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

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Manchester City are “throwing everything” at their legal battle with the Premier League because they “fear expulsion” in an

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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Euro 2024

All you need to know about Euro 2024

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Held in Germany, Euro 2024 will officially begin on Friday, 14 June 2024 at the Allianz Arena, home of Bayern Munich. Scotland will be the

BBC Sport provides the lowdown on all the key details for Euro 2024.

When will the tournament start?
Held in Germany, Euro 2024 will officially begin on Friday, 14 June 2024 at the Allianz Arena, home of Bayern Munich. Scotland will be the team facing the hosts in the first match to kick off the tournament.

It will continue for a month and conclude on Sunday, 14 July at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.

This will be the first time that Germany has hosted the tournament since reunification, with the 1988 edition held in West Germany.

Who are the favourites?

At the time of writing, England are favourites at 7/2 and France 4/1 with the bookmakers, while hosts Germany are 5/1.

The next closest is Spain at 8/1, while Scotland are 100/1 to go all the way.

What are the groups?
Group A: Germany, Scotland, Hungary, Switzerland

Group B: Spain, Croatia, Italy, Albania

Group C: Slovenia, Denmark, Serbia, England

Group D: Poland, Netherlands, Austria, France

Group E: Belgium, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine

Group F: Turkey, Georgia, Portugal, Czech Republic

What is the format?
The format will be the same as for Euro 2020.

The top two teams in each group will progress to the round of 16, along with the four best third-placed finishers.

How can I watch it?
BBC and ITV will share broadcasting coverage of Euro 2024 in the UK, following the pattern that was in place for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and previous European Championships.

Where are England and Scotland going to be playing?
England’s group-stage matches: 16 June v Serbia in Gelsenkirchen (20:00 BST), 20 June v Denmark in Frankfurt (17:00 BST), 25 June v Slovenia in Cologne (20:00 BST).

Who could they meet in the knockouts?
If England top Group C, they will face one of the third-placed teams from Group D, E or F in the last 16.

The Three Lions would face the winner of Group A in the last 16 if they finish second in the group.

If Scotland top Group A they’ll face the second-placed team from Group C, so one of England, Denmark, Slovenia and Serbia.

Should Steve Clarke’s side finish second, they’ll face the second-placed team from Group B, so one of Spain, Albania, Croatia and Italy.

Both sides could also progress as one of the four best third-placed teams in the group stage.

Who are the form teams?
Coming into the tournament, six teams were unbeaten during qualifying – France, England, Portugal, Belgium, Romania and Hungary.

Portugal are the only side who won every match, ending qualifying having scored 36 goals and conceding only two.

Spain and Scotland lost only one match, while Turkey and Austria also qualified with equally impressive records.

Despite Portugal winning every single qualifying match, they did not have the top goalscorer across these games. That was Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku, who notched 14 goals in eight matches for Belgium.

Which stadiums might we see?

The aforementioned Allianz Arena and Olympiastadion will both be seen throughout the tournament but there are 10 host cities in total, including Cologne and Dortmund.

Signal Iduna Park, home of Borussia Dortmund’s ‘yellow wall’, will host matches in Groups B, D and F, while also being selected as one of the venues for the last 16 and the semi-finals.

Here is the full list of venues for the tournament:

Berlin: Olympiastadion (70,000 capacity)

Cologne: Cologne Stadium (47,000),

Dortmund: BVB Stadion Dortmund (66,000)

Dusseldorf: Dusseldorf Arena (47,000)

Frankfurt: Frankfurt Arena (48,000)

Gelsenkirchen: Arena AufSchalke (50,000)

Hamburg: Volksparkstadion Hamburg (50,000)

Leipzig: Leipzig Stadium (42,000)

Munich: Munich Football Arena (67,000)

Stuttgart: Stuttgart Arena (54,000)

Are there any key omissions?
Manchester City forward Erling Haaland and Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard will play no part in the competition in the summer as Norway failed to qualify.

In the same group as Spain and Scotland, they didn’t accumulate enough points to gain an automatic spot and cannot qualify via the play-offs either.

Sweden are another notable nation that will not play a part in Germany, failing to qualify for the first time since 1996.

When are the Euro 2024 fixtures?
Friday, 14 June

Germany v Scotland (20:00 – Group A)

Saturday, 15 June

Hungary v Switzerland (14:00 – Group A)

Spain v Croatia (17:00 – Group B)

Italy v Albania (20:00 – Group B)

Sunday, 16 June

Poland v Netherlands (14:00 – Group D)

Slovenia v Denmark (17:00 – Group C)

Serbia v England (20:00 – Group C)

Monday, 17 June

Romania v Ukraine (14:00 – Group E)

Belgium v Slovakia (17:00 – Group E)

Austria v France (20:00 – Group D)

Tuesday, 18 June

Turkey v Georgia (17:00 – Group F)

Portugal v Czech Republic (20:00 – Group F)

Wednesday, 19 June

Croatia v Albania (14:00 – Group B)

Germany v Hungary (17:00 – Group A)

Scotland v Switzerland (20:00 – Group A)

Thursday, 20 June

Slovenia v Serbia (14:00 – Group C)

Denmark v England (17:00 – Group C)

Spain v Italy (20:00 – Group B)

Friday, 21 June

Slovakia v Ukraine (14:00 – Group E)

Poland v Austria (17:00 – Group D)

Netherland v France (20:00 – Group D)

Saturday, 22 June

Georgia v Czech Republic (14:00 – Group F)

Turkey v Portugal (17:00 – Group F)

Belgium v Romania (20:00 – Group E)

Sunday, 23 June

Scotland v Hungary (20:00 – Group A)

Switzerland v Germany (20:00 – Group A)

Monday, 24 June

Albania v Spain (20:00 – Group B)

Croatia v Italy (20:00 – Group B)

Tuesday, 25 June

France v Poland (17:00 – Group D)

Netherlands v Austria (17:00 – Group D)

Denmark v Serbia (20:00 – Group C)

England v Slovenia (20:00 – Group C)

Wednesday, 26 June

Slovakia v Romania (17:00 – Group E)

Ukraine v Belgium (17:00 – Group E)

Czech Republic v Turkey (20:00 – Group F)

Georgia v Portugal (20:00 – Group F)

 

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Euro 2024

Dutch call up Maatsen as De Jong, Koopmeiners out

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Netherlands and Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong has been ruled out of this summer's European Championship through injury.

Netherlands and Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong has been ruled out of this summer’s European Championship through injury.

De Jong, 27, played just three times for his club after suffering an ankle injury in March.

He was included in Ronald Koeman’s Euro 2024 squad despite struggling with his recovery, but has been forced to pull out of the tournament.

On Tuesday, Atalanta midfielder Teun Koopmeiners was also ruled out after injuring himself in the warm-up before the Netherlands’ 4-0 friendly win against Iceland on Monday evening.

The 26-year-old, who has 21 caps, played 51 games for Atalanta last season as they won the Europa League and finished fourth in Serie A.

Chelsea defender Ian Maatsen, 22, who spent last season on loan at Borussia Dortmund, has been added to the Dutch squad and was travelling to join them in Wolfsburg.

The Netherlands begin their Euros campaign on Sunday when they play Poland in Group D at 14:00 BST, while they also face France and Austria in the group stage.

De Jong has played 54 times for his country, scoring twice.

 

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Euro 2024

From Water Carrier To Serial Winner – Deschamps Seeks More History

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Longevity is a rare gift in football management, but Didier Deschamps has certainly been afforded that as France coach. The 55-year-old has

Longevity is a rare gift in football management, but Didier Deschamps has certainly been afforded that as France coach.

The 55-year-old has been in charge since 2012 and in that time he has led his country to three out of five possible finals and won one World Cup.

That success in 2018 meant he joined a select few who have won a world title both as a manager and a player, and this summer he has the chance to make more history.

