EPL

Sterling: Winning teams dig results out when it really matters

By Sports Desk February 21, 2021

Raheem Sterling believes Manchester City's slender win over Arsenal proved the Premier League leaders are able to dig out results in their bid to reclaim the title.

City made it 13 top-flight victories in a row as Sterling's second-minute header proved decisive at the Emirates Stadium.

Pep Guardiola's juggernaut are 10 points clear at the top of the table though, after a blistering start, they failed to replicate their best form on Sunday.

It mattered little, though, with Arsenal managing just one shot on target as City held them at arm's length to win an 18th successive game in all competitions.

City have also equalled the record for consecutive away wins by an English top-flight team across all competitions (11), which was previously set by them between May and November 2017.

Though they were not at their free-flowing best, Sterling cited their display as another sign of improvement.

"We moved the ball well, we were really aggressive in the first five minutes," Sterling, who has scored more away goals in the Premier League (20) than any other player since the start of last season, told Sky Sports.

"Kept the pressure on, got the goal early on. They're a good team, you can see how well they play on the counter. You could see we struggled at times with that but we kept our composure and ground the result out.

"Mikel's worked with us for plenty of years, he knows exactly our strengths and our weaknesses. I wouldn't be surprised if he spent a lot of time trying to find gaps in our team – they made it really difficult for us.

"It's even better now because we had a difficult start to the season. It was something we’re not used to. It's a credit to the team, we started to dig results out. Winning teams, you have to dig results out when it really matters."

City are unbeaten in their last 25 games across all competitions (W22 D3) – their second-longest run without defeat under Guardiola, following a 28-game spell between April and December 2017.

This was also City's 15th clean sheet in the Premier League this season – the most by a team after 25 games of a top-flight campaign since 2008-09, when both Manchester United (19) and Chelsea (15) had as many.

After he was rested against his former club Everton, John Stones returned to partner Ruben Dias at the back, and Sterling hailed the defensive solidity which has been mastered by City, who have conceded just three goals in their winning run in the league.

"The centre-back pairings have been great this season, they've got a really great understanding," Sterling said.

"There's a real unity and bond in there. It's like anything – if I'm scoring goals I'm trying to keep the run [going] and you can see it's the same with them and clean sheets."

Related items

  • Rumour Has It: Man City want Dortmund's Haaland as Real Madrid step up chase Rumour Has It: Man City want Dortmund's Haaland as Real Madrid step up chase

    Erling Haaland continues to dominate headlines.

    The Borussia Dortmund sensation is one of the most sought-after players in Europe.

    Manchester City and Real Madrid are reportedly going head-to-head to sign the Norwegian.

     

    TOP STORY – AGUERO OUT, HAALAND IN?

    Manchester City want to sign Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland as a replacement for veteran forward Sergio Aguero, according to Bild.

    Aguero, who has been hampered by injury this season, is out of contract at the end of the current campaign.

    Haaland is a player in demand, having been linked to Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich.

    But Haaland dominates the front pages of Thursday's Marca, Diario AS and Mundo Deportivo in Spain amid Madrid's interest.

    The Norway international reportedly wants to listen to Madrid, who will need €150million to prise Haaland to the Santiago Bernabeu.

     

    ROUND-UP

    - Calciomercato reports Lyon star Houssem Aouar remains on the radar of Juventus. Aouar has previously been linked with the Serie A champions, as well as Arsenal.

    Chelsea are interested in Monaco's defensive midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, claims ESPN.

    - O Jogo says Liverpool could reignite their interest in Sporting CP defender Nuno Mendes. Juve, Madrid and Milan have also been tracking the 18-year-old, who has a £60m (€70m) release clause.

    Edinson Cavani is open to extending his United contract, according to Fabrizio Romano. Cavani joined United as a free agent on a one-year deal at the start of the season. The former PSG star has been linked with Boca Juniors.

  • Liverpool v Chelsea: Klopp and Tuchel take familiar paths to Premier League showdown Liverpool v Chelsea: Klopp and Tuchel take familiar paths to Premier League showdown

    "Of course we have a certain history…but we don't know each other as well as everybody thinks."

    So said Thomas Tuchel during a glowing assessment of his German compatriot Jurgen Klopp, not long after replacing club legend Frank Lampard in the Chelsea dugout in January.

    You could be forgiven, though, for thinking there is a much stronger bond between two men from the same country, whose paths from young heavy-metal upstarts to coaching heavyweights have taken eerily similar paths.

    There are striking facets in each man's style of play too. The high intensity pressing, the devastating speed of the counter-attack, the fluidity of the forwards.

    Now, whether you are a believer in fate or coincidence, the two are set to battle in the Premier League for the first time on Thursday when Chelsea – unbeaten so far under Tuchel – visit Anfield to take on Klopp's Liverpool.

    With that in mind, let's take a trip down memory lane.

    BECOMING THE MAINZ MAN

    "I had fourth-division feet and a first-division head".

    Even as a player, Klopp always believed his talents were better suited to the touchline than inside the white lines and it was at second-tier Mainz – where he made over 300 league appearances as a player – where he would get the chance to cut his coaching teeth.

