Man City Team News: Injuries, suspensions and line-up vs Swansea

Pep Guardiola may look to rotate his side in the final five games of the Premier League season now Manchester City have been confirmed as champions, but he may well field a strong side for Sunday’s game against Swansea City.

Several players still need to make a handful of appearances to be classed as part of the title-winning team, but Guardiola will be determined to give the City fans something to celebrate when they welcome back their heroes to the Etihad Stadium.


MAN CITY INJURIES


Sergio Aguero is likely to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, while Benjamin Mendy is still working towards full match fitness following his long lay-off.

The France left-back returned to action for City’s U23s last week but is unlikely to start a Premier League game just yet.

John Stones has also been battling injuries recently and he will be assessed in the build-up to Sunday’s game.

Sergio Aguero


MAN CITY SUSPENSIONS


Fernandinho is suspended for City.


MAN CITY POTENTIAL STARTING LINE-UP


Mendy, Claudio Bravo, Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz are in need of more appearances to be classed as part of a title-winning squad but it is possible that Guardiola will use many of them as substitutes to get them there, or at least for this coming game.

Bravo needs four more appearances, Foden and Brahim need two each, and Mendy only needs one.

City still have a number of records to play for, as well as the simple desire to finish the season well, and with so much time ahead of the World Cup there are not too many reasons to make sweeping changes.

Bravo may well start games in the coming weeks but as City have five games left and the Chilean needs four appearances, Guardiola could well stick with Ederson on Sunday.

The centre-back situation is usually hard to predict, but after being rotated out of the team at Spurs last weekend it is likely that Nicolas Otamendi will return, most likely alongside Vincent Kompany, who has generally started whenever required recently. There will be a desire to help Aymeric Laporte settle in, however, so he will be a strong candidate to start in the coming weeks, maybe on Sunday too.

Toure could be handed a start in midfield given Fernandinho is suspended but it makes more sense to start Ilkay Gundogan and bring Toure off the bench later on, for sentimental reasons, even if the title is already won.

Gabriel Jesus will surely replace the injured Aguero up front.

Man City possible XI


SWANSEA TEAM NEWS


Swansea have a number of doubts to contend with, as well as some longer-term injuries.

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Renato Sanches is back in training following a hamstring problem that has kept him on the sidelines since January. Angel Rangel is recovering from the groin surgery he underwent in February, Luciano Narsingh picked up an ankle problem against Everton last weekend and Sam Clucas is also touch and go with a knee injury.

Wilfried Bony and Leroy Fer are out for the rest of the season.


OPTA MATCH FACTS


  • Manchester City have won all six of their home Premier League games against Swansea, their best such 100% record in the competition.
  • In league competition, Man City have won their last 11 at home vs Swansea, since a 2-1 loss in the second tier in March 1951.
  • Swansea haven’t kept a clean sheet in any of their last nine league games against Man City, shipping 24 goals in total in that time.
  • City haven’t lost consecutive home league games since February 2016, when they lost to Leicester and Tottenham.
  • Pep Guardiola has never lost consecutive home league games as a manager at any of his previous clubs.
     
  • Gabriel Jesus has had a hand in 22 goals in his 23 Premier League starts for Man City (16 goals, 6 assists), including a brace against Swansea in February 2017 at the Etihad.
     
  • Jesus is still yet to end on the losing side in any of those 23 starts (W20 D3) – since his first league start in February 2017, City have won 87% of the matches when he starts compared to 69% when he doesn’t.
     
  • David Silva has registered five goal involvements in his eight top-flight meetings with Swansea (3 goals, 2 assists).

TV COVERAGE & KICK-OFF TIME


Kick off is 16:30 BST (11:30 ET) on Sunday, April 22, and will be shown on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom. It will be shown on NBC in the United States, and on various channels around the world.

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Man City avoid transfer ban after CAS hearing

Manchester City have been informed that they will not be hit with a transfer ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who ruled in the club’s favour over an alleged irregular signing.

Argentine club Velez Sarsfield took both City and FIFA to CAS last summer after the world governing body had ruled that the Premier League side’s signing of Benjamin Garre, then 16, was legal.

