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Guardiola delivers worrying De Bruyne verdict after congratulating Chelsea

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Guardiola delivers worrying De Bruyne verdict after congratulating Chelsea

Pep Guardiola congratulated Chelsea after they knocked his Manchester City side out of the FA Cup before admitting that an injury to Kevin De Bruyne “doesn’t look good”.

City were hoping to reach the FA Cup final as they hunted down a quadruple of trophies. But Guardiola has always insisted that target is overambitious and they fell at this hurdle to rule at least one of those trophies out. Chelsea won 1-0 in their semi-final meeting.

It was City’s second defeat of their last three games. Although it would take something major to derail them in the Premier League title race, their hopes of FA Cup glory are now over.

The game was hardly a classic but Chelsea still did enough to overcome Guardiola’s side. Hence, the City boss praised his opponents for their victory in a tight game.

He told BBC Sport: “We played a good last 15 minutes. We had struggled to find our place in the pockets but congratulates Chelsea, tight game.

“We arrived sometimes in that position but after that we didn’t create.

“We conceded the goal but after we reacted well, especially after Phil Foden and Ilkay Gundogan came in. The team that defends with eight players in the final third it is not easy. This type of game the margin is so tight.

“In general we controlled well. We didn’t create many clear cut chances but we arrived more than them.”

One of the biggest concerns for Guardiola will be the fitness of De Bruyne. City’s main man limped off with what appeared to be an ankle injury early in the second half.

Guardiola admitted: “It doesn’t look good, he has pain.

“We will see. Tomorrow he will have a test.”


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Guardiola shifts focus

City will get to return to Wembley next week for the EFL Cup final against Tottenham. Hence, they could still win plenty of silverware this season.

Therefore, Guardiola will be eager to move on from this disappointment as he battles for the other two domestic trophies on offer.

He concluded: “I know how we reacted in the second half and it was good. We have not had a midweek free for eight months.

“We have played a lot of games and it will continue. Now it is the Premier League, the Carabao Cup next week. It’s just one more game.”

READ MORETuchel explains secret to Chelsea clean sheet after ‘fantastic’ win over Man City

Tuchel explains secret to Chelsea clean sheet after win over Man City

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Tuchel explains secret to Chelsea clean sheet after win over Man City

Thomas Tuchel emphasised how hard Chelsea worked to not only beat Manchester City but keep a clean sheet against them.

Chelsea reached the FA Cup final by beating City 1-0 at Wembley via a Hakim Ziyech goal. They also had two further goals correctly ruled out for offside. Overall, they fully deserved their place in the final as they became the team to end City’s quadruple dream.

It was another marker of how much they have progressed since Tuchel took charge in late January. This was the first time he has ever outwitted Pep Guardiola as a manager and Chelsea now have a cup final to look forward to.

Facing the winners of Sunday’s other semi-final between Leicester and Southampton, Chelsea will go into that game as the favourites. If they can play at a similar level to the one they managed against City, they will fancy their chances.

Indeed, Tuchel was extremely proud to see how his players stepped up against the champions elect.

He told BBC Sport: “It was a very, very strong performance. Very happy and proud.

“We played an excellent 35 minutes in the first half. We had to suffer for 10 minutes. We then played another 30 minutes so strong and got the lead, could have got another.

“It was a very strong performance and I am very proud of my team. Very happy they performed to this level today. I am happy. Everybody who is on the pitch needs to perform.

“A good defence is also having the ball and ball possession. It is a very good clean sheet. We were not lucky to escape with a clean sheet, we worked hard for it.

“The guys are ready to cover for each other if anyone loses a duel. We wanted to be brave today with the ball and against the ball and we did it. So happy.

“It feels fantastic because we were playing the best team in Europe right now and we managed to close the gap for 90 minutes. We played a very strong first 35 minutes and in the second half another strong half an hour.

“At the end of each half we had to suffer and we also needed a bit of luck but it was a deserved win. I am so proud because it is so hard against City, you have to be on your top level. It was a quality performance.”


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Tuchel explains Ziyech goal

Chelsea’s winner came from a combination between two of their summer signings who have been suffering with mixed form. Timo Werner set up Hakim Ziyech for a tap in that will boost both their confidences.

Tuchel was impressed with the way they linked up to break the deadlock.

He said: “It was very nicely played. We escaped the pressure and we had a deep run from Mason [Mount] and the run from Timo.

“Hakim could finish from Timo’s delivery which was crucial because it was decisive.

“We had a big chance with Timo, a big chance with Ziyech and two offside goals, so it would have been possible to be more calm in that last 15 minutes but I like the effort and hard work.

“It was a good mix between ball possession and defending.”

