Manchester City boss Pellegrini hits back at Yaya Toure criticism

The 31-year-old was subdued during City’s defeat to Bayern Munich on Wednesday but the Chilean insists “all the responsibility” should not fall on the midfielder

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has hit back at criticism of Yaya Toure by insisting that his side’s performances are not solely influenced by the midfielder.

The 31-year-old was subdued during City’s 1-0 defeat at Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday, while former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes believes Toure’s lack of defensive contribution has become a “major problem” for the Premier League champions .

“It is not fair for me to criticise what Yaya did in the last game. That is my way of thinking,” said Pellegrini.

“Normally, when we win or lose, it is because all the team played well or badly. Everyone knows which are the best performances of the players and we are trying to reach that level of performance for all of them as a team.

“I don’t agree that Yaya has [to shoulder] all the responsibility about the game we played. Yaya always has commitment with the team, the squad and with his team-mates. He does not have a problem.”

Pellegrini also confirmed that Frank Lampard is in contention to face Chelsea on Sunday.

“Frank is part of our squad and tomorrow I will give the squad list for the game,” said the Chilean.

“I am sure he will be involved in that. Frank didn’t continue at Chelsea because Chelsea didn’t want him.

“He couldn’t continue playing for the team he played for all his life, but he has a right to carry on playing football and we are happy to have him.”

Yaya Toure a 'major problem' for Manchester City in Champions League – Scholes

The Ivory Coast international was a passenger in Wednesday’s loss to Bayern Munich and the former Manchester United star says that he must be moved forward or dropped

Manchester City star Yaya Toure is “a major problem” for the Premier League champions in the Champions League, argues Paul Scholes.

The Ivorian midfielder was unable to hold back Bayern Munich as Pep Guardiola’s side won 1-0 at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night and the former Manchester United man feels that he is a defensive liability at the elite level.

“I felt that it was the same old story in the Champions League for [City],” Scholes wrote in The Independent. “Yaya Toure’s lack of defensive work in midfield has become a major problem for them.

“The amount of time I saw opponents get in behind him was quite remarkable. He just did not look interested. Alongside him, Fernandinho is having to do the work of two players defensively and, against Bayern, that was always going to cause City problems.

“If they have any chance of breaking through the last 16 in the Champions League this season then City need to play two holding midfielders who are prepared to work back, rather than just one.

“In that case, Pellegrini would be looking at either leaving out Toure or moving him further forward. He would have to play Fernando or James Milner alongside Fernandinho.

“When United won the Champions League in 1999 we played 4-4-2 and often I would find myself left out in favour of two in centre midfield from Roy Keane, Nicky Butt or Ronny Johnsen. Playing away in Europe, the manager knew he needed those two defensively minded players. The priority was the result. Playing attractive, attacking football was best done at home.

“City could have been three or four goals down within the first half an hour had it not been for their keeper, Joe Hart. They cannot afford any passengers in Europe [but] Toure just seems to amble about. He might get away with that in the Premier League but there is no hiding place against the best teams in Europe.”

Hart 'excellent' despite Manchester City defeat – Cousillas

Manuel Pellegrini’s No.2 was impressed by the shot-stopper’s performance at at the Allianz Arena – despite the concession of a last-gasp winner to Jerome Boateng

Manchester City assistant manager Ruben Cousillas paid tribute to goalkeeper Joe Hart despite conceding a late goal in a 1-0 Champions League defeat by Bayern Munich.

Manuel Pellegrini signed Willy Caballero in July to compete for the England international’s place but Hart impressed against the German side before the winner and Cousillas labelled his efforts “excellent”.

“Joe Hart is a great goalkeeper at international level and has had a great career here at Manchester City,” he told reporters.

“Last year, at the end of the season, he performed well and he has carried that into this season.

[Against Bayern] he was excellent, he didn’t make mistakes and we are happy not only with him but also Willy Caballero, who is also a great goalkeeper so we have that position well covered.”

Cousillas said his team were “sad and frustrated” after conceding the late goal at the Allianz Arena but believes that they are good enough to progress from a group that also includes Roma and CSKA Moscow.

“For sure it is not a good start to lose the first game of a group stage but we still have five games and it is up to us,” he continued.

“We are a strong team at home and we have a strong squad and I am convinced that, despite Roma’s quality and the fact it is a strong group, the tightest group, we can still qualify and get good results in the coming games.”

Yaya Toure returned to the City midfield against Bayern after being absent from a 2-2 draw with Arsenal on Saturday and Cousillas is adamant that there are no fitness issues affecting the team’s talisman.

“On Saturday he didn’t play but the reason was that he returned on Friday from the national team,” he explained. “But he was absolutely fit [to face Bayern] and physically, without problems.”