City could have been hit with a two-window transfer ban if found guilty but after months of waiting the club were informed on Tuesday that they are in the clear. 

“The appeal filed on 12 December, 2016, by Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield against the decision issued on 24 August, 2016, by the single judge of the sub-committee of the FIFA players’ status committee (the challenged decision) is dismissed and, accordingly, the challenged decision is confirmed,” a CAS statement said.

Velez had initially claimed that City approached Garre when was 15 and then broke transfer rules by signing him shortly after his 16th birthday.

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City always believed they were acting within the rules because Garre holds an Italian passport, making him eligible for transfer after turning 16, though Velez appealed to FIFA, claiming that transfer rules state that players aged 18 or under can only move between European clubs.

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Velez took their case to CAS after FIFA ruled in City’s favour, but the Argentine outfit have now been defeated for a second time.

The decision means City have avoided the kind of transfer bans handed out to Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid in recent years.

City are at an advanced stage in their transfer plans for next season, having narrowed down their targets in recent weeks. The Blues had identified several options to reinforce their midfield and attack in the early part of the season but are now focused on just a handful of players.

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Inside the ‘Man United’ pub that hosted City’s title celebrations

Manchester City stars scrambled to an unlikely destination to celebrate their Premier League title victory on Sunday evening – a traditional British pub on the outskirts of Manchester.

Vincent Kompany, Kyle Walker, Fabian Delph, John Stones and Bernardo Silva gathered at the Railway, around 30 minutes from Manchester city centre, shortly after the Blues were confirmed as champions thanks to United’s shock defeat at the hands of West Brom.

City captain Kompany watched the United match with friends and family in nearby Irlam, and was responsible for organising the celebrations.

After Facetiming Kevin De Bruyne, who was out of the country with his family, Kompany roused a number of nearby team-mates and took them to the Railway.

The pub describes itself as “truly traditional” and advertises “Great British homecooked dishes served with a smile”. The closest thing to a roped-off VIP area is a chalkboard above one end of the bar, which reads “Roy’s corner, invitation only”.

The Railway(Robinsons Brewery)

The Railway​(Robinsons Brewery)

The Railway(Robinsons Brewery)

Hale is one of the most exclusive Manchester suburbs and is home to footballers, golfers, business leaders and television stars. It boasts a number of bars and restaurants popular with the super-rich, such as San Carlo Fiorentina, an offshoot of the famous city centre spot famous for its celeb-spotting possibilities.

But the Railway is better suited to quiet afternoons spent drinking modestly priced local ales and watching football on the television.

That is exactly what a number of United fans had done on Sunday as they gathered to watch the game against the Baggies, little over a week after noisily celebrating the Manchester derby victory that delayed City’s coronation. 

Indeed, just a glance around the bar area suggests this is more of a United pub than a City one – there is a signed Red Devils shirt from the 1996-97 season framed on the wall, alongside paintings of Old Trafford.

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But City fans are no strangers to the Railway and they grew in number on Sunday evening as word got round that several players, plus members of the backroom staff, were mixing with locals and buying drinks for those in attendance, including Guinness and Jagerbombs.

Videos posted on social media show the players singing the famous “Yaya/Kolo” Toure song, among many others.

In a short speech to long-serving fans Kompany bellowed: “If there’s kids in the room, cover their ears or send them out.

“It’s a been a f****** long journey, especially if you have been a blue for more than 40 years in your heart. But tonight, we won it again! So let’s celebrate together…”


However, the unexpected nature of City’s coronation ensured only a handful of the squad were around Manchester at all.

Pep Guardiola, who himself was playing golf when Jay Rodriguez notched West Brom’s winner, has given his players time off until Wednesday following the win at Tottenham.

As a result, David Silva had returned to Valencia to be with his family, Ederson attended Benfica’s game with Porto in Lisbon, and Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan were in Germany watching Schalke, Sane’s former club, face Borussia Dortmund, Gundogan’s former side.

