Stoke City boss says his players face a major test in Manchester this weekend...
MARK HUGHES believes his side will arguably be coming up against the most formidable Manchester City side in history this weekend.
The Citizens have made an emphatic start to the 2017/18 campaign, winning six and drawing one of their opening seven matches to firmly establish themselves as favourites to secure what would be a fifth top-flight crown.
Pep Guardiola invested heavily during the summer months, splashing out almost £250M in a bid to wrestle the Premier League title away from Chelsea; a side they beat 1-0 in their last outing prior to the international break.
Speaking to Stoke City+, Hughes, who spent 18 months in charge of City earlier in his managerial career, said: "They weren't bad last year and they went out and spent an enormous amount in the summer.
“They clearly have the resources to just go out there and address any perceived failings or weaknesses that they feel they have, and they have certainly done that, especially in the full-back areas.
“The thing that you always have to accept, unfortunately, is that even when they are playing poorly, or not functioning as well as they can do, they still have individuals who can produce something out of nothing and win the game for them."
“We have seen games that they have played and not performed as fluidly as they can do, but still managed to turn the game in their favour thanks to a goal from a Sergio Aguero or a Kevin De Bruyne, just like at Chelsea.
“They have individuals who can turn the game in an instant, and they have any number of those players too, so we have to accept and understand that and try to stop them from having too many opportunities, or sights at goal.”
He added: “Nobody expects us to win, but that means nothing - it is all about what we can do on the day, so let's get out there and see what we can do, because we have players that can turn the game with a piece of individual brilliance too.”
Aguero returns to full training ahead of Stoke clash
(Reuters) - Striker Sergio Aguero has completed a full training session with Manchester City and could be available for Saturday’s Premier League game against Stoke City, two weeks after sustaining a broken rib in a road accident.
The 29-year-old was injured in a car crash in Amsterdam last month and missed City’s 1-0 win over champions Chelsea and both of Argentina’s 2018 World Cup qualifiers but returned to light training for the league leaders earlier this week.
“Back to training. I am ready!” Aguero said on his verified Twitter account, alongside pictures of him and his team mates in action during Thursday’s session.
Aguero is City’s top-scorer with six goals in as many Premier League appearances for Pep Guardiola’s side, who lead the standings on 19 points after seven fixtures.
Manchester City Reportedly Want Alexis Sanchez in Cut-Price January Transfer
Manchester City are reportedly ready to move for Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez in the January transfer window, but only if they can sign him for a bargain price.
According to John Cross of the Daily Mirror, City's offer for the player in January is likely to be significantly less than the £60 million they bid in the summer, with the forward's value said to be viewed at around £20 million in the midseason window. That's because his contract expires at the end of the 2017-18 season.
"Mirror Sport understands Sanchez has made up his mind to move to the Etihad, which leaves City in a strong position," continued the report.
Cross also noted the 28-year-old would not be cup-tied for UEFA Champions League matches in the new year, meaning he would be able to help City push for that trophy too.The report comes after comments from Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger suggested players whose contracts are to run out—like Sanchez and his team-mate Mesut Ozil—may be sold on in the January window.
"Once you are in our kind of situation we have envisaged every kind of solution, yes," he said on Thursday, per Cross. "Yes, it's possible."
Bleacher Report's Dean Jones expects the speculation surrounding both players to be ramped up in light of those comments:
According to Cross, Arsenal will make a "judgement call" on Sanchez's position in January, with the decision to sell him set to depend "on whether their season is still alive."
Whether there is still something for the Gunners to play for from January onwards will likely have plenty to do with Sanchez. After all, despite the incessant exit talk, the forward is still the heartbeat of the Arsenal team in the final third.
The forward may want out, but he still sets an example with his hard-running, inventive passing and tremendous goalscoring. Per WhoScored.com, last season there wasn't a player in the Premier League as effective in creating and taking chances:
After digging in this summer and keeping Sanchez despite interest from City, Arsenal would surely be reluctant to sell midseason.
The prospect of losing such a wonderful footballer for nothing at the end of the campaign is not appealing, but the point of not selling was with a view to one more season of a world-class operator and tapping into that talent.
From a City perspective, with their attack purring, there'd be no great urgency to sign the 28-year-old in the next window despite his obvious talent, especially if they can land him for nothing a few months after. However, if a deal was to be done, he'd give Pep Guardiola's side quite the boost as they look to challenge on multiple fronts for silverware.
