Barcelona edge Manchester United while Ajax and Juventus play to an exciting draw

By April 10, 2019
Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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  • Manchester City star De Bruyne out of derby as Guardiola urges caution Manchester City star De Bruyne out of derby as Guardiola urges caution

    Manchester City must learn to manage Kevin De Bruyne's fitness ahead of next season, according to Pep Guardiola, who has ruled the midfielder out of Wednesday's derby against Manchester United.

    De Bruyne went off with a knee injury against Tottenham on Saturday, and will miss the game at Old Trafford, though Guardiola is hopeful the playmaker will still be able to feature before the season is out.

    The injury is the latest in a string of set-backs for the 27-year-old, who has been restricted to 30 appearances in all competitions for City this term, making just 11 Premier League starts.

    And manager Guardiola confirmed that City will reassess how they treat De Bruyne moving forward, in order to ensure he avoids a repeat of his injury hit campaign next season.

    "It is a muscular problem, and we will see in the next days how it is," Guardiola told a news conference. "It's getting better but he is not available [for Wednesday].

    "Unfortunately it was one injury and then another one and another one. Before in the past he was safe, especially from muscular problems, but now he has had two or three as a consequence of his knee.

    "But with all the competitions we have in England, we don't have time to make preparation when they come back from injury. That is not the best way.

    "Now we have to pay more attention in the little details, see if he can play one, two more games before the end of the season, then next season have a good pre-season and take care of himself.

    "He has a lovely family, his life is organised in training, rest, prepare for the next game. We are going to speak with the doctors, everybody, to make the problem go and for him to be safe and fit. That's what we are trying to do from now on."

    De Bruyne's absence has been felt by City over the course of the season, as the Premier League title race with Liverpool promises to run to the wire.

    Victory at Old Trafford would see City move back above their rivals with three games to play, and Guardiola did not downplay the magnitude of Wednesday's fixture.

    "Four games left, we have to win all four games to keep the title," he said.

    "It is not an easy place to go, but at the same time a nice place to go. We know exactly what we need to do, they are fighting for top four and we are fighting for the title. We will go there to play a good game."

  • I perfectly understand his position – Guardiola supports under-fire Solskjaer I perfectly understand his position – Guardiola supports under-fire Solskjaer

    Pep Guardiola sympathises with Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for the difficult period he is going through and insists he supports the Norwegian ahead of their first derby meeting.

    Solskjaer was brought in initially as an interim replacement for Jose Mourinho in December and enjoyed a stunning impact as they lost just one of his first 17 matches at the helm and reached the Champions League quarter-finals against the odds.

    Back-to-back defeats to Arsenal and Wolves did not put United off from hiring him full-time at the end of March, but a subsequent run of two wins and four defeats has prompted many to question the club's decision to hand Solskjaer a contract through to 2022.

    Their most recent defeat was undoubtedly the nadir, as United were humiliated 4-0 away to Everton on Sunday, severely denting their top-four hopes.

    Up next on Wednesday is the derby against champions Manchester City in a game which could have major consequences in the title race, and Guardiola showed empathy towards his opposite number.

    When asked in his pre-match news conference if he felt it was right for Solskjaer to be questioned, Guardiola said: "I don't know. We [managers] don't have time.

    "I understand his position perfectly. We are alone, I am alone and that's why I understand completely his position.

    "It happened to me, it happened to all the managers around the world. We can sustain it if we win, if we don't we are in danger.

    "That is the reality, we have to accept it. It is what it is. I understand perfectly and I am with him, I support him, honestly."

    At the time of Solskjaer's interim appointment and subsequent full-time hiring, much was made of his close connection to the club, having spent the majority of his playing career at Old Trafford as well as his early coaching days.

    Guardiola – who managed Barcelona after playing for them – agrees that such a background can be beneficial.

    "To know the club is better," he said. "I know this club now more in my third season than I did in my first season.

    "He came back here after being a formidable player. He knows everything [about the club], so it's an advantage, of course."

    Despite United's recent woes, Guardiola is expecting them to be at their very best in the derby, and while he believes pride to be at stake for Solskjaer's men, he downplayed the influence of their Everton loss on the game.

    Asked if United will be eager for a response, Guardiola said: "A little bit more, maybe, but if they won [against Everton] the confidence would be a little bit more, and it is a derby.

    "All the derbies here or in Germany or Spain are always special games and the players do their best for the fans and the team.

    "I expect the best United, for sure. They have pride, their pride to do their best. We are going to do what we do and try to win the game."

  • Solskjaer convinced he can turn Manchester United's slump around Solskjaer convinced he can turn Manchester United's slump around

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is confident he is the right man to get the best out of Manchester United's players, despite a poor run since his appointment as permanent manager.

    United slumped to their heaviest defeat of the season on Sunday, losing 4-0 at Everton, and must now try to bounce back when they face Manchester City in a derby clash on Wednesday that could have huge ramifications for the Premier League title race.

    Having enjoyed a stellar three months at Old Trafford following his appointment as interim manager in December, Solskjaer was given the job in a permanent capacity on March 28, but United have lost four of the six games since then in all competitions.

    The capitulation at Goodison Park followed a Champions League exit at the hands of Barcelona, with Solskjaer apologising to United's travelling support on behalf of his players.

    But the former Molde boss believes that he is the right choice to lead United forward, even if the squad will need altering in the close season.

    "I would like to think so," Solskjaer told a news conference when asked if he could improve United's players. 

    "I like all these boys, I love them, but I've got to manage for the club and I'm managing the club and the players and I've got to put all my effort into making sure we do what is right for the club.

    "Of course, you learn about players and now is not the time to talk about making wholesale changes in the squad that's been doing so great, City and Liverpool have taken more points than us in the last 18 games and that's it.

    "We really gave it a go, and you can see loads of United standards, the DNA in these players. 

    "You have to get players in and some players will go out. There's always a crisis at United whenever you lose a game or two, but the boys have done fantastic, we don't enjoy losing games, we've lost three out of the last five league games, that's a bit too many but that's football.

    "You see Chelsea-Burnley, Arsenal-Palace but the way we lost at Everton that was the lowest we have been and was the worst performance."

    Solskjaer was scathing of his side on Sunday, but has not lost belief in his squad, accepting that he is just as responsible for United's form as his players are.

    "We focus on Wednesday and I'm sure we'll get a response," Solskjaer added.

    "You don't punish them as in run up to the mountains and back. We believe in them, these players know they let themselves down as individual, as a team, me as well.

    "I'm in charge and I'm the one giving instructions how we're going to play and it's my duty to get them performing better than that and I'm sure we'll get a response."

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