Others, like Sergio Aguero, who is recovering from injury, and Nicolas Otamendi were at home in Manchester but celebrated with family and friends. Brahim Diaz spent the evening playing Fortnite on the PlayStation with friends, while Phil Foden is not legally old enough to drink alcohol.

Guardiola spent Sunday afternoon at Cheshire’s Sandiway golf course with his son, Marius, and English professional Tommy Fleetwood, who is ranked 12th in the world.

Kompany’s crew moved on to Hale Wine Bar after settling the long bar tab at the Railway.

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The crowds followed them across the road, leading to long queues back down the street.

Inside, Bernardo Silva was seen singing Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’ – which is played in the Etihad Stadium dressing rooms ahead of every City home game – while Walker wrote “City” in the condensation with his finger.

The players left at around 22:30 to continue their celebrations privately, but not before crowning the season in style for hundreds of fans who were given the opportunity to celebrate with their heroes.

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How Guardiola’s Man City turned the Premier League into a procession

For Pep Guardiola, it’s all about the details. That is as true now as it was last season, when Manchester City looked far from the fearsome, all-conquering side they do now, and in fact as true as it was 10 years ago, when he was just setting out on his coaching career.

So many doubted that Guardiola could dominate English football like he did in Spain and Germany, but having won the Premier League title in such commanding fashion that is exactly what he has done.

City have spent more than their rivals in recent years, yes, but the gulf between them and their rivals in terms of both class and points is not something that can simply be bought. After all, City spent plenty ahead of Guardiola’s first season, too, but the outcome was very different.

Indeed, Guardiola did not do too much differently last season. The markings on the training pitches were the same, the grass was the same length, the full-backs had the same instructions, the midfielders and forwards were pretty much the same, they were told to defend high, to press, to pass. 

The difference is that the smallest details are now in place. 

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Guardiola has been asked countless times what has been the difference between last season and this, and every time the answer is simple: that he and his players have had more time working together.

It sounds overly simplistic, but he is right. The players finally understand exactly what is required of them.

Few City players speak openly about Guardiola’s specific methods but Vincent Kompany, via former Blues striker Craig Bellamy, has revealed that the City players now know what is demanded of them to such a level that they have barely worked on tactics in training for months.

“[Pep] has taken a while to get us where he wanted us,” Kompany says, according to Bellamy, who was speaking on Sky Sports’ The Debate Live.

“[But now] honestly, it’s just there, we know what we’re doing. It’s been programmed into us, he’s got us into his way, and now training is just recovery and that kind of stuff because we’re programmed into what he wants.”

Vincent Kompany

That is the biggest difference between this season and last. There were signs of the Guardiola blueprint during his first campaign in England but City were too often undermined by basic failings, individual errors. 

Thierry Ambrose, one of the club’s young hopefuls now on loan at NAC Breda, is another unlikely voice to provide a peek into City’s intensely private sessions, highlighting how Guardiola’s constant quest for perfection has paid dividends.

“With Pep it’s all about possession, possession, possession and if you lose a stupid ball at two or three metres, he will stop the training for five or 10 minutes,” Ambrose said recently.

“He will talk about the pass and say, ‘Your foot support must be like that, you must see the game before you receive the ball’ and really he will stop the training for 10 minutes. After that, you don’t want to lose the ball any more.”

Thierry Ambrose quote

This is how Guardiola has always been, and we know this not just because many of his former players have relayed the same story, but also because a video surfaced on Twitter last week, highlighting this very approach during his early days at Barcelona B.

You could not even say the training session was at walking pace – the players were standing completely still, listening to the Catalan (looking considerably younger than he does now) explaining fields of vision and how to position yourself when you get the ball – just as Ambrose said a matter of weeks ago.

It is the exact same thing he has been telling his City players, and notably Raheem Sterling. At the back end of 2017, a video (incidentally tagged onto the end of the one above), showed Guardiola telling the England man how to position himself when receiving the ball. The very next day, Sterling put it into practice in a Champions League game against Feyenoord, latching on to Ilkay Gundogan’s pass to score a late winner.

