EPL

Guardiola says next Premier League season will be 'completely different'

By Sports Desk July 03, 2020

Pep Guardiola warned next Premier League season would be "completely different" as Manchester City bid to reclaim their title.

City were in fine form in a 4-0 thrashing of newly crowned champions Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

A Kevin De Bruyne penalty and goals from Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden, and an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain own goal, saw City – champions in 2017-18 and 2018-19 – to an impressive victory.

While Guardiola played down the impact on next season, the City manager said 2020-21 would be different.

"I'm happy that we won against a team that is the champion of Europe and England," he told a news conference.

"They were incredibly focused to beat us. I saw their faces, the way they shouted, the way they communicated, the way they wanted it, and that's why.

"They didn't come here just to celebrate, they're going to celebrate. I think they drunk enough beers earlier in the week, but they came here to compete against us, without a doubt.

"That's why for us, to prepare for Arsenal [in the FA Cup semi-finals] and Madrid [in the Champions League last 16] will be so important.

"To know that we can do it, but next season will be completely different. Everyone starts at zero and we have to show, to Liverpool and ourselves, that we can do it, what we have done in previous years, winning a lot of titles in a lot of competitions."

City have a short turnaround, facing Southampton on Sunday.

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    Manchester United have no margin for error in the revised Europa League format, Fred has warned.

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side beat LASK 2-1 on Wednesday to wrap up a 7-1 aggregate triumph and reach the quarter-finals.

    The impact of the coronavirus on the competition's schedule means ties will be settled in one-off matches, all played in Germany, with United facing Copenhagen on Monday.

    Should they prevail, the 2016-17 tournament winners would face either Premier League rivals Wolves or LaLiga side Sevilla.

    "There are two important games, and a single match in the final. You have to make sure you're highly prepared, you can't make mistakes," Fred told United Review.

    "In league football you still have the chance to recover, you make a mistake and lose the game you can still recover later in the competition.

    "In tournaments if you lose a game by a certain margin of goals it's difficult to come back. So you need to concentrate even more. I think that is what’s most important for us. That will be the biggest test."

    If United do reach the final on August 21, it would mean playing 15 games in 63 days since their campaign resumed on June 19.

    But Fred is not worried about fatigue as he feels the squad are conditioned to such challenges.

    "We've got used to these games coming one after an another during the intense fixture calendar in June and July," the midfielder said.

    "So we're kind of used to it and I think it could be an advantage when playing games that are a few days apart, like they will be in Germany.

    "I think it will be an advantage for us in the Europa League tournament format – I'm certain we'll be ready."

  • Jaw-dropping Champions League comebacks that give Chelsea hope for Bayern trip Jaw-dropping Champions League comebacks that give Chelsea hope for Bayern trip

    Chelsea must pull off one of the greatest second-leg comebacks if their Champions League hopes are not to be killed off by Bayern Munich on Saturday.

    There has been a spate of stunning salvage jobs in recent seasons that may give hope to Frank Lampard's side, who trail 3-0 from the first leg in London.

    Nevertheless, Bayern start as firm favourites to clinch a place in the quarter-finals heading into the clash at the Allianz Arena.

    Here is a look at games that may give Blues fans some hope as their team head to Germany.

    2019: Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona (4-3 on aggregate)

    Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool had been well beaten at Camp Nou, with the 3-0 scoreline flattering Barcelona but making the Catalans clear favourites to complete their semi-final task at Anfield.

    Liverpool were without injured forwards Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for the second leg, yet two goals each from Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum saw the hosts defy the odds in sensational style.

    Origi had the final word thanks to Trent Alexander-Arnold's quick thinking from a 79th-minute corner.

    It meant a Barcelona side boasting Lionel Messi and former Liverpool stars Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez were left devastated, while Klopp's men celebrated reaching the Madrid final.

    2019: Real Madrid 1-4 Ajax (5-3 on aggregate)

    Despite an impressive display in their 2-1 first-leg defeat, few thought Ajax could turn things around at the Santiago Bernabeu. Madrid's Sergio Ramos certainly did not - he earned a first-leg booking to avoid the risk of a quarter-final ban, earning an extra-game suspension from UEFA in the process.

