EPL

Jesus, De Bruyne start derby for City as Solskjaer goes with James

By Sports Desk March 07, 2021

Gabriel Jesus got the nod to lead Manchester City's attack in the derby against Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium, with Phil Foden having to be content with a place on the bench.

Jesus took his tally in all competitions to 11 goals this season with a midweek brace in the 4-1 win over Wolves, which extended City's winning streak to 21 matches and allowed the Premier League leaders to head into Sunday's fixture with a 14-point lead over third-placed United.

That performance against Wolves persuaded Pep Guardiola to retain Jesus in his XI, despite the fact his team have often operated without a specialist centre-forward during their record-breaking run.

Foden was joined among the substitutes by Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva, as Kevin De Bruyne was named as captain in midfield on his 250th City appearance.

Both Jesus and De Bruyne were looking to improve their individual records against United. The Brazil striker has not scored in nine derby appearances, while none of De Bruyne's 77 Premier League assists have come with United as the opponents.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was aiming to become the first United manager in history to win his first three away derbies and selected a front three of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Daniel James.

Edinson Cavani returned from injury during the midweek 0-0 at Crystal Palace – United's third consecutive goalless draw – but the veteran striker was not part of the derby matchday squad.

Related items

  • Rashford sends message to Smalling after reports of armed burglary ordeal Rashford sends message to Smalling after reports of armed burglary ordeal

    Marcus Rashford sent his support to Chris Smalling after the former Manchester United defender was reportedly a victim of an armed burglary.

    Smalling and his family were said to have been at home in the Appia Antica district of Rome when three men with guns broke into the property and demanded a safe be opened.

    The burglars reportedly fled with Rolex watches and jewellery and a small sum of cash.

    La Gazzetta dello Sport said that a call to police was made by Smalling's wife at around 05:00 local time (04:00 GMT) on Friday, with an investigation subsequently launched.

    United striker Rashford sent a message to his former club-mate, writing on Twitter: "Thinking about you @ChrisSmalling and your lovely family. So sorry to wake up to the news this morning. Can’t imagine how you're feeling but I hope you're ok."

    Smalling has been injured recently and did not play on Thursday when Roma edged past Ajax to reach the Europa League semi-finals, with United awaiting them in the last four.

  • Tuchel: Chelsea can close gap to 'European benchmark' Man City for 90 minutes Tuchel: Chelsea can close gap to 'European benchmark' Man City for 90 minutes

    Thomas Tuchel is confident Chelsea can close the gap to a Manchester City side he believes are the "benchmark" in European football alongside Bayern Munich for 90 minutes in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final.

    Tuchel has never beaten a side managed by Guardiola during his career, having met the Catalan tactician five times across spells in charge of Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, earning two draws against his opponent's Bayern Munich side.

    Both Chelsea and City are through to the semi-finals of the Champions League but, with the Blues 20 points behind Guardiola's men domestically, Tuchel accepts his team are a long way off the standard set by the Premier League leaders.

    Asked if, having always been an underdog against him in Germany, Tuchel's Chelsea and Guardiola's City can be considered equals at Wembley, Tuchel told a media conference: "Yes and no. We have to accept there is a gap between us and Manchester City.

    "If you look at the fixtures in the Premier League and if you look at the fixtures in the last few years we have to accept this. It's important that we accept it but without making us too small.

    "From day one next season we will hunt them and try to close the gap between us. For me, in Europe, there are two teams who are the benchmark: Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

    "But I know what you're saying of course, he made it impossible for us to beat them with Mainz, I think we had two draws with Dortmund, one ended in the cup final in a penalty loss and we had another draw at home, so we came close, it's time that we beat them, the next try is tomorrow.

    "I don't believe in how big clubs are, are we equal or not? We have to admit that there is a gap but for 90 minutes we are very self-aware and very self-confident that we truly believe we can close the gap for one game, this is the target for tomorrow and I arrive with a team that I'm absolutely happy to arrive, to compete against the benchmark in England and Europe.