“I would be controlling it with the outside of my foot, slowing the ball down,” Sterling said while on England duty recently. “He’s telling you to get to the left-back quicker. He brings you back to what you used to do with the Under-8s, open your body up, gets the rhythm going again.

“It’s simple stuff, stuff I already know. When you’re playing a game, you probably don’t pick up on it.”

Sterling has scored a career high 22 goals this season, many of them one-touch finishes, highlighting that he is one of the many City players who knows exactly what is required of him.

And reasons like that are why Guardiola felt comfortable sending his side out for the game against Watford at the start of the year with no instructions whatsoever. They were told to work it out for themselves. They scored after 38 seconds. It was Sterling with another tap-in, finishing another well-crafted move.

It is a bonus, of course, that most of last summer’s new signings have picked up Guardiola’s methods so quickly, and that they did not need a one-season bedding in period.

The signing of Ederson, a largely unheard of 23-year-old Brazilian, has proven to be a masterstroke. The youngster is everything Guardiola wanted – needed – from Claudio Bravo; his distribution is so good and so varied that City have so many more weapons in their arsenal. Whether Ederson goes short or long, the opposition don’t know what’s coming.

Ederson Pep Guardiola Manchester City Composite

And then there’s Kyle Walker, who best sums up the difference in quality between Guardiola’s first and second seasons. He is everything Guardiola wants in a full-back, and a considerable upgrade on the ageing Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna, who so clearly struggled with what was being demanded of them.

In terms of the supporting cast, Bernardo Silva appears to be growing into his City career, whereas Nolito (remember him?) quickly grew out of it.

But the fortunes of Walker’s fellow full-back arrival, Benjamin Mendy, highlight that City’s success is not just about the quality of player on the team sheet, or the amount of money spent.

Mendy had made a fine start to his City career, bombing down the left and putting in crosses of stunning accuracy, and with the Frenchman in the side Guardiola found a way to play Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus together. In fact, with those two and Sterling on the team-sheet, City were playing with three No.9s. The 6-0 win at Watford, a display of utter domination, suggested this was the way to go.

So, Mendy’s injury represented something of a worst-case scenario for City. They had bought no other left-backs, and losing one of their fundamental signings for most of the season was seen as a huge blow.

Yet Guardiola adapted. Instead of finding another player to fly up the wing from left-back, he got Fabian Delph to go into midfield instead. Leroy Sane, who was struggling for gametime with Mendy around, was the one charged with staying wide.

With Sane’s position opening up space between himself and the central striker, David Silva had extra room to manoeuvre, which is why he has so many goals and assists from the left-hand side of the penalty area.

That signified a major change in approach this season, albeit one which went under the radar, and there have been countless other in-game tweaks that have made it almost impossible to lay a glove on City.

Leroy Sane Manchester City Everton Premier League

At Old Trafford in December, the decision to bring on Ilkay Gundogan and put Fernandinho at centre-back was designed to send a message to United that City would keep playing their game, no matter what.

At times this season they have started with no striker, allowing Bernardo, Sterling and Sane to switch positions constantly. Against Everton over Easter, it looked like everybody was playing everywhere: Aymeric Laporte as both an orthodox left-back and a centre-back in a back three; Sterling as a false 9, working alongside Gabriel Jesus; De Bruyne in a deeper role alongside Fernandinho; Walker on the right wing. 

Against Tottenham on Saturday, in the win that ultimately clinched the title, Guardiola called for a 3-5-2, with Delph as a traditional wing-back and Sterling as a central striker, to see off the Spurs threat.

There have been times when Guardiola’s changes have not always looked so convincing, and these tend to have come in the biggest games; in the Carabao Cup final and against Liverpool in the Champions League the Catalan has shown he is still prone to aiming for ultra-possession by fielding Fernandinho, Gundogan, David Silva and De Bruyne in the same team. They beat Arsenal, although only looked comfortable when Fernandinho was forced off injured, and it cost them a heavy defeat at Anfield.

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But the overwhelming evidence suggests City are still too much for anybody to handle – indeed, they are just the third champion of the Premier League era to beat every other team in the division.

