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Sky Blue News: City get Closer, Madrid Injuries, Ancelotti v Pep, and More...

Headlines for your Monday from Bitter and Blue.

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Manchester City put another three points in the bank at the weekend and are now just 9 points shy of claiming a third consecutive Premier League title. Domestic concerns are set aside for now however as the lads head to Spain ahead of the first leg of their UEFA Champions League tie with Real Madrid. Garreth Taylor’s women are readying for a big match of their own. The derby awaits this coming Sunday as the Lady Blues visit Manchester United. Sky Blue News is here with all the latest to keep you up to speed.


The match could have a huge say in the outcomes of the campaign, with Marc Skinner’s side at the Barclays Women’s Super League summit and us firmly in the hunt for a place in the top three.

However, despite a dogged performance at Prenton Park in our previous league assignment, our title hopes took a blow with defeat to Matt Beard’s side.

And Taylor says we must put things right against Manchester United and vitally add to our points tally with two games of the campaign remaining.

“I think so [it’s the perfect game to play next],” he said.

“It’s a really good game for us, one we’re looking forward to and we have an opportunity to put some points on the board again. That’s what we’ll be looking to do.

“I just said to the players [at full-time], ‘we’ve come a long way and done some really good things’.

“It’s looking difficult for us now to do the things we need to do, but we’ve got two games left.”

Manchester City Edge Closer To Title - Manc Pete - Bitter and Blue

After hitting top spot with a comfortable 3-0 victory over West Ham, City faced the relegation-threatened Whites with new manager Sam Allardyce, who earlier in the week claimed he was as good as Pep Guardiola, looking to extend their lead over the Gunners. And, with the London side facing a difficult challenge at St James’s Park on Sunday, three points were vital for the blues, who could wrap up the league with victory at Everton and in their final home game against Chelsea, should the Gunners founder on Tyneside.

Gundogan was one of several changes made from Wednesday’s match and he proved the difference in the first half as City swept into a 2-0 lead inside 27 minutes. In fairness, it was no more than City deserved after dominating the stages, with the blues threatening a repeat of last season’s 7-0 demolition of the Yorkshire side.

The German star fired low into the bottom right corner after being brilliantly picked out by Riyad Mahrez on the City right on 19 minutes, and same pair combined eight minutes later to make it 2-0. This time, Gundogan took a touch before finding the other corner.

Leeds were not in the game and City continued to dominate for the rest of the half but couldn’t add to the tally.

Pep Guardiola hails Ilkay Gundogan as ‘one of the best I’ve ever trained in my career’ as Man City future to be decided in the coming weeks - Ritabrata Banerjee - Goal

WHAT HAPPENED? Ilkay Gundogan, who was the first signing of the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City back in 2016, could leave the club in the summer after his contract expires. Amid rumours of him moving away from the club, Guardiola heaped praise on the player as he claimed that the German midfielder is a ‘top class’ player and one of the best he has ever coached after he scored a brace in Manchester City’s 2-1 win over Leeds United on Saturday.

WHAT THEY SAID: Speaking to, Guardiola said, “I remember one season when we won the second Premier League when Fernandinho was injured for a long time and he played as holding midfielder in games like against Burnley away with the long balls, second balls and… wow… he played. I said I had the feeling that without him we couldn’t win the Premier League.

“He’s so intelligent Gundo, so clever and competitive. Under pressure, he handles it without a problem. He’s one of the best players I ever trained in my career in terms of the whole package. He’s top, top class.”

Real Madrid without three players for Man City fixture after fresh injury blow - Daniel Murphy - Manchester Evening News

City travel to the Bernabeu for the first leg of the Champions League semi-final in great spirits after making it 20 games without defeat with a 2-1 win over Leeds United on Saturday and ensuring they kept their spot at the top of the table. Madrid are 14 points off leaders Barcelona in La Liga but will be buoyed by their Copa del Rey triumph over Osasuna on the weekend.

Pep Guardiola’s side will be hoping to exact revenge on Los Blancos following their heartbreaking elimination at the hands of the eventual winners at the same stage last season. The Blues are sweating on the fitness of Nathan Ake after the defender limped off with what appeared to be another hamstring injury against Leeds but otherwise have a fully fit squad.

Madrid, meanwhile, look set to be without three important players for the match. The latest injury blow has been suffered by Ceballos, who is set for a week to 10 days on the sidelines with a muscular problem in his thigh, reports Marca. It’s added that the former Arsenal man will be missed as Carlo Ancelotti is planning to utilise as much of his squad as possible in the tie and star playmaker Luka Modric is not at 100 per cent.

Meanwhile, left-back Ferland Mendy has missed the last 11 matches after suffering a calf injury during training at the end of March. The Frenchman is back in individual training but is not yet fit enough to return to action.

Rico Lewis ‘on verge of signing new Manchester City contract’ - Ben Knapton - Sports Mole

Lewis has racked up 20 first-team appearances for Man City in the current season, scoring his first goal for the club in their 3-1 Champions League win over Sevilla in November.

The 2004-born defender has 11 Premier League appearances to his name so far, making seven starts in the top flight and appearing in a further four off the bench.