    Appointed in February 2001, Klopp helped stave off the threat of relegation and then led the team to consecutive fourth-place finishes, narrowly missing out on promotion.

    But the old adage proved true, as the third time proved a charm for Klopp as Mainz were promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history.

    Klopp had the smallest budget and the smallest stadium in the top flight, but in his first two campaigns among the elite, employing his now famed Gegenpress, he led Mainz to back-to-back 11th-place finishes and a first foray into European football – qualifying for the UEFA Cup thanks to the Fair Play draw.

    Relegation followed in the next campaign, and in total Klopp enjoyed 29 wins from 102 Bundesliga games as Mainz boss, a win percentage of 28.43 in Germany's top flight – his side scoring 130 goals and conceding 159.

    He had a points-per-game average of 1.13 with Mainz in the Bundesliga but, after failing to secure a return to the top tier the following campaign, Klopp departed for pastures new. More on that later.

    So, what next for Mainz? Well, the original route was the appointment of Jorn Andersen, who successfully achieved promotion but was sacked before the 2009-10 top-flight campaign even started, with Mainz stating the aims of the club and the coach were no longer the same.

    Enter Tuchel…

    A knee injury curtailed Tuchel's playing career at the age of 25 and he worked in the youth team at Stuttgart before overseeing the second team at Augsburg – a club he previously played for.

    It was here where Tuchel impressed Bundesliga teams, coaching a side including Julian Nagelsmann, and Mainz came calling after dismissing Andersen.

    Despite limited funds and a supposedly inferior playing squad, a team including Andre Schurrle and Adam Szalai helped Mainz to a ninth-placed finish.

    Better things were to come the following season. The likes of Lewis Holtby and future Premier League winner Christian Fuchs arrived and Tuchel led Mainz to their highest ever finish of fifth.

    The difficulties of mixing domestic and European football were a struggle and the next two campaigns saw Mainz finish 13th before coming an impressive seventh in 2013-14, Tuchel's last season in charge.

    By the end of his tenure, Tuchel had a win percentage of 38.24 in the Bundesliga – significantly higher than Klopp's and the best of any Mainz coach.

    Under Tuchel, Mainz won 65 Bundesliga games, scored 229 goals, conceded 230 and finished with a points-per-game ratio of 1.41. After a year out of the game, another opportunity was to arise…

    DELIGHTING IN DORTMUND

    When Klopp arrived at Borussia Dortmund in 2008, both parties could hardly have dreamed they would be a better match.

    Earlier in the decade, Dortmund were a club on the brink of financial ruin after years of heavy spending.

    It meant Klopp's remit was to work within a limited budget and develop youth talent. And boy did he succeed in his task – putting together a team that would mix it with the best of European football.

    The early signs were promising as Dortmund finished sixth and fifth in Klopp's first two campaigns, an improvement on 13th in the season prior to him taking over.

    But it was 2010-11 when things really clicked. A star-studded cast led by Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze, Mats Hummels and Shinji Kagawa pressed, hassled and swashbuckled their way to Bundesliga glory.

    Dortmund would repeat the trick a year later with their 81 points at the time a Bundesliga record, while they made it a domestic double in the process by adding the DFB-Pokal.

    Bayern Munich regained top spot in the Bundesliga in the following season (and have not looked back since) but Klopp's reputation continued to grow as Dortmund reached the Champions League final – only to be denied as Arjen Robben's 89th-minute winner earned Bayern a famous treble.

    Dortmund were runners-up in the league and cup in 2013-14, and a disappointing start to the next term that saw Dortmund initially in relegation trouble would mark the beginning of the end of a glorious chapter.

    Still, a recovery to seventh in the table and a run to the Pokal final meant Klopp left with his head held high. In total, Dortmund won 133 of their 238 Bundesliga matches under Klopp – ending with a win percentage of 55.88 and an average of 1.91 points per game, with 469 goals scored and 248 conceded.

    But life at Signal Iduna Park had to go on and, you guessed it… enter Tuchel.

    It was a natural fit in many ways, with Dortmund keen to find someone who would fit a similar mould to Klopp when he first joined. Young, vibrant, a desire to press and attack at pace.

    There was much to admire in Tuchel's first campaign, but Bayern's winning machine continued as they finished 10 points clear of their rivals.

    Dortmund spent big to replenish a squad depleted by the departures of Hummels, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gundogan ahead of the 2016-17 season, but they accumulated 14 fewer points to finish third in the league – a triumph in the Pokal proving Tuchel's only trophy at the club.

    While there was plenty to admire on the pitch, off it Tuchel's reign was mired by disagreements with Dortmund's hierarchy – most notably CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke.

    Tuchel left with a win percentage in the Bundesliga of 61.76 (beaten only by Lucien Favre's 63.29 among Dortmund coaches with at least 10 games in charge), accruing an impressive 2.09 points per game.

    HEAD-TO-HEAD AND 'THAT' GAME AT ANFIELD

    Similar paths, similarities in styles, contrasting fortunes then.

    But Thursday's clash at Anfield is by no means the first time these two have gone head to head.