Raheem Sterling is the unlikely name with the Premier League's best goals-to-minutes ratio
Sterling has bagged five times in the Premier League already this season, at a faster rate than all the division's leading strikers
Raheem Sterling has the Premier League's best goals-to-game ratio this season - but remains a massive 50-1 shot with bookmakers to finish the season as top scorer.
Sterling, with five goals to his name thus far, is averaging a goal every 77 minutes for Manchester City.
That ratio is better than all others in the top flight - including his City teammate Sergio Aguero and goal king Harry Kane.
Pep Guardiola spoke of his keenness early in the season to show "a little bit more sense" in front of goal, to be "clinical".
Certainly Sterling has heeded his manager's advice thus far.
Aguero comes just in behind his Etihad teammate; the Argentine has scored six times so far, with a goal on average every 78 minutes. The 29-year-old is presently the 6-1 third favourite to take the golden boot at the end of the season.
'Easy target' Hart deserves better, says Bilic
Joe Hart is an easy target and is unappreciated, according to West Ham manager Slaven Bilic.
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic backed Joe Hart, saying the goalkeeper was unfairly criticised and had become an easy target.
Hart, 30, has been questioned for his performances for England and at club level, particularly since leaving Manchester City for a loan spell at Torino last season.
The shot-stopper produced a fine display in World Cup qualifying earlier this month, keeping a clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Slovenia that secured England's place in Russia.
Bilic defended his goalkeeper and believes Hart deserves more credit than he is often given.
"I think you don't appreciate him. I watched the game against Slovenia. He was man of the match," the Croatian said.
"But you didn't have that feeling from the studio, from the commentator, saying it was a penalty [to Slovenia] – it wasn't a penalty. If it was anyone else goalkeeping in that situation, nobody would say it was a penalty. I have that feeling at this moment.
"Has he become an easy target? Yes. The guy is brilliant. I'm not just talking about goalkeeping now. The guy never slaughters anyone in the job.
"He is taking the bullets, he is there every single time, whether he is at City or Torino or West Ham. He is a great professional and a top pro."
Bilic's West Ham, who are 15th in the Premier League, visit Burnley on Saturday.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says he's blown away when watching his team but insists there is still much to improve on
. . . as he admits his antics on the touchline are 'ridiculous'
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes his side have the 'wow' factor but admits there is much to improve on.
Guardiola is enjoying a superb start to his second season in charge of City.
His side are top of the Premier League after winning six out of their first seven games.
The 46-year-old masterminded a 1-0 away victory over Chelsea before the international break.
It was after the game with Antonio Conte's men that Guardiola was able to reflect on his side's performance and he was impressed.
'I saw before the international break, the games against Chelsea and after the game, I said 'wow, we look good' and then I saw the game back and said "wow, we have a lot to improve",' he said at Manchester City's 'Evening with Manager' night, presented by Betsafe.
'It is true that it's a better team than the year before and it is better than the month before which is a good sign and hopefully by the end of the season we will be better than we are now.'
Guardiola hasn't just gained reputation for his style of football since arriving in England but also for his manner on the touchline.
He admits he doesn't quite understand why he is as animated as he sometimes appears.
He added: 'At a game, it is ridiculous what I do because it makes no sense, the players don't hear me.
The City boss admits he can get rather animated on the touchline and says it's 'ridiculous'
'It is a moment when I am so nervous and so worried about what's happening, I have to explode but hopefully in the future when I am older, I can control myself.
'In the beginning of the season, I thought 'okay Pep, this year you will be calm' and I think that this year I am improving, even just a little.'
The only thing that he believes he has knowingly changed from his days at Bayern Munich and Barcelona is what he wears at a game. Putting on a suit is no longer part of the City manager's matchday routine.
'Before I go to the stadium, I call my wife and my eldest daughter, always,' he said. '
'Before it was always the suit, my wife chose one suit every day but this year I decided to have no more suits, it is more comfortable. I don't have any more rituals, only the phone call to my wife.'