    "We don't have the momentum of football on our side. If we want to have this we have to play on our top level, to force things and need a bit of luck.

    "If we manage to beat them it will be a huge boost if not we will have to accept and take it as a challenge and opportunity to grow because we have some fights coming up. It's not only about the FA Cup, it's about the top-four race and the Champions League."

    Tuchel takes joy in competing with Guardiola, identifying him as a significant inspiration in his managerial career.

    "[Guardiola is a] huge influence because when he was coach of Barcelona I was watching almost every game," Tuchel explained. 

    "I was very impressed by the way they made success happen with the style they were playing with their own academy guys, the offensive way, the ball possession.

    "The most impressive thing about this team was their mentality, how they defended when they lost the ball. I learned a lot watching the game and understanding more of the game, how adventurous, how brave you can approach this game.

    "So it was a big, big lesson. At this time I was a coach at the academy and then became a coach at Mainz. Almost every match was a lesson in these days and then later we had the opportunity to play against him.

    "It was not always a pleasure but when you arrive on a certain level it's of course a pleasure to play against him and to meet him and to fight on the highest level."

  • Foden must keep showing it on the grass – Guardiola Foden must keep showing it on the grass – Guardiola

    Pep Guardiola shrugged off the suggestion Phil Foden's sensational form proves he was right to slowly ease the youngster into first-team action, insisting football is only about the present.

    Manchester City prodigy Foden made his Premier League debut in 2017-18, playing five times in total. While his talent was obvious, Guardiola was cautious with his development, opting to drop the attacker in and out of games, sometimes causing ire in the media.

    A total of 13 league appearances followed in 2018-19 before Foden truly began to establish himself last season, making 37 appearances across all competitions.

    Guardiola's cautious approach has seemingly paid off, with Foden one of City's most impressive players this campaign.

    The 20-year-old has played 41 times in total, including 29 starts. He is joint-second – alongside Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling – in City's scorers' list with 13 goals, behind Ilkay Gundogan (16); Foden's latest strike coming against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.

    His tally of nine assists is bettered only by Kevin De Bruyne (16), with the Belgian (99) and Riyad Mahrez (75) the two City players to have created more chances than Foden (65).

    But asked if he can take credit for Foden's development, Guardiola insisted the England international must continue to prove himself in every game.

    "It's not about what we believed in the past, it's about what they show on the grass," Guardiola told a news conference ahead of City's FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea on Saturday.

    "So, footballers have to show every single day. The journalists will talk a lot about the past, or the future. In football it's about the present.

    "In the present it doesn't matter what we have done, it's what we do today. Everybody is involved, talking and talking. The players have to talk on the grass.

    "It's the only way they can protect their position and win in the present and in the future. It's as simple as that.

    "Phil in that case, everything we get right now is on the grass, not in any other situations. He's going to continue being there depending on his performance, not on what he has done so far at a young age. You have to every game win something to stay in the position and playing every day."

    While Foden is thriving, one player whose form has been called into question in some quarters is Sterling, who only came on for a brief cameo towards the end against Dortmund.

    Guardiola, however, disregarded the suggestion it had to be a choice between Foden or Sterling for a spot on the left.

    "If you know a bit the trajectory of this team selection, then the answer is obvious," said Guardiola, who also confirmed Sergio Aguero will not be fit to feature at Wembley.

    "Of course they can play together, they have played many times together. Phil can play in five positions, Sterling in three positions. Everyone can play in a few positions, so it depends on them."

    Sterling has created fewer opportunities than Foden this season (45), though he has the same amount of assists, having crafted the same number of Opta-defined "big chances" (12) and both are over-performing their expected assists to a similar degree.

     

    Foden has a slightly better shot conversion rate – 16.1 per cent compared to 15.7 – though has attempted two fewer (81 compared to 83) attempts than the former Liverpool winger.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.