Liverpool have a tactical advantage over Manchester City in this weekend’s clash. Phil Foden will not be available after undergoing surgery and Erling Haaland is possibly unfit after suffering a problem during the international break. City were assessing his ability to play as I write this after he spent time in a Barcelona hospital and a decision will not be made until Saturday morning. The Club sent the following: “Manchester City can confirm Phil Foden has left the England squad after undergoing surgery in London for acute appendicitis. He will not be fit for this weekend’s Premier League game at home to Liverpool and it is unclear at this stage how long he will be unavailable.”
Here are the thoughts of Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola. With Phil Foden out Pep will again to turn to in-form Riyad Mahrez who scored for his national Algerian team this week. Mahrez only found himself on the bench recently because of Foden’s superb form. His one goal and five assists during his last five games have all been achieved with Foden out of the team. Jack Grealish will continue on the left wing however Guardiola likes to have more than one option for each position and that is an opportunity for Julian Alvarez to move from the centre to the outside but he is also needed to cover for Haaland so Pep is deciding where best to use him. Bernado Silva is Pep’s ace card and he can play in various positions including right wing and his versatility allows him to cut inside whenever necessary adding to the strike threat up front.
City lost to Liverpool 1-0 back in October and haven’t beaten them for two years. The Reds are seven points outside the top four but have several injuries to cope with. Calvin Ramsey is