WAG OF THE DAY
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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho wants Tottenham and England left-back Danny Rose. The 27-year-old could move north for £50m. (Sun)
Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill is among the early favourites to replace Gordon Strachan as Scotland manager. (Guardian)
Former Everton, Manchester United and Sunderland boss David Moyes would be willing to speak to Scotland about becoming their new manager. (Sun)
Chelsea scouts will check on Red Star Belgrade's Ghana striker Richmond Boakye, 24, during next week's Europa League tie against Arsenal. (Daily Mail)
Liverpool and Arsenal will both move for Monaco and France midfielder Thomas Lemar, 21, next summer. (Daily Mirror)
Messi could be in line for an £80m signing-on bonus if he agrees a new deal with Barcelona. (L'Ara)
Chelsea will consider sending Belgium Under-21 midfielder Charly Musonda, 20, on loan in January. (Evening Standard)
Paris St-Germain midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak, 27, could make his loan switch to West Brom permanent. (Le10 Sport)
Leicester City could move for former Manchester City and Arsenal full-back Bacary Sagna, 34 who is a free agent. (Leicester Mercury)
Sunderland will consider selling Ivory Coast defender Lamine Kone, 28, midfielder Jack Rodwell, 26, and Gabon midfielder Didier Ndong, 23, if Ellis Short has not sold the Championship club before the winter transfer window opens. (Northern Echo)
Bristol City boss Lee Johnson wants to sign a new midfielder in January. (Bristol Post)
Ipswich Town will confirm the £90,000 signing of Waterford striker Aaron Drinan 19, in the January transfer window. (East Anglian Daily Times)
Liverpool "don't come close" to being genuine Premier League title contenders this season, says former Reds and Manchester United midfielder Paul Ince. (Liverpool Echo)
The French Football Federation plans to hold talks with France boss Didier Deschamps about a possible contract extension. (L'Equipe)
But Carlo Ancelotti, who has just left Bayern Munich, will turn down the chance to manage Italy as he wants to return to England. (Sun)
Huddersfield Town will not rush record signing Steve Mounie, 23, back into first-team action. (Yorkshire Post)
Cardiff manager Neil Warnock says he could quit if he wins promotion this year as "the Premier League is not for him" any more. (Daily Express)
Accrington Stanley striker Billy Kee has revealed the secret behind his tally of seven goals in 12 League Two games this season - a diet of beer and crisps. (Lancashire Telegraph)
On this day in 2013
Negredo and Nasri peaking at the right time?
Alvaro Negredo and Samir Nasri are making the headlines this morning after impressing for their countries on Friday.
Negredo came off the bench to score a vital winner for Spain against Belarus while Nasri had a rare start for France who beat Australia comprehensively in a friendly.
For Negredo, his run of form couldn’t have come at a better time with Spain poised to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil – and the story has been picked up by Fifa.com.
They write: “Del Bosque sprung a surprise by starting Michu up front on his debut against the Belarusians, but it wasn't until Manchester City striker Negredo was introduced that they started to pose a more serious threat.
“And after Xavi had given the hosts the lead, it was Negredo who headed home his third goal in four internationals this season to make the game safe 15 minutes from time.
“And Del Bosque is expected to hand him a rare start in a competitive international as he looks to wrap up qualification in style.”
Moving on to Nasri, and the former Arsenal star has transferred his club form into the national team and is feeling loved again by his nation.
With his first start for Les Bleus for more nearly 16 months, Sportsmole pick up his post-match comments.
“The 26-year-old had not started a game for Les Bleus since Euro 2012, when was involved in a spat with a journalist following a quarter-final exit to Spain,” writes Michael Penkman.
‘An ideal comeback for me? I have stepped into line, I worked hard, accepted all the decisions to bring what I could bring,’ the former Marseille youngster told reporters.
‘I know what it is to not be in the French team anymore. During my absence, I could think about it a lot.
‘I have always been a candidate for the starting XI. I had a lot of things to be forgiven for and to show, but I am playing at a great club.’”
John Cross in the Daily Mirror reckons City are considering securing the future of defender Reece Wabara.
The Academy graduate has been on loan at Doncaster and, says Cross, his form may have earned him a new deal at the Etihad.
“Manchester City will give Wabara a new long-term contract – and a chance in the Premier League,” writes Cross.
“England under-20s right-back has impressed City while on loan at Doncaster in the Championship and convinced them he can graduate into their first team.
“They are set to recall him in January and then put him in the Premier League squad.”
Finally, today’s worst-researched story appears in the Daily Mail’s Football Shorts column who write: “Galatasaray manager Roberto Mancini is planning to raid former club Manchester City for left-back Aleksandar Kolarov in January.
“The Serbia defender was angry about being substituted for Gael Clichy in the last home game against Everton and is available for £5m.”
