Guardiola marvels at dedication of gym rat Dias

By Sports Desk January 09, 2021

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola believes a 24-hour dedication to football that includes early morning gym sessions is behind Ruben Dias' magnificent start to life at the Etihad Stadium.

Dias became City's record signing when he joined for £62million from Benfica in September, arriving in the immediate aftermath of a humbling 5-2 Premier League defeat against Leicester City.

Since then, the Portugal international has done plenty to justify his price tag, establishing a formidable partnership at centre-back alongside a rejuvenated John Stones.

Across 13 Premier League matches with Dias in the side, City have been beaten only once, conceding seven times at an average of 0.5 per game. In the two matches before his signing, City conceded six - largely as a result of the Leicester debacle, in which they gave away three penalties.

Dias leads the way among his team-mates in clearances (55) and headed clearances (27) this season. He is behind only Rodri (31) and Joao Cancelo (25) when it comes to interceptions, having made 20.

Spain holding midfielder Rodri has 50 aerials won to his name, with Dias next up on 37. City's new defensive lynchpin is also yet to make an error leading to a shot in the top flight.

Having burnished his growing reputation with fine displays in the wins at Chelsea and Manchester United over the past week, Dias is expected to sit out Sunday's FA Cup third-round tie against Championship strugglers Birmingham, but Guardiola insists he would have no problem turning out once again.

"Do you know when the player makes a big sign or an influence on the team? When he is able to play every three days. That is the best signing," he said.

"When you buy players, always you think they will help the squad but you never know what is going to happen. He is a guy who can play every three days and recover immediately.

"His ability is incredible. He understands the game, he wants to learn and all of us are impressed by how much he takes care of his body and his mind.

"The day after [the game] at 8:30 or 9:00 he is in the gym, he makes his routine perfectly. He lives 24 hours of his profession at 23 years old.

"I can assure you that we signed an incredible player for the next five, six or seven years and that is not easy to find."

City's improvement at the back has also been a collective endeavour.

Along with Stones putting form and fitness woes behind him, versatile full-back Joao Cancelo has blossomed in his second season under Guardiola, while Oleksandr Zinchenko recently returned to plug a gap at left-back amid a raft of COVID-19 cases among his team-mates.

The manager believes City's collective play was never too far away from the standards set of late, with the drive to cut out individual errors key.

"I have the feeling that always we concede few, few chances in the previous seasons," Guardiola said.

"It was more in actions that we didn't control individually, we made mistakes. For example, the three penalties against Leicester are mistakes we cannot make.

"We improved in those terms. The movements of the collective are the same as the last five years but the mistakes we have done against Leicester, conceding three penalties, we have not done it again."

A handling mistake by Ederson in October's 1-1 draw at Leeds United is the only error City have made leading directly to a goal in the Premier League this season, according to Opta. In 2019-20, they made seven across the course of the campaign and six when amassing 100 points as champions in 2017-18.

"A part of this, of course, is Ruben helps us a lot to lead the line and John doing what he is doing," Guardiola added. "When he has played, Nathan Ake has played good, Ayme [Aymeric Laporte] as well.

 "Joao has made a step forward - we knew his quality with the ball, but especially without.

"We have to continue. The margin between being solid and not being solid is so minimal. We have to be careful and continue to be consistent in the next month."

Related items

  • Bolt undergoes successful surgery to repair ruptured Achilles Bolt undergoes successful surgery to repair ruptured Achilles

    World 100m, 200m and 4x100m record holder Usain Bolt has had a successful surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles heel.

    The eight-time Olympic gold medalist, who is 37 years old and retired in 2017, suffered the injury while playing in Soccer Aid, a match played annually to raise funds for UNICEF, on June 9 at Stamford Bridge, home of English Premier League club Chelsea FC.

    “Surgery was successful,” said Bolt on social media on Monday.

    Bolt, who has been a regular fixture in the charity game in recent years, was captaining the Soccer Aid World XI against England before going down with the injury early in the second half.


  • Inter Miami v Columbus Crew: Black & Gold aim for further road joy against gutsy Herons Inter Miami v Columbus Crew: Black & Gold aim for further road joy against gutsy Herons

    Inter Miami are sitting comfortably at the top of the Eastern Conference table but face a challenge on Thursday when Columbus Crew visit for an MLS clash at Chase Stadium.

    The Herons are two points clear at the summit of the East standings after snatching a 2-1 triumph over Philadelphia Union last time out.

    Yet Wilfried Nancy's Crew have triumphed in their last four road games in the league, battling to a 3-2 victory over New York City FC at Yankee Stadium on Friday.

    "It's a massive run and just shows how good we are mentally" Mohamed Farsi said of the streak.

    "I think we have more away wins right now than last year all season. I think so or the same, so I'm happy for that."

    Farsi has become a central figure for Columbus and scored the go-ahead goal in the 53rd minute against the Pigeons, much to the delight of head coach Nancy.

    "The idea for Mo is to be more consistent because he brings a lot of energy to the team," Nancy said.

    "He wants also to show himself that he's a better player than last year when we had the same deal here. Good for him.