Should he lead France to glory in Germany, he will become only the second person to win a European Championship as both a player and a manager, after German Berti Vogts, and the first to have achieved the ‘double double’

Not bad for someone who was once dismissed as a “water carrier”.

From ‘water carrier’ to serial winner
Didier Deschamps captained Marseille to the 1993 Champions League when he was 24

Deschamps’ career both as a player and an international manager stands among the best.

Widely regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders of his generation, the former Marseille, Juventus and Chelsea player won two French league titles, three Serie A championships, and two Champions League trophies.

His unglamorous yet key role was famously described as that of “a water carrier” by his former France team-mate Eric Cantona, who suggested his role was simple – win the ball then give it to more creative team-mates.

“Deschamps gets by because he gives 100%, but he’ll never be anything more than a water carrier,” Cantona said in an interview in 1996.

“You find players like him on every street corner.”

Deschamps could not resist a retort. “How many players can you find on street corners who have won two European Cups?” he replied.

But in the main he did his talking on the pitch.

A natural leader, he became the youngest captain to lift the Champions League with Marseille in 1993 then led his country to World Cup success five years later.

Former France defender Lilian Thuram, who was Deschamps’ team-mate in that 1998 win, told BBC Sport: “Deschamps, the captain, he was the one who led the way. He was a true leader of that team.

“Knowing him then, you can see how he became a manager and won the World Cup, because he had that drive within him.”

Management a natural next step
Didier Deschamps is now in his 12th year as France manager

When Deschamps retired from playing in 2001, moving into management seemed the sensible progression for someone praised throughout his career for his leadership skills.

He had spells in charge of Monaco, Juventus and Marseille before becoming France manager in 2012.

His arrival came two years after a catastrophic World Cup in 2010 for Les Bleus under Raymond Domenech.

The France squad was fractured, with players refusing to train in protest at the French Football Federation’s decision to send home striker Nicolas Anelka after he argued with Domenech.

Unity was something Deschamps emphasised above all else when he took charge and he soon fashioned a cohesive side that once again was a force at major tournaments.

They reached the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup, losing to eventual winners Germany, and made the final of Euro 2016, which they hosted, but were beaten 1-0 by Portugal.

The upward trend continued, though, as France triumphed at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

A crucial moment in that success came after they beat Argentina 4-3 in a thrilling last-16 match.

Afterwards, some of the players had gone out and were noisy on their return, waking up those sleeping when defender Adil Rami sprayed a fire extinguisher in the hotel corridor.

Philippe Tournon, France’s press officer at the time, told the BBC documentary ‘How To Win The World Cup’ that Deschamps’ response highlighted his man-management skills.

“My room was next to Didier’s and I thought he was ready to tear them apart,” he said.

“Didier had a word and, with his sixth sense of his relationship with the players and the unity of the group, told me ‘if I lay into them it might break something we’ve been building for five or six weeks’.”

Deschamps, of course, is not flawless and after they were knocked out of Euro 2020 in the last 16 by Switzerland he was criticised for getting his tactics and team selections wrong.

He responded to the critics and doubters by leading France to their second successive World Cup final in Qatar two years later, where they were beaten on penalties by Argentina after a thrilling 3-3 draw.

One last chance for European glory as a coach?
Deschamps won the European Championship as a player in 2000, which is the last time France won the tournament

During that World Cup run, Deschamps was again praised by those who played for him.

“Our coach believes in us being a group, being a team,” striker Antoine Griezmann said.

“We’re a group that lives well together. I see it in training, too. Everyone gives 100 per cent and we have the perfect set-up to take us as far as possible.”

The French Football Federation agreed, rewarded Deschamps with a new contract to keep him in charge of France until the 2026 World Cup.

France are among the favourites to triumph in Germany and lift their first European Championship in 24 years.

Should they succeed, the “water carrier” will have earned the right to be considered arguably the greatest international manager of all time.

-BBC

 

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