    Indeed, there were 10 occasions when the two were in opposition dugouts in the Bundesliga – with Klopp winning seven of those and Tuchel only one.

    When extending that to all competitions, Klopp has triumphed nine times from 14 games, while Tuchel bumps up only slightly to two victories.

    Their most famous showdown, of course, came in the 2015-16 Europa League quarter-finals, where Klopp was handed a romantic return to the club he once considered his home.

    A 1-1 draw in Dortmund preceded one of the greatest second-leg contests in the competition's history.

    Goals from Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had Dortmund 2-0 up inside 10 minutes to stun Anfield and, although Divock Origi's goal just after the break reduced the arrears, Marco Reus' effort before the hour had seemingly sewn things up.

    Cue pandemonium. Philippe Coutinho and Mamadou Sakho were on target to level things on the night and Dejan Lovren's injury-time header completed the most memorable and emotional of comebacks, Liverpool celebrating a 4-3 victory.

    Since that night, Klopp has become a Premier League and Champions League winner with the Reds, while Tuchel's arrival at Stamford Bridge was preceded by a couple of Ligue 1 title triumphs with Paris Saint-Germain and a 1-0 loss to Bayern in last season's showpiece game in Europe's premier competition.

    Klopp and Tuchel also had a win apiece when Liverpool and PSG met in the 2018-19 Champions League group stages.

    Now their familiar paths have led to the Premier League for the latest showdown between two of the greatest coaching minds in football.

  • Embiid lifts 76ers over Jazz in thriller and Harden enjoys winning return to Houston as LeBron-less Lakers lose Embiid lifts 76ers over Jazz in thriller and Harden enjoys winning return to Houston as LeBron-less Lakers lose

    Joel Embiid enhanced his MVP credentials with a monster double-double as the Philadelphia 76ers trumped the NBA-leading Utah Jazz in a thrilling battle, 131-123 after overtime.

    Embiid hit a game-tying three-pointer with 5.3 seconds remaining to force OT – Eastern Conference leaders the 76ers outscoring the Jazz 13-5 in the additional period to reign supreme in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

    MVP candidate Embiid finished with 40 points and 19 rebounds to fuel the 76ers to back-to-back wins heading into the break, with the All-Star Game scheduled for Sunday.

    Sixers team-mate Tobias Harris scored 11 of his 22 points in overtime as the 76ers improved to 24-12.

    Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, who was ejected with 30.8 seconds remaining in OT, recorded 33 points in the road loss – Utah (27-9) suffering back-to-back losses.

    James Harden showed no mercy in his first game against the Houston Rockets since January's blockbuster trade to the Brooklyn Nets.

    Former MVP Harden had 29 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds for his eighth triple-double since joining the Nets, who downed the injury-hit Rockets 132-114.

     

    McConnell makes history

    T.J. McConnell put up 16 points on eight of eight shooting, 13 assists and 10 steals off the bench in the Indiana Pacers' 114-111 win at the Cleveland Cavaliers. McConnell became the first player in NBA history to record 10-plus steals and make 100 per cent of his field-goal attempts in a game, per Stats Perform. He also became only the 10th player with a 10-plus steal triple-double since steals began being tracked in 1973-74.

    Trae Young ended the game with 32 points as the Atlanta Hawks edged the Orlando Magic 115-112.

    The Chicago Bulls trumped the New Orleans Pelicans 128-124 behind Zach LaVine's 36 points.

    Triple-doubles from Mason Plumlee (14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists) and Dennis Smith Jr. (10 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists) inspired the Detroit Pistons to a 129-105 win over the Toronto Raptors. Norman Powell had a game-high 36 points for the Raptors.

     

    Lakers' poor form continues

    Playing without LeBron James for the first time this season and with Anthony Davis already sidelined, defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers went down 123-120 to the Sacramento Kings. The Lakers have lost six of their last eight games, falling into a tie for third place in the Western Conference heading into the All-Star weekend.

    The Rockets have lost 13 games in a row – the franchise's longest skid since dropping 15 straight in 2001.

     

    Lillard sinks Warriors

    Damian Lillard (22 points) scored the final eight points for the Portland Trail Blazers, including the game-winning three with 13.7 seconds remaining, in a 108-106 win against the Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry's 35 points were not enough for the Warriors.

     

    Wednesday's results

    Indiana Pacers 114-111 Cleveland Cavaliers
    Philadelphia 76ers 131-123 Utah Jazz (OT)
    Detroit Pistons 129-105 Toronto Raptors
    Brooklyn Nets 132-114 Houston Rockets
    Atlanta Hawks 115-112 Orlando Magic
    Charlotte Hornets 135-102 Minnesota Timberwolves
    Chicago Bulls 128-124 New Orleans Pelicans
    Dallas Mavericks 87-78 Oklahoma City Thunder
    Portland Trail Blazers 108-106 Golden State Warriors
    Sacramento Kings 123-120 Los Angeles Lakers

     

    Clippers at Wizards

    The Los Angeles Clippers (24-13) will look to snap a run of back-to-back defeats before the All-Star break when they visit the lowly Washington Wizards (13-20) on Thursday.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.