READ MOREZiyech pinpoints reason for slow start and admits difference under Tuchel

Torres was anonymous in City FA Cup defeat

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Torres was anonymous in City FA Cup defeat

Manchester City’s hopes of completing the quadruple this season were ended on Saturday evening as they crashed out of the FA Cup at the hands of Chelsea.

Hakim Ziyech’s second half goal was enough to separate the two sides at Wembley, with a much-changed City side lacking any sort of attacking rhythm against Thomas Tuchel’s men, who could have won more comfortably if not for disallowed goals from Ziyech and Christian Pulisic.

Pep Guardiola opted to rest a number of first team regulars such as John Stones, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva at Wembley and frankly, the starting XI he put out did little to justify that decision.

One man who was particularly poor in the semi-final was Spanish winger Ferran Torres, who was given a rare opportunity to start by his manager. As per SofaScore, the 21-year-old earned a disappointing 6.2/10 rating for his performance, which was comfortably the worst of any player who started the game.

Was Torres City’s worst performer?

Yes

No

No

Whilst the young winger, who signed from Valencia in the summer, has popped up with nine goals and three assists in all competitions in his debut season for City, his overall performances have often been little to write home about.

Unfortunately, he went missing when asked to play on the big occasion by Guardiola, registering just 16 touches of the ball whilst he was on the pitch and contributing just 10 passes. For context, City goalkeeper Zack Steffen had 36 touches and complete 28 of his 29 passes, which emphasises just how little Torres was involved.

The Spanish international also failed to contribute a single shot, key pass or dribble in his 64 minutes on the pitch, whilst he won just one of his seven duels during the match, so it was no surprise to see him hauled off by Guardiola in the second half.

Foden, who came on a second-half substitute, contributed more dribbles, shots and key passes than Torres, so it is clear that the 21-year-old was way below-par. When he has featured in the Premier League this season, he has averaged 1.5 shots, 0.6 key passes and 0.8 dribbles per game, which again demonstrates just how poor he was in the semi-final this evening.

Guardiola will surely be frustrated that a player who didn’t feature in midweek was so poor on Saturday, and Torres clearly has a long way to go before he can be considered good enough to be a first team regular at City.

In other news… City handed huge boost in race for £31.5m-rated beast following Fabrizio Romano claim

Celtic: Dane Murray is one to watch

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Celtic’s predicted XI to face Livingston

This season has been a torrid affair for everyone at Celtic, no less than Neil Lennon.

Their capitulation this term led to his departure and there were no shortage of reasons as to why he left Parkhead.

They have lost their dominance on Scottish football and performances, certainly from a defensive point of view, have been lacklustre.

Though, one issue lying slightly beneath the surface is a lack of minutes for their younger players. Cameron Harper has left the club while Karamoko Dembele could follow him through the exit door this summer when his contract expires.

As a result, a host of their talented reserve players have headed out on loan. Luca Connell is spending the second half of the campaign on loan at Queen’s Park while talented Norwegian Leo Hjelde is with Ross County until the climax of the season.

The centre-back has already been compared to both Virgil van Dijk and Kristoffer Ajer but his development for now, is clearly best suited away from the Hoops.

Who is the better prospect?

Murray

Hjelde

Hjelde

One player who has earned the trust of coaches at Celtic, however, is Dane Murray. Another 17-year-old defender, he is now training with the senior team.

There is no loan spell in the pipeline for Murray but such is his immense potential that he’s already getting used to his surroundings among the first team squad at Lennoxtown.

He has trained under John Kennedy on a number of occasions now, a period he’s described as “brilliant.”

After penning new terms with Celtic, Murray spoke this month about his development and transition to playing alongside more experienced players.

“Everything about your game comes on more when you train with the first-team,” he began. “The standard and intensity are much higher. Everyone helps you along every step of the way and they’re constantly giving you information. They just want the best for you really.”

The teenager is clearly being guided by the right people and he has been extremely keen to learn from someone like Ajer.

The Norway international came to Scotland as a teenager and has developed into one of Celtic’s key players.

“You also have Kris Ajer who came in at 17 and look at him now. The change he’s made has been brilliant,” Murray explained.

“Then you have the club captain Scott Brown. What he’s done in his career has been brilliant and I can only hope for even half of that,” he added.

It’s not just the age at which Ajer and Murray broke into the set-up that’s similar, however. The latter started out as a midfielder and is still very much capable of playing further forward, as well as in defence.

Ajer has played in a holding role in the past and has also performed admirably at full-back. Versatility like that, particularly at a young age, is a very useful asset to have.

With that in mind, it might make the transition to first team life a little smoother for Murray.

Unlike Hjelde, he has been trusted to stay at the club and develop. That can only be a good thing.

AND in other news, Celtic may be on the verge of repeating Deila’s costly blunder, fans should be fuming…

Man City quadruple dream over as Ziyech sends Chelsea into FA Cup final

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Man City quadruple dream over as Ziyech sends Chelsea into FA Cup final

Manchester City’s dreams of a quadruple came to an end as Chelsea claimed a 1-0 win at Wembley to reach the FA Cup final.

City have been competing on four fronts this season with many expecting them to fight for all the trophies on offer. But one of those has now been ruled out after Chelsea continued their resurgence under Thomas Tuchel to win their semi-final match-up.

Tuchel made three changes to his Chelsea lineup from the side that sealed Champions League progression in midweek. Kepa Arrizabalaga, Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner all came in.

As for City, only three players kept their places from their most recent European exploits. Only Ruben Dias, Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne remained from Pep Guardiola’s midweek selection.

Two of the players brought in by Chelsea combined to put the ball in the back of the net early on. Werner set up Ziyech, who slotted it home.

However, the goal was ruled out for offside. Even so, it would have a confidence boost for the two summer signings.

City’s first attempt was a curled effort from outside the box from Gabriel Jesus. However, it was at a comfortable range for Kepa.

Chelsea had started the strongest, and another chance came when Ziyech slid the ball to Reece James out wide. James crossed for his opposite full-back Ben Chilwell, who failed to connect cleanly on the volley.

James had a go himself when the ball fell to him on the edge of the box after a corner. However, his effort sailed wide of the post.

City ended the half with a flurry of chances, with Cesar Azpilicueta having to block a cross to concede a corner. From the resulting set piece, the ball eventually came to Fernandinho, but the City skipper headed it wide.

Chelsea take lead 10 mins into second half

In a blow to City’s chances, De Bruyne was forced off with an ankle injury early in the second half.

Not long after, Werner and Ziyech combined again to give Chelsea the lead – and this time it stood.

City keeper Zack Steffen tried to close the space as Werner drove down the wing, but he left a gap behind him. The German forward played it across for his teammate, who was left with a tap in.

Ziyech could have doubled the lead when he got in behind Dias, but this time Steffen made himself big and kept the ball out.

City began to up the pressure and Dias headed the ball over the bar after a corner.

At this stage, Chelsea were pinned back, but were still seeking a second goal via a counter attack. For example, Werner carried the ball forward on one foray but ran out of steam.

At the other end, Rodri tried to shoot through a sea of bodies from outside the box, with little success.

Next, Raheem Sterling fired over from close range as City kept up the pressure – but with no end product.

Chelsea thought they had put daylight between themselves and City when Christian Pulisic fired home in stoppage time. But he was offside, so it didn’t count.

City tried to get it back upfield but they could not find a way to get past Kepa, meaning Chelsea will be the ones to return to Wembley for the FA Cup final. They will find out on Sunday whether they will play Leicester or Southampton in the showpiece event.

 

Leeds eye Ajax’s Nicolas Tagliafico

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Leeds eye Ajax’s Nicolas Tagliafico

According to reports, Leeds are interested in signing Ajax defender Nicolas Tagliafico.

What’s the story?

With Gjanni Alioski set to leave Marcelo Bielsa’s side in the summer once his contract expires – there have even been suggestions that he has agreed a pre-contract with Turkish Super Lig giants Galatasaray – it’s no surprise that the Premier League club appear to be on the look-out for a new left-back.

Should Leeds sign Tagliafico?

Yes!

No!

No!

Dutch journalist Valentijn Driessen revealed during the broadcast of Ajax’s Europa League clash against AS Roma on Thursday night that the Whites “would like to have” the 28-year-old.

Bielsa’s game-changer

Since joining from Argentinian side Independiente, the £22.5m-rated Tagliafico has established himself as a key part of Ajax’s line-up, even helping them reach the Champions League semi-finals just a couple of seasons ago.

Dubbed as “fierce” and someone who “works hard”, he has got the kind of attacking instincts as a left-back which would surely please Bielsa. A profile done by Football.London revealed: “In Argentina, Tagliafico is regarded as the heir to Zanetti because of his lung-busting stamina, excellent technique and continuous attacking threat.”

With a decent record of 13 goals and 18 assists in 135 games for Ajax as a left-back, it’s the 28-year-old’s underlying numbers which really stand out and make him someone who could be a game-changer for Bielsa.

As per WhoScored, Tagliafico averages far more shots, key passes, dribbles and crosses per game in league football than Alioski has done this season, and is comfortably better than him defensively, too. While the two players are evenly-matched for tackles made, it’s the Argentine who wins when it comes to interceptions and clearances, while also being dribbled past on fewer occasions.

Having a marauding left-back like Tagliafico – who this season was recorded by UEFA as having a faster sprint speed than Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi – could add a whole new dimension to Leeds’ attacks and ensure that Bielsa’s side aren’t just looking to the likes of Patrick Bamford and Raphinha for attacking inspiration.

Meanwhile, Leeds must unleash this academy starlet…

Murphy vs Walcott – who should Saints sign?

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Murphy vs Walcott - who should Saints sign?

Southampton have been linked with a move for Newcastle United winger Jacob Murphy recently, but who would be the better permanent signing between him and Theo Walcott?

Theo Walcott

Walcott has spent this season on loan with Southampton and is widely expected to complete a permanent move to Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side in the summer, having won over the Austrian with his performances this season.

The Athletic claimed that the Saints are looking to complete a deal for the 32-year-old this summer, despite him managing just two goals and three assists in 17 Premier League starts so far this season.

The former Arsenal man would bring a wealth of experience with him and already knows the squad and manager well, but given that he will turn 33 next season, he may prove to be a relatively short-term option for the Saints.

Who would you rather sign this summer?

Murphy

Walcott

Walcott

Jacob Murphy

According to Football Insider, Southampton are keen on signing the Newcastle United winger this summer, and the Toon could accept an offer as low as £3m for his services.

The 26-year-old has impressed in his recent performances at right wing-back, so he would offer Hasenhuttl some versatility in his squad and potentially some cover for Kyle Walker-Peters.

Murphy has two goals and two assists in the top flight this season and is only one goal contribution behind Walcott, despite making significantly fewer starts (10) than the Saints winger and playing in a much more defensive role.

Who would be the better signing?

Despite Walcott most likely being available on a free transfer this summer, he reportedly earns £100,000 per week at Everton, so he could cost Southampton a lot of money in wages if he makes the permanent switch to St Mary’s.

Murphy reportedly earns £25,000 per week at Newcastle, so whilst the Saints may have to pay the £3m fee to bring him in, he would be significantly cheaper in terms of wages.

The Newcastle United man would also be more of a long-term option in Hasenhuttl’s side and offers much more versatility than Walcott, who arguably no longer possesses the pace to play as a central striker. That latter attribute is something which Murphy could offer in spades.

Therefore, rather than breaking Hasenhuttl’s transfer policy to bring in a player such as Walcott who is perhaps well past his best, the Austrian manager should focus Southampton’s resources on signing Murphy this summer.

In other news… Gao Jisheng could be set for huge Southampton blow as European giants eye “exceptional” gem 

Flick tells Bayern he wants to leave as Tottenham target linked with role

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Hans Dieter Flick TEAMtalk

Hansi Flick has confirmed that he has told Bayern Munich that he wants to leave at the end of the season.

Flick did an outstanding job after coming in as Bayern head coach midway through last season. He eventually guided them to the Bundesliga title, German cup and Champions League. However, it seems this season could be his last.

There has been plenty of speculation about his future since Joachim Low announced he would be leaving Germany at the end of their Euro 2020 campaign.

Flick was Low’s assistant between 2006 and 2014, leaving after Germany’s World Cup success in that final year.

His move into club football has been very successful, with Bayern currently on course to retain their title. However, it appears that adventure will soon come to an end.

His relationship with sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has soured recently. With both pulling in different directions, Flick has come to a breaking point.

Flick has now told reporters that he intends to leave Bayern in the summer, one year before the end of his contract.

“The situation is I told the team today that I informed the club during the week that I wanted to get out of my contract at the end of the season,” Flick told Sky Germany.

In turn, this could lead to further speculation about Jurgen Klopp’s future at Liverpool. The Reds boss has been linked with the Bayern post before.

Klopp however maintains he will see out his contract with Liverpool, which still runs until 2024.

Instead, Bayern will reportedly make RB Leipzig boss Julian Naglesmann their top target to take over.

Nagelsmann is one of the most promising young coaches in Europe and has been outlined as a possible replacement for Jose Mourinho at Tottenham Hotspur. However, it seems he will stay in Germany.

Dayot Upamecano has already agreed to join Bayern from Leipzig and it seems his manager may make the same move. Bayern first must come to an agreement with Leipzig, though, which won’t be easy.


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Tottenham still an option for Nagelsmann

Indeed, Bild journalist Christian Falk has revealed that Leipzig would rather their manager moves abroad when he leaves.

Falk said: “It’s clear his [Mourinho’s] hours are counting down.

“It is no secret that Brendan Rodgers was actually the dream solution, but he has a contract with Leicester until 2025, so he is not available.

“Therefore, they [Tottenham] sound out the market and Julian Nagelsmann is a name that comes up again and again.

“I heard in Leipzig that if Bayern call, they won’t give him away because they don’t want to let him leave for their direct rivals in Germany, but if they call from England, I heard they might be willing to talk.

“If they pay a transfer fee and Tottenham have the money, it’s possible.”