    In the absence of their captain, Madrid capitulated against a fearless and thrilling Ajax. Hakim Ziyech and David Neres put the visitors 2-0 up after only 18 minutes and it was 3-0 just after the hour mark thanks to the inspired Dusan Tadic.

    Marco Asensio got a goal back, but Lasse Schone's free-kick beat Thibaut Courtois and sent Madrid crashing out. It was the first time Madrid had ever been knocked out after winning the first leg of a Champions League tie, while Ajax would themselves be stung by a comeback in the semi-finals.

    2019: Ajax 2-3 Tottenham (3-3 agg)

    Ajax looked certain finalists when they extended their 1-0 first-leg lead to 3-0 in Amsterdam with first-half goals from Matthijs de Ligt and Ziyech.

    Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs took inspiration from Liverpool's stunning fightback against Barcelona 24 hours earlier, though, and Lucas Moura stepped up to emerge as their hero.

    The Brazilian winger was thrust into a central attacking role and scored an improbable hat-trick in the second half, the vital third goal coming deep into stoppage time, as Spurs won on away goals.

    2018: Roma 3-0 Barcelona (4-4 agg)

    Barcelona were stunned in the Italian capital as Roma completed one of the most unlikely quarter-final turnarounds.

    Eusebio Di Francesco's side came back from a 4-1 first-leg deficit to progress to the last four on away goals after a thrilling 3-0 win in front of their home fans.

    Edin Dzeko, Daniele De Rossi and Kostas Manolas secured the 4-4 aggregate draw and sent the Stadio Olimpico into raptures, as Barca fell to pieces.

    2017: Barcelona 6-1 Paris Saint-Germain (6-5 agg)

    Before their humblings by Roma and Liverpool, Barcelona pulled off an astonishing Champions League comeback of their own, and the greatest so far in terms of the deficit overhauled.

    Trailing 4-0 from the first leg of their last-16 tie with PSG, Suarez and Messi scored either side of a Layvin Kurzawa own goal, only for Edinson Cavani to grab what was expected to be the decisive away goal for the visitors.

    However, two quickfire Neymar goals against his future club – the second a highly controversial penalty after an apparent Suarez dive – levelled the tie at 5-5.

    Then, in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Sergi Roberto struck to create a slice of Champions League history – no side had ever turned around a four-goal first-leg deficit before.

    2004: Deportivo La Coruna 4-0 Milan (5-4 agg)

    Deportivo were among Spain's major forces just after the turn of the century and one of their finest moments in Europe came in April 2004 when, despite being 4-1 down from the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final with Milan, they stunned the Rossoneri at the Riazor.

    Walter Pandiani, Juan Carlos Valeron and Albert Luque had Depor ahead on away goals before half-time, with veteran Fran Gonzalez scoring the fourth to make sure of their passage.

    Depor were eliminated by eventual winners Porto in the semi-finals, but this comeback stood as arguably the very best in Champions League history until Barca went one better.

    2000: Barcelona 5-1 Chelsea (aet, 6-4 agg)

    This is not one Chelsea will remember fondly.

    A 3-1 first-leg loss at Stamford Bridge – having trailed 3-0 – had Barca in danger of being on the wrong end of a major Champions League upset prior to Chelsea's Roman Abramovich era, but in the return match the Catalan giants showed their true class.

    Tore Andre Flo's 60th-minute goal was sending Chelsea through despite Rivaldo and Luis Figo scoring before the break, but Dani Garcia headed home seven minutes from the end of regulation to force extra time.

    Rivaldo atoned for an earlier missed penalty by converting from the spot after Celestine Babayaro was sent off and Patrick Kluivert finished the game off, crushing Chelsea's dreams.

  • Robert Lewandowski: The inner workings of a goalscoring machine Robert Lewandowski: The inner workings of a goalscoring machine

    With the announcement that the 2020 Ballon d'Or will not be awarded this year due to the coronavirus-enforced break in play, Robert Lewandowski will feel pretty hard done by.

