Man City ‘deserve’ Champions League return, says Guardiola

The Court of Arbitration for Sport will deliver its verdict on the fate of Manchester City on Monday. (AP file photo)
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Updated 13 July 2020

Man City ‘deserve’ Champions League return, says Guardiola

  • UEFA handed Man City a two-season sanction in February over alleged breaches of financial fair play rules
  • Man City appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and a verdict is expected on Monday

BRIGHTON, UK: Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City deserve their place in the Champions League next season as the club wait to find out whether their two-season ban against playing in European competitions will be overturned.
City were handed the two-season sanction by UEFA in February over alleged breaches of financial fair play rules, but appealed that decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport which will deliver its verdict on Monday.
On the field, City ensured they will finish in the Premier League’s top four with Raheem Sterling scoring a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Brighton on Saturday.
“Today we achieved one incredible challenge, which is qualification for the Champions League mathematically,” said Guardiola.
“We deserve to be there because we won it on the pitch. Hopefully on Monday UEFA can allow us to play like this team and these players deserve to.”
For the fourth time in their last six league games, City scored four or more goals in another performance that belied the 21-point gap between them and champions Liverpool.
However, they could still end the season with a treble of trophies as they face Arsenal in the semifinals of the FA Cup next weekend before recommencing their Champions League campaign in August.
“I have the feeling all the team is ready to play good for what we have ahead of us,” added Guardiola.
“The levels we’ve had since the restart, even the games we lost, have been really good.”
Too often City have been found wanting for failing to take their chances and punished for defensive lapses at the other end.
However, there was never any chance of Brighton adding to their nine league defeats this season once Sterling curled home his 25th goal of the season with unerring accuracy into the far corner.
“I think the problem we’ve had this season is we’ve created a lot of chances and not taken them whereas last season and the season before we’d finish them and bury games early on,” said Sterling.
“This season we haven’t had that slight bit of luck.”
Gabriel Jesus could have the responsibility of leading the line when City’s bid to win the Champions League for the first time gets back underway with Sergio Aguero facing a race against time to be fit after knee surgery.
The Brazilian has not always been the most prolific finisher, but showed striker’s instincts to tap Rodrigo’s flick-on for a corner to make it 2-0 just before half-time with his 20th goal of the season.
Sterling notched his second of the night in unusual fashion by crashing home a header from Mahrez’s teasing cross.
Brighton did themselves no favors for the fourth as Mat Ryan spiled a Bernardo Silva shot he should have held and Jesus teed up the Portuguese midfielder to roll into an unguarded net at the second attempt..
Sterling was left on as Kevin De Bruyne and Jesus made way to give him the chance of securing a hat-trick and he did so with a hint of fortune as the ball ricocheted off his head after he had fallen to the floor inside the area and Dan Burn failed to clear the ball off the line.
Brighton are still not mathematically safe as they remain eight points above the relegation zone, but Graham Potter’s men should already have enough points on the board as third-bottom Bournemouth face the daunting task of being City’s next opponents on Wednesday.
“We were well beaten by the better team,” admitted Potter.
“They beat Liverpool 4-0 at the Etihad so better teams than us will find it dificult.”


Gattuso puts Napoli ‘on the path to victory against Barcelona’

Updated 39 min 1 sec ago

Gattuso puts Napoli ‘on the path to victory against Barcelona’

  • We certainly want to write an important page in our history, says club’s head coach

MILAN, Italy: Gennaro Gattuso’s reign as Napoli coach may have started amid turmoil but the former Italy international has put the Serie A club on the path toward a potential Champions League triumph against Barcelona.

The southern Italians head for the Camp Nou on Saturday with a first ever Champions League quarter-final berth beckoning.

“We certainly want to write an important page in our history,” said Gattuso of a feat which not even Argentine legend Diego Maradona managed to achieve with the club.

Both sides are 1-1 after the last 16, first leg in the San Paulo Stadium in February.

But Lionel Messi’s Spaniards have not been beaten at home in the Champions League in seven years as they target a 13th consecutive quarterfinal berth.

Barcelona finished second in La Liga while Napoli were seventh in Serie A, but having secured a Europa League spot thanks to their Italian Cup victory.

Gattuso admitted his “head was already on Barcelona” as his side wrapped up their league season with a 3-1 win over Lazio last weekend.

“We will play on a high-level stage and we want to be worthy of it,” he said.

“We know that if we want to compete against Barcelona we will have to take risks.”

The big question will be how to stop six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi, a problem which former AC Milan midfielder Gattuso would have happily tackled as a player.

“I can mark Messi only in my dreams, or on my son’s PlayStation,” said the 42-year-old former Glasgow Rangers player, who won two Champions League titles with AC Milan.

“We are ready to face Barcelona. We have our style, we are prepared. But they have one player named Messi who can leave 10 players behind.”

As a player, Gattuso had a fiery reputation, with a dogged never-say-die attitude.

In Naples, more than rage he has brought calm to a locker room traumatized after a disastrous first half of the season under Carlo Ancelotti, his former coach in Milan.

This despite sparse coaching credentials, coming through Sion, Palermo, OFI Crete, Pisa and his beloved Milan before arriving in Naples. He was harshly judged after his 18 months at AC Milan despite their fifth-place finish last season, missing out on the Champions League by one point.

But his successor Marco Giampaolo was sacked after just seven matches.

“It’s a profession that cannot be learned from books but by getting knocked in the teeth. I have had a few failures and will have many more,” said Gattuso.

Since the end of January, and after a difficult start to life in Naples with the team plunging to 13th position and Gattuso facing ridicule, the team have been reborn.

He has given confidence back to players including Lorenzo Insigne, Nikola Maksimovic and Kalidou Koulibaly.

His reputation as a 2006 World Cup star and two-time Champions League and Serie A winner holds weight in the locker room, along with his straight talking style, and work ethic.

“(Gattuso) Rino is the most respected coach in the dressing room since I have been here,” said Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis.

Gattuso’s first trophy came in the Italian Cup just days after the death of his younger sister.

Napoli won a dramatic penalty shootout against Juventus in Rome for their first trophy in six years — a feat not achieved under Gattuso’s predecessors Maurizio Sarri and Ancelotti.