And all this because, after more than a year together, the City players now understand almost everything that Guardiola wants them to do. 

Imagine how good they’ll be another 12 months down the line…

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Man City can’t only blame the referee for Liverpool exit as old failings outweigh offside controversy

In the end, for all Manchester City can look back on the ifs and buts, the nearly moments that were both in and out of their control on a wild night at the Etihad Stadium, what cost them against Liverpool were their own shortcomings.

Gabriel Jesus’ goal after just two minutes set up a frantic night in Manchester but Mohamed Salah’s cool finish, after nearly an hour of constant City attacking and controversial refereeing decisions, all but finished the tie.

Predictably, on the evidence of the last two games, City were their own worst enemy when Nicolas Otamendi slipped near his own box, gifted Firmino possession and watched on as the Brazilian calmly slotted in his side’s second of the night. That did finish it.

City had been brilliant up until that point but the inquest will show another flaky performance when things went against them.

After damaging defeats against Liverpool in the first leg and against Manchester United at the weekend, Pep Guardiola had insisted he had been happy with his team’s reaction to conceding three goals in little over 15 minutes, despite the fact that they looked shell-shocked on both occasions.

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He said that if the same happened here, it would at least stand them in good stead for the future. After giving this all they could in the first half, that is all the consolation they are left with as they now re-focus their minds on sewing up the Premier League title. And it’s Tottenham away on Saturday.

Yes, City can have legitimate complaints about the referee here.

Guardiola himself was sent off at half-time for confronting Spanish official Mateu Lahoz after City were denied what would have been their second goal by a questionable offside decision. Following a scramble the ball rebounded off Reds midfielder James Milner, towards Leroy Sane and into the back of the net. It was ruled out, only adding to the Blues’ frustration after they had just seen Bernardo Silva crack a superb effort off the post.

City also felt they were hard done by last week at Anfield – on another night Salah would have been flagged offside before the Reds’ early opener, while Jesus’ tap-in after Sane was ruled offside would have handed them a vital away goal. Both decisions were extremely tight. These are the margins at this level.

Liverpool were on the ropes in the first half and their goalkeeper, Loris Karius, took to timewasting from the seventh minute onwards. It had seemed that Lahoz was ready to add that time on at the end of a first half which also involved five yellow cards, but he blew exactly on 45 minutes.

And City’s frustration only grew after half-time when Firmino, who was booked for curtailing a Kevin De Bruyne break in the first half, did exactly the same thing, but avoided punishment, or even a free-kick.

But while the Blues can feel hard done-by about what might have been, they will also have to look at themselves. As soon as Salah scored, that was that. City, again, had no answers.

Salah’s goal was similar to his opener last week; then, City keeper Ederson failed to adequately deal with a shot and Salah took full advantage at the back post. Now, Ederson had initially looked to have done well to thwart Sadio Mane, but fumbled the ball into the Egyptian’s path and he made absolutely no mistake, clipping in a delicate finish.

City, as on Saturday against United, came forward again but lacked any sort of conviction. They probed for 11 minutes but not particularly menacingly, and then they left the outcome in no doubt when Otamendi slipped. The Argentine has improved greatly in the last year or so but he, as much as any of his team-mates, has shown that he is still prone to a mistake when put under scrutiny.

The final 13 minutes petered out. A stark contrast to their blistering opening.

Guardiola deserves credit for setting his team up for a comeback, and while his starting XI looked inexplicable to many of us, his players clearly understood it. In the first 45 minutes they were a whirlwind, every bit as good as Liverpool were in the first half last week.

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As well as hitting the post they created a number of openings, little opportunities to pick out a man free in the box, but their intricate passes, for once, failed to find their target.

Fernandinho in particular was superb in that period, breaking up the visitors’ breaks and setting up City’s attacks, and were it not for those fine margins the Blues would have been in a much more commanding position at half-time.

The thunderstorm Jurgen Klopp predicted had arrived. The problem for City was that Liverpool weathered it, and the moment the Reds hit back with something of their own, Guardiola’s men simply had no answers.

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