    "Now, he knows that he has to work on certain things, but I'm happy for him. He's doing a good job."

    Despite missing Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Matis Rojas – all of whom are on Copa America duty – the nine-man Herons overcame the Union thanks to Leo Afonso's last-gasp strike.

    "It is clear that in 10 times, nine of these games we would end up losing," Miami head coach Gerardo Martino said.

    "Absolutely all the credit belongs to them. That has to do with the effort, with the character, with the guts that the boys had."

    Afonso echoed his coach's sentiment ahead of another crunch match-up.

    "It's difficult when you're missing the best players in history in their positions," he said. "But we got to keep working, and we got to try our best."


    Inter Miami – Jordi Alba

    With stars Messi and Suarez on international duty, Jordi Alba will be expected to step up once more for the Herons.

    The former Barcelona full-back has two goals this year in MLS, as well as five assists – that creative tally is only bettered by Messi (13) and Julian Gressel (six) among Miami team-mates.

    Columbus Crew – Diego Rossi

    Diego Rossi remains an integral figure in attack for the Crew, whose Javier Hernandez (five goals) has only scored more than the forward's four in 10 MLS games this year.

    With other Uruguayan colleagues at the Copa, Rossi will hope to extend his fine scoring form here.


    Miami may be leading the way in the East but a draw appears the most likely outcome at Chase Stadium.

    The Herons have never lost a home match against the Crew (W2 D1), though Columbus did earn their first away point against David Beckham's Miami-based side on the last visit to Fort Lauderdale, a 2-2 draw in July 2023.

    Martino will hope to continue a strong run of form with another victory, however.

    Miami have won eight of their last 11 regular-season matches (D2 L1) following a 2-1 victory at Philadelphia on Saturday. Since that run began in mid-April, Martino's side have managed 26 points and scored 28 goals – both league-leading figures.

    Yet Columbus should not be ruled out for a win either.

    The Crew have won four straight regular-season away matches for the second time in club history after a four-match run in August-September 2015.

    Columbus have lost only one of their last 11 regular-season road matches, dating back to last September (W5 D5), and that streak could continue here.


    Inter Miami win – 37.4%

    Columbus Crew win – 36.3%

    Draw – 26.4%

  • Mbappe injury leaves Deschamps concerned after France's Euro 2024 triumph Mbappe injury leaves Deschamps concerned after France's Euro 2024 triumph

    Kylian Mbappe suffering a late head injury marred France's Euro 2024 victory over Austria as Didier Deschamps was left concerned about the Les Bleus star.

    The Real Madrid-bound attacker sustained a blow to his nose after an aerial challenge with Austria's Kevin Danso before Mbappe was withdrawn on Monday.

    France held on for a 1-0 victory in Dusseldorf to move level with fellow Group D leaders Netherlands, but Deschamps will have to sweat over Mbappe's fitness before facing Ronald Koeman's men on Friday.

    "[His] nose is not good at all," the France head coach, who hit 100 wins in charge of his country with the victory over Ralf Rangnick's side, told reporters.

    "Even if it's just the nose, it's the big negative point for us tonight."

    Mbappe missed a gilt-edged opportunity in the second half as his wait for a European Championship goal continued.

    The former Paris Saint-Germain man remains without a goal from a total of 18 shots in the tournament, while he has registered 12 strikes from 39 attempts at the World Cup.

    Mbappe played the cross in for Max Wober's decisive first-half own-goal, however, as the centre-back's inadvertent error proved the difference in the pair's tournament opener.

    France are the first European side at major tournaments (World Cup/Euros) to benefit from 10 own-goals, four more than any other side – Germany are the next best on six.

    Deschamps was still satisfied with Les Bleus' work, though acknowledged their failure in front of goal.

    "Happy with what the players did even if we missed opportunities to double the tally," he added. "It was not perfect but we were solid.

    "We could have been more efficient offensively but it's good to start with a win.

    "There's quality and talent but being solid and working together is also important. We're not going to be over-confident, but it's a good start."

    N'Golo Kante was named as the Player of the Match after his efficient display in midfield, having only returned to the international setup for this tournament after a two-year absence.

    No France player made more successful tackles than Kante's two (level with Jules Kounde), while the midfielder's pair of interceptions marked the most for Les Bleus.

    "Everything was not perfect but we have the result we wanted, this is a good start," Kante said. "There are solid foundations, we have to be more efficient.

    "It makes me happy to be back. Things have changed, makes it feels good to get back into this jersey."

    The defeat ended a run of seven games without a loss for Austria in all competitions (W6 D1), while it was only their second reverse in their last 17 matches (W12 D3).

    Yet former Manchester United boss Rangnick refused to point the blame at any of Austria's players.

    "We are all very disappointed... we allowed France to go ahead, they didn't shoot their goal, it was an unlucky own goal by us," Rangnick said.

    "I think no one can accuse the team of not being engaged enough, not running enough. They gave their everything.

    "They didn't always make the right decisions with the ball. But it isn't easy, the French were aggressive, and played compactly and that wasn't a surprise."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.