After eight successive matches as an unused substitute, Lewis started and played the full 90 in an inverted role during Saturday’s 2-1 win over Leeds United, as Guardiola keeps John Stones fresh for Tuesday’s European semi-final first leg with Real Madrid.

Lewis, who has been on the books at Man City since 2013, is due to become a free agent at the end of next season, but the Citizens have always been expected to tie him down to fresh terms.

According to 90min, talks between Lewis and Man City over a new deal have now reached their final stages, and both parties are close to reaching a full agreement.

The report states that City have been engaging in dialogue with Lewis’s representatives since the start of the year, and the teenager should put pen to paper imminently.

Guardiola apparently views Lewis as an ideal successor to Kyle Walker, whose future at the Etihad is being called into question ahead of the expiry of his contract in 2024.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid vs Pep Guardiola’s Man City: Two coaching greats could not be more different - Adam Bate - Sky Sports

While Guardiola’s rivalry with Jurgen Klopp has been a feature of the Premier League and his time in Spain was shaped by his antagonism with Jose Mourinho, it is he and Ancelotti who are the two men to have contested the most Champions League semi-finals.

Theirs too is a rivalry of ideas because they represent two very different ways of doing this job. The stylistic contrast is not as overt but it might just be more intriguing because the difference between them is about more than tactics, it is about principles.

The positional game of Guardiola has inspired a generation of coaches. His is an ideology. It can be taught. It can be embraced.

Ancelotti’s rules are less defined. It was not always so. As a fledgling coach at Parma, famously, he rejected the chance to sign Roberto Baggio because he was so wedded to the idea of Arrigo Sacchi’s 4-4-2. It was a lesson that altered his approach to management.

History would suggest that there is no right or wrong here.

Their first semi-final against each other was in 2014 and resulted in a big win for Ancelotti’s Madrid. Guardiola famously fretted over his Bayern Munich formation for days, changing his mind twice before settling on a decision he would regret, losing 4-0 at home.

Ancelotti, characteristically, gave the responsibility to his players. To Cristiano Ronaldo. “My only wish is that every player gets the chance to work with him,” Ronaldo once said. Ancelotti never had a problem with him. “In fact, he solved the problems for me.”

Madrid Cristiano Ronaldo (L) and head coach Carlo Ancelotti celebrate the 4-0 goal during the Champions League semi-final second leg match between FC Bayern Munich and Real Madrid at Arena in Munich, Germany, 29 March 2014.

The Italian had the better of that meeting but what happened when he replaced Guardiola at Bayern highlighted the flaws in his approach. Initially, the players appeared almost giddy. “He trusts us to make our own decisions out on the pitch,” said Manuel Neuer.

And finally... An interesting look at Sheik Mansour’s time in charge at City.

Manchester City’s history shows there never was a golden age of ownership - Nicholas Blincoe - The Guardian

City are owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a key figure in Abu Dhabi, the leading principality in the seven-strong federation, the United Arab Emirates. Mansour is the fifth son of Fatima bint Mubarak Al Ketbi, known as “Mother of the Sheikhs” since her six sons gained ascendancy over Abu Dhabi 20 years ago. Mansour is the chief adviser to his oldest brother, the UAE president Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, acting as both his vice-president and deputy prime minister (by convention, the UAE prime minister is the leader of Dubai). In common with other principalities, such as Monaco, Abu Dhabi is an autocracy. The larger UAE federation is a complex power negotiation between multiple aristocratic stakeholders, governed by both a constitution and by clannish conventions. In this highly politicised environment, Mansour has earned a formidable reputation as a politician and business strategist. Abu Dhabi has the third richest state fund in the world but, unlike Qatar’s ownership of Paris Saint-Germain or Saudi Arabia’s holdings in Newcastle, City are not owned by the state.

Given Mansour’s profile in Abu Dhabi, it is reasonable to ask if he has used his leverage to reach sweetheart deals and supercharge City’s rise. Yet no one thinks the City project is about burning money with no regard to profitability: it is that most modern of business propositions, a disruptive start-up. If Manchester City is an example of sportswashing then the image is one of swaggering sports scientists and Harvard MBAs. However, to see evidence of a ruthless or cold business strategy in the football on the pitch is like a Victorian novelist reading a character’s psychology in the weather. It’s a projection. There is an aesthetic difference between, say, Alex Ferguson’s United and Pep Guardiola’s City, but it is style rather than politics, as when the oily sweat of the rockers gave way to the sleek cool of the mods.

City’s management team has been open in their ambition to create a global entertainment product, and global ambitions require faith in a rules-based order. How else can one sell a highly codified sport in multiple markets? If City are found guilty of subverting the rules to supercharge the project, this is cynical – the “cake-and-eat-it” attitude of a corporation emboldened by an army of lawyers. The larger issue is whether you think Disney or Sony is the right model for football, and if the result will be the end of competition in the English leagues. If not, a clear-eyed analysis is the first step to tackling the issues. If the Premier League is turned into a heavily handicapped product like F1 to ensure competitiveness, would anyone bet against a well-run City continuing to win?

There you have it. Stay with Bitter and Blue for all the latest as we build toward Real Madrid away. Sky Blue News returns tomorrow with more headlines.