston McKennie’s move to Turin permanent

AP, Turin
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 09:34 PM IST
McKennie has been at Juventus since August, after joining on loan from German club Schalke, but the Bianconeri have exercised the option to purchase the player’s full rights.
Close
Mumbai City FC Sergio Lobera(Twitter)
Mumbai City FC Sergio Lobera(Twitter)

Mumbai City FC winning ISL Shield was about being strong mentally: Coach Lobera

By Rutvick Mehta
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 07:48 PM IST
  • In this chat with Hindustan Times, Lobera talks about overcoming the challenges of this unique season and why he doesn’t want to put a limit on how far this Mumbai team can go.
Close
Cristiano Ronaldo: File photo(REUTERS)
Cristiano Ronaldo: File photo(REUTERS)

Ronaldo eyes first Serie A top scorer prize after latest goal landmark

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 05:11 PM IST
The Portuguese forward guided a composed finish past Spezia goalkeeper Ivan Provedel in a 3-0 Serie A win for the Italian champions to mark the 600th league appearance of his career in typical fashion.
Close
Soccer Football - DFB Cup - Quarter Final - Borussia Moenchengladbach v Borussia Dortmund - Borussia-Park, Moenchengladbach, Germany - March 2, 2021 Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates Pool via REUTERS/Ina Fassbender(Pool via REUTERS)
Soccer Football - DFB Cup - Quarter Final - Borussia Moenchengladbach v Borussia Dortmund - Borussia-Park, Moenchengladbach, Germany - March 2, 2021 Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates Pool via REUTERS/Ina Fassbender(Pool via REUTERS)

Jadon Sancho fires Dortmund into German Cup semifinals

PTI
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 12:50 PM IST
Sancho made the breakthrough in the 66th minute on a counterattack after a Gladbach corner. Nico Schulz intercepted a Florian Neuhaus pass and played the ball forward through Erling Haaland and Marco Reus, who sent Sancho on his way. The England forward fired in off the left post.
Close
Lionel Messi waves to fans. (Getty Images)
Lionel Messi waves to fans. (Getty Images)

Will Lionel Messi exit the guild of one-club players this year?

By Bhargab Sarmah, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 08:24 AM IST
  • Barcelona have denied involvement in the scandal but following Monday’s events, the spotlight is back on the club, and it remains to be seen where it leads Messi.
Close
Cristiano Ronaldo has become the first player to score at least 20 goals in each of the last 12 seasons in Europe's top five leagues. (Juventus/Twitter)
Cristiano Ronaldo has become the first player to score at least 20 goals in each of the last 12 seasons in Europe's top five leagues. (Juventus/Twitter)

Ronaldo marks 600th league game with landmark goal as Juventus beat Spezia

Reuters, Turin
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 07:44 AM IST
  • The Portuguese guided in his side's third goal late on after Alvaro Morata and Federico Chiesa had struck earlier in the second half.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP