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Pep tells Man City players: ‘It’s Our Title, Nobody Can Stop Us’

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Pep Guardiola has told his Manchester City players to “relax” in Sunday’s Premier League finale against West Ham and they will lift their fourth consecutive title.

A second-half brace from Erling Haaland ensured City won 2-0 at Tottenham on Tuesday to move back ahead of Arsenal and keep the race in their own hands against West Ham on the final day.

City had to wait until the 51st-minute to break the deadlock and Guardiola urged his team to heed lessons from both their own past and Arsenal’s narrow 1-0 victory at Manchester United last weekend to stay on course for a historic success.

“They were playing for the consequences of the result [in the first half],” said Guardiola. “When you do that you are going to lose the Premier League. You cannot perform to your level.

“They are human beings, I understand the pressure. Not even Arsenal played well against Manchester United, they knew if they did not win there they would not win the Premier League.

“It will be the same on Sunday for us against West Ham. We will feel the pressure. Look at Aston Villa a few seasons ago [2021-22], 2-0 down 15 minutes to go, Sergio Aguero against QPR [in 2011-12], went to 93 minutes [before Aguero scored]. It is normal.

“That is why we talk and say everyone has to relax themselves and do what they have to do, that is all.”

City will win the league by beating West Ham no matter how Arsenal fare against Everton and Guardiola added: “We know what we’re playing for. The tension is there, the rival is so good. It’s why it is difficult, we know that.

“Everyone come to the stadium and make noise. These games are more difficult but you have to do it. We’ll have one day off, two days to prepare, and then we will do our best.”

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European Leagues

Anfield awash with emotion as Klopp says farewell

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Anfield awash with emotion as Klopp says farewell

Jurgen Klopp punctuated his opening-day mission statement as Liverpool manager by insisting it is not important what people think about you when you arrive, the true measure of achievement is what they think about you when you leave.

As a beaming Klopp disappeared down the tunnel for the final time as Liverpool manager in front of packed stands at 6.46pm on a glorious Merseyside Sunday night, the German was in no doubt about Anfield’s feelings.

Klopp, clad in a red T-shirt with ‘I’ll Never Walk Alone Again’ on the rear and ‘Thank You Luv’ – the phrase he closely associates with the city of Liverpool – on the front, was accompanied by roars of appreciation, smiles and plenty of tears.

It was the finale of a nine-year thrill ride summed up by a banner stretching across the full length of The Kop before kick-off that provided a neat three-word summary of Klopp’s reign from first day to last.

“Doubters. Believers. Conquerors.”

Liverpool ended a season that brought third place and a Carabao Cup with a 2-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers that gave Klopp his 299th victory in 491 games. Of 167 league games at Anfield, he lost only 12.

This was a football match that took place around Klopp, not in front of him.

Indeed, until the celebrations and tributes kicked into gear near the final whistle, the normally highly animated, often agitated, manager was a low-key figure.

Klopp did not stalk the technical area, instead sitting alongside his loyal, long-time lieutenant Peter Krawietz, seemingly content to just take in the closing 90 minutes at the place where he has built a legend.

This was the day when Liverpool and their supporters wanted nothing other than to pay homage to Klopp, his crowning achievements being winning the Champions League in 2019 – the club’s sixth win in the competition – then bringing the league title back to Anfield for the first time in 30 years the following year.

From the moment thousands of Liverpool fans basked in the sunshine on Anfield Road hours before kick-off waiting to greet Klopp one last time as he took his seat at the front of the team coach, this was an occasion that went through the full range of emotions he has brought to the club.

As soon as foot was set inside Anfield, the playlist set the tone with All Things Must Pass by George Harrison followed by The Monkees’ I’m A Believer – another reference to Klopp’s “we must turn doubters into believers” message in his opening address.

There was even a somewhat suspect German version of The Beatles’ I Feel Fine, the anthem adopted by Liverpool’s fans as I’m So Glad Jurgen Is A Red.

Klopp looked emotional as Anfield belted out You’ll Never Walk Alone, owner John W Henry flying in from Boston, impassive behind his sunglasses, to take a seat in the directors’ box shortly before kick-off, wanting to deliver his own personal thanks to the man who helped him fulfil the dreams he had for Liverpool.

Three sides of Anfield were transformed by mosaics – ‘Danke’ in the Anfield Road, ‘Jurgen’ stretching the expanse of the Sir Kenny Dalglish Stand, with ‘YNWA’ on The Kop.

Klopp stayed seated, head bowed, clad in a black baseball cap and black T-shirt. The final act of a dramatic sporting story had begun.

In reality, the game was little more than a pleasant backdrop to the Klopp farewell – first-half goals from Alex Mac Allister and Jarell Quansah giving Liverpool a deserved 2-0 win.