EPL Insider: Man Utd hoping for midfield boost & City plan Yaya talks

Louis van Gaal’s side hope to have Michael Carrick back to full fitness soon, while their rivals will sit down for talks with the Ivory Coast international over his future

Manchester United hope for midfield boost

While all eyes will be on the incomings and outgoings at Manchester United over the next two days, under the radar one man is looking to provide manager Louis van Gaal a welcome boost with a return to fitness ahead of schedule.

Michael Carrick underwent ankle surgery in mid-July, and was expected to be out for at least three months.

Van Gaal described the midfielder’s injury as “a big blow” at the time, and despite the arrival of Ander Herrera this summer, Carrick’s absence has been keenly felt as United have picked up just one point from their first three league games and crashed out of the Capital One Cup thanks to a 4-0 defeat at MK Dons this week.

The Englishman has, however, impressed coaches and medical staff with his recovery process so far.

While keen not to put a date on his first-team return at this stage, both player and club are hopeful he could be ready for a possible comeback in October.

With Chelsea scheduled to visit Old Trafford on 26 October, Carrick will be desperate to have proven his fitness before then.

- By Paul Clennam

Tottenham to continue tradition of busy deadline days

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is usually the busiest man in the country on deadline day and it is unlikely to be any different this year.

The priority for Spurs is to trim their squad and a number of players are expected to depart before the transfer window closes.

Sandro, Lewis Holtby, Paulinho and Vlad Chiriches and Benoit Assou-Ekotto – all proven internationals – are among the players actively being offered to clubs across Europe.

A number of youngsters are also likely to leave for loan spells, including 23-year-old midfielder Ryan Mason should a Premier League club make a suitable offer.

But manager Mauricio Pochettino would be happy to keep Mason, who spent last season on loan at Swindon and has been hampered by injuries over the last few years.

Pochettino has told confidants that he was taken aback by Mason’s ability in pre-season and he was even in line for a shock start in the Premier League opener against West Ham earlier this month.

Despite being ruled out through injury since the start of the campaign, Mason has been visibly around the first-team on matchdays and could yet emerge as a surprise package for the Londoners this season.

- By Greg Stobart

Manchester City to discuss Yaya Toure’s future

Manchester City will sit down with midfielder Yaya Toure in the coming weeks with a mind to clarifying the Ivorian’s international future.

After a summer of public machinations about a move away from the club, interest from Paris St-Germain, a furore about the club’s failure to recognise the player’s birthday, and subsequent insistence from Toure that he is happy at Eastlands, the Insider understands that City’s hierarchy now want to meet to discuss his potential international retirement.

With the African Cup of Nations scheduled from 17 January to 8 February next year, City would welcome Toure stepping down from Ivory Coast’s national team.

However, the decision will be left to the player who, at 31, may feel he still has at least one big tournament in him.

If he opts to continue with the national team, his resulting absence will certainly prompt activity in the January transfer market.

- By Paul Clennam

One Night In Istanbul to thrill Liverpool fans

Liverpool supporters can relive one of the club’s finest moments when the feature film ‘One Night in Istanbul’ is released next month.

The Insider was privy to a secret screening of the flick in London this week – and Reds fans are sure to love the tale of a group of hardcore supporters watching the 2005 Champions League final.

Featuring Robbie Fowler and ‘Denzil’ from Only Fools and Horses, the film will be released in September following a glitzy premiere on Merseyside featuring Liverpool players past and present.

In fact, the low-budget film was made possible thanks to some generous donations from Liverpool players and it features a cameo appearance from Jamie Carragher’s young daughter.

- By Greg Stobart

Miralem Pjanic picks his best world XI – featuring Messi and Suarez

The Bosnian – one of Serie A’s finest midfielders – selected six Liga stars, three Bundesliga players and one apiece from the Premier League and Ligue 1 in his all-star line-up

Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanic has revealed his perfect world XI, featuring a formidable frontline of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Pjanic, who placed 20th in 2014′s Goal 50, was one of the stars of Serie A in 2013-14 and was linked with a host of top clubs earlier this year – including La Liga giants Barcelona – before putting pen to paper on a new deal in May.

The 24-year-old chose four Camp Nou players in his all-star selection, alongside three Bayern Munich men, two European champions with Real Madrid, one Manchester City man and a single Paris Saint-Germain star.

“Manuel Neuer is the best goalkeeper around,” Pjanic, who has his sights set on taking the Scudetto away from Juventus in 2014-15, told Goal.
“At right-back I would have Philipp Lahm and at left-back David Alaba. My central defenders would be Thiago Silva and Sergio Ramos.
“My favourite midfielders are Andres Iniesta, Yaya Toure and Xavi.
“Up front I would have to go for Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez.”