Angry? The only thing Aleks was angry about was the deep gash above his eye that was gushing blood. THAT was what forced his substitution…
Crystal Palace plot January move for Man City midfielder Abdisalam Ibrahim
Eagles face battle from several clubs across Europe also monitoring the Norway under-21 star
Crystal Palace will go back for Manchester City’s Abdisalam Ibrahim when he returns from loan in Norway.
Ibrahim is free to quit the Etihad Stadium when his loan spell with Norwegian club Stromsgodset ends in December.
And Palace boss Ian Holloway has identified the 22-year-old as a January transfer target to beef up his engine room.
Holloway had Ibrahim, who has been likened to Patrick Vieira, on his summer hit-list before turning his attentions elsewhere.
But the Eagles will face a major battle from the continent with clubs from Spain, France and Turkey also eyeing moves.
Four new clubs for Man City's Richards to consider
Speculation suggests Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew is considering a swoop for Man City’s Micah Richards to provide competition for Mathieu Debuchy, who has yet to fully convince in the black-and-white shirt.
It’s fair to say that since the 25-year-old made his England debut in 2006, as the Three Lions’ youngest ever defender, his career has stagnated. Richards, who is equally able at right-back or in the centre, has long had his admirers but after a blistering breakthrough as a 17 year old for Man City, things have nosedived.
An academy product of the blue half of Manchester – a rarity in itself these days – Richards is one of few players to have experienced the era before City were rolling around in their millions. He has enjoyed success with a Premier League and FA Cup medal to his name but frequently he’s played second fiddle to Pablo Zabaleta.
There can be no hiding that a right-back spot is up for grabs in the England shirt with the World Cup in Brazil less than a year away. Defensive concerns linger over Kyle Walker, there are worries about Glen Johnson’s injury record and both Phil Jones and Chris Smalling cannot be considered ready for the step up.
Regular game time, a good run of form and eye-catching displays could easily propel Richards back into the fold and he would do well to consider these clubs as options for a move away.
Manchester City to give Reece Wabara new deal and Premier League chance in January
England under-20 right-back has impressed on loan at Doncaster
Manchester City will give Reece Wabara a new long-term contract – and a chance in the Premier League.
England under-20s right-back Wabara, 21, has impressed City while on loan at Doncaster in the Championship and convinced them he can graduate into their first team.
City are committed to giving their own home grown youngsters a chance and now see Wabara as having major potential for the future and will reward him with a first team contract.
They are set to recall him in January and then put him in the Premier League squad.
Wabara’s current deal is due to expire at the end of the season but City are following the current trend of loaning out youngsters, seeing they can push on and then giving them a first team chance.
It has worked well for Tottenham with Kyle Walker and Andros Townsend and now Wabara may be ready to do the same at City, especially as Micah Richards has yet to sign a new deal.
Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes, 31, has hinted he will turn down Arsenal and instead join Monaco at the end of the season. DSSC
Former England caretaker boss Peter Taylor is set to take over from Martin Allen at Gillingham. Daily Mirror
England Under-21 manager Gareth Southgate has called for the introduction of a club quota to limit the number of foreign players in the Championship and the lower tiers of English football. Times
Former England boss Glenn Hoddle, recently appointed to the FA commission to help the national team, says the thought of managing his country again "hasn't crossed my mind. I don't see that arising at the moment." Hoddle says of the current England squad: "If we don't change things there will be a problem - getting 11 good players out there isn't too bad at the moment but I fear in three years' time we're going to be struggling big time." Guardian
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has admitted the Magpies have "too many" foreign players. Daily Mirror
But Pardew insists he is "comfortable" with the presence of former Newcastle boss Joe Kinnear as the club's director of football. Times
For Saturday's home match against Liverpool, a group of Newcastle fans have organised a march under the banner 'Time 4 Change'. They are angry about the way owner Mike Ashley is running the club. Evening Chronicle
The Football Association have earmarked a 418-room five-star Rio hotel for England's base at next summer's World Cup finals. It is little more than a mile away from the notorious Rocinha favela [shanty town] where a German tourist was shot earlier this year. Sun
Liverpool's hopes of redeveloping Anfield are under threat because bats, a protected species whose habitat must not be "adversely affected" by building work, have been seen flying around the stadium. Metro
Ireland Under-19 manager Paul Doolin said he "instantly thought of David Beckham" after Reading youngster Liam Kelly's remarkable halfway line effort against Sweden at the weekend. Metro