And then it was time for the finale all Anfield had been waiting for.

Seconds from the final whistle, Klopp stood up and went along his backroom team one by one, all grabbed in the familiar bearhug.

His only mis-step all afternoon was going slightly too early through a guard of honour formed by Liverpool’s players and officials, but no matter – he did another lap for good measure before approaching a platform of club dignitaries to thunderous roars and applause.

He made his way down a line including Henry, chief executive Billy Hogan, chairman Tom Werner and club legend Sir Kenny Dalglish before receiving a presentation recording the honours he has brought to Anfield.

Klopp delivered a pre-recorded message on giant screens to Borussia Dortmund’s supporters when he left the club, after breaking down in tears when he addressed fans on leaving Mainz.

No such worries this time.

Anfield has no screens but this was no problem for Klopp, who was in boisterous mood as he took the microphone.

He said “I’m so happy. I can’t believe it” before bursting into song as an instrument for passing the Liverpool torch from himself to soon-to-be-annointed successor Arne Slot.

Simply replacing his own name with Slot’s, Klopp told Anfield what they must do when the Dutchman arrives, singing: “Arne Slot, na na na na na” to the tune of Opus’ Live Is Life.

As with all Klopp’s demands, expect them to follow to the letter.

If Slot was watching, he may have felt daunted by the task of replacing a manager and personality plenty believe is irreplaceable but he would have been hugely grateful for such an endorsement from his predecessor, even if it was a musical one.

Preaching to the most converted fanbase in football, Klopp said: “We have you, the superpower of world football. We decide if we are worried or excited. We decide if we believe. We decide if we trust or don’t trust and since today I am one of you and I keep believing in you.”

And then it was time for one final round of Klopp fist pumps in front of The Kop, this time accompanied by his support staff, met with the usual staccato roars.

Anfield demanded one final encore of a scene acted out at the end of so many triumphs. Klopp obliged – six for The Kop and three for the surrounding stands.

“I love you to bits,” shouted Klopp, who delivering an optimistic parting shot as he said: “It doesn’t feel like an end. It just feels like a start. Today I saw a football team full of talent, youth, creativity, desire and greed.”

As Klopp pulled out of Anfield late on Sunday night and left Liverpool behind after his long farewell, the curtain closed on an era.

The murals adorning the sides of houses close to Anfield will remain as reminders of the seismic impact Jurgen Klopp had on Liverpool – but the man who made doubters believers was gone.

Culled from BBC 

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How Pep Guardiola turns Man City into PL’s great untouchables

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Manchester City's domination of the domestic game is now so all-consuming that a historic fourth successive Premier League title

Manchester City’s domination of the domestic game is now so all-consuming that a historic fourth successive Premier League title is treated like an inevitable matter of routine.

City went into the final game of the season ahead for the sixth time in seven seasons needing only a win over West Ham United to lift the crown once more – and they duly delivered.

In doing so, Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering team once again proved they are the great untouchables of the Premier League.

They appear impervious to normal pressures – and the fact they have rewritten the record books will barely provoke excessive comment or deep-dive analysis. It was expected. The seismic shock would have been failure to complete their mission.

It is a stretch to say Manchester City have become so aligned with success that these unprecedented feats are met with a shrug of the shoulders, but the fact they have won 19 and drawn four of 23 league games since losing at Aston Villa in December has surprised very few.

This is where the elephant in the room must be mentioned because every City success will be accompanied by the narrative that they still face 115 Premier League charges for alleged financial irregularities – charges the club are at pains to stress they strenuously deny.

It is 15 months since those charges were levelled at the club. Unless and until there is clarity and a verdict, City will always be subjected to this outside noise and suspicion every time they win a trophy.

If the measure is football, however, there are no arguments.

Liverpool managed to overcome them in a 2019-20 season interrupted by the Covid pandemic, Jurgen Klopp’s outstanding side prevailing with a mammoth 18-point margin, taking the title back to Anfield for the first time in 30 years.

In those other years, Liverpool and, in the past two seasons, Arsenal have reached out but not quite been able to lay the decisive blow on this peerless, magnificent football machine.

Liverpool under Klopp have been outstanding but not outstanding enough. The same now applies to Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal.

City’s trademark end-of-season surge – the type of which broke Arsenal hearts as it did Liverpool’s before them – is now simply akin to muscle memory kicking in.

They denied Liverpool twice on the final day of the season, winning 4-1 at Brighton to win the title by one point in 2018-19 then, amid stunning drama and scenes of near hysteria, came from 2-0 down with 14 minutes left to beat Aston Villa in 2021-22 to pip Klopp’s side by a single point.

If this was a habit started by predecessors Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini in 2011-12 and 2013-14 respectively, Guardiola and his players have perfected it to something resembling normal service.

City’s team is sprinkled with world-class talent in all areas, from the lethal marksmanship of Erling Haaland to creator supreme Kevin de Bruyne, both now joined in that bracket by Phil Foden, with 27 goals from midfield this season.

De Bruyne and Haaland both suffered lengthy injury absences this season – in particular the Belgian, who required hamstring surgery after the first league game at Burnley – but if the big hitters needed assistance it was always there.

Josko Gvardiol was signed from RB Leipzig in a £77m deal with a reputation as a future great central defender after his performances for Croatia in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. He has since been deployed as a left-back and left wing-back with a goalscoring instinct, as shown with two in the 4-0 win at Fulham and another in the victory at Nottingham Forest.

And when Ederson has been missing in goal, Stefan Ortega has impressed to such an extent that his astonishing cameo in the 2-0 win at Tottenham that left City one win from glory will be reflected upon as a title-winning contribution.

Son Heung-min looked certain to score and perhaps give Arsenal the initiative in the title race as he closed in with only Ortega to beat. The keeper’s extended right leg saved City – the importance of the moment illustrated as Guardiola threw himself flat on his back in the technical area in relief, advancing on to the pitch at the final whistle to plant a kiss on Ortega’s cheek.

This was an all-for-one and one-for-all title win.

City’s summer 2023 recruitment has yet to bear full fruit – with Jeremy Doku a raw material and Matheus Nunes yet to flourish after a £53m move from Wolves – and there have been times when they have looked more vulnerable than usual over the course of the season – but look who are champions again, as the song belted out by their supporters says.

Above all, it is the manner in which Guardiola’s players have once again been able to cope with the finest margins of the title race without blinking while applying psychological pressure to rivals who know just one slip will prove costly.

In 2018-19, City put together a sequence of 14 straight wins to pip Liverpool. Klopp’s side got 97 points and only lost one game – to the eventual champions – but it was still not enough. It was a similar margin in 2021-22.

City’s roll this season took Arsenal down, even though the race went to the final game – Arsenal’s one slip in the run-in being a 2-0 home defeat by Aston Villa. Give this City side an inch, and a mile is the very least they will take.

Guardiola’s team are gloriously gifted and have a mental steel to withstand the pinch points from the season, capable of long runs to the finishing line that are simply beyond those wishing to unseat them.

The bad news for the likes of Arsenal – so close for the past two seasons – and Liverpool as they enter the Arne Slot era is City’s insatiable desire for trophies has not been satisfied by constant success. It is as sharp as ever, which could give them a third domestic league and FA Cup double if they beat Manchester United in a repeat of last season’s final at Wembley.

Manchester City may not have been able to repeat last season’s piece of history when they became only the second English club to win the Treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup but this campaign has reaffirmed their status as the major power in the English game.

Credit: BBC

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Juventus fire Allegri after cup final antics

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Juventus have sacked Massimiliano Allegri two days after he led the side to the Italian Cup. The Turin side beat Atalanta 1-0 in Rome,

Juventus have sacked Massimiliano Allegri two days after he led the side to the Italian Cup.

The Turin side beat Atalanta 1-0 in Rome, but Allegri was sent off late on for ranting at match officials and waving away sporting director during the celebrations.

The Italian Football Federation’s disciplinary tribunal has launched an investigation into Allegri.

And yesterday ,Juventus confirmed he was no longer their boss.

“The dismissal follows certain behaviors during and after the Italian Cup final which the club deemed incompatible with the values of

Juventus and with the behavior that those who represent it must adopt,” a statement read.

Juve’s 1-0 win over Atalanta, thanks to Dusan Vlahovic’s early goal, gave Allegri a record fifth Coppa Italia as a manager.

“If I am no longer the Juventus coach next year, I will leave a strong team. The club will make its evaluations,” he said in the post-match news conference.

Even before his antics at the Stadio Olimpico, the 56-year-old had been expected to lose his job and be replaced by Bologna coach Thiago Motta.

But now he will not be there for the final two Serie A games against Bologna and Monza.

“The company wishes Massimiliano Allegri good luck in his future projects,” ended the statement..

Allegri was in charge of Juventus from 2014 until 2019, winning the title in each of his five seasons, as well as four Italian Cups and reaching the Champions League final twice.

He left by mutual consent at the end of the 2018-19 season – and did not work again for two years, until he was re-appointed as Juventus manager at the start of 2021-22.

However his second spell failed to live up to the first and Wednesday’s Italian Cup was their only silverware in that time.

They finished fourth and seventh in his two full seasons – and currently sit fourth.

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