    By the end of June, Lewandowski's goals had propelled Bayern Munich to a Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal double. His goals in the league (34 in total) made him the highest single-season foreign goalscorer in history. With another six goals in the Pokal – including two in the final to seal the deal in a 4-2 win against Bayer Leverkusen – and 11 more in the Champions League, Lewandowski has scored more goals in all competitions than any other player across Europe's top five leagues this season. 

    For Lewandowski, it has been undoubtedly the best season of his career. Remarkably, the 31-year-old is averaging a goal every 74 minutes and he has already scored 11 more than last year and eight more than in his previous personal best (43 goals in 2016-17).

    The consistency of Lewandowski's production is phenomenal. Since 2015-16, he has scored 40 or more goals in every season. The only player who has kept pace with the Pole is a certain Lionel Messi, but the Barcelona star will need to score an unlikely 10 more times to hit the 40-goal milestone in 2019-20.

    In his 285 competitive games for Bayern, Lewandowski has hit a total of 242 goals, averaging a goal every 99 minutes. This is a goalscoring machine at its best.

    Lewandowski has taken his game to another level this season. After being the top scorer in the Bundesliga (34) and in the Pokal (6), the Bayern marksman is also the leading scorer in the Champions League (11). He could become the first player since Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2002-03 to take home a hat-trick of golden boots in league, cup and European action. Neither Cristiano Ronaldo nor Lionel Messi have ever achieved this.

    So, what's his secret?

    ELITE IN THE BOX

    Since joining Bayern back in 2014, Lewandowski has increased his expected goals (xG) total each season. This campaign, he is averaging a staggering 1.1 xG every 90 minutes. Put simply, the chances Lewandowski attempts are worth over one goal every game. This figure is nearly double as many as in his first season at Bayern (0.6). His consistently high xG values show that his impressive goal tally is not just a product of overperforming, but rather the result of generating good goalscoring opportunities.

    Year after year, Lewandowski gets himself in better goalscoring positions. He has perfected the art of creating space and chances for himself in crucial areas of the pitch. The below graphic illustrates this perfectly: look at the cluster of shots he has taken in this season's Champions League.

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    THE COMPLETE FORWARD

    Lewandowski is the target man in Bayern's attack, but he is far more than a poacher – he is a crucial cog in their build-up play.

    In the 2019-20 Bundesliga campaign, Lewandowski was involved in a league-high 43 open-play sequences that ended with a goal. If we remove those sequences in which Lewandowski himself scored (27), he was involved in 16 open-play sequences that ended in a goal scored by one of his team-mates, the highest value among all strikers in the competition.

    Indeed, while Lewandowski has registered only four assists in the latest Bundesliga season, we can use expected assists (xA) to analyse how many assists Lewandowski should have had based on the quality of his passes. According to this metric, Lewandowski's open-play passes in the recent league season were worth seven assists, so he was unfortunate not to have three more assists to add to his total of four.

    His total of 7.1 xA this campaign is his highest tally.  The 31-year-old has massively improved his creative abilities over the past two years, nearly increasing his xA value threefold (he registered 2.8 xA in 2017-18).

    A complete forward, Lewandowski works for the team, creates chances for his team-mates and is heavily involved in build-up play. Bayern's last Champions League game in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie with Chelsea can be used as an ideal example of Lewandowski's all-around qualities. He was everywhere.

    Lewandowski's touches at Stamford Bridge on February 25 (from left to right)

    In that game, Lewandowski recorded two assists in a single Champions League match for the first time in his career, assisting the first two Bayern goals for Serge Gnabry before scoring the last himself to seal a 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge. 

    Perhaps 2020 would have been Lewandowski's best chance to become just the second player other than Messi and Ronaldo to win the Ballon d'Or since 2008, but the way his game is improving every season – coupled with the inevitable decline of Messi and Ronaldo – means the Poland goalscoring machine will likely have another crack at the accolade in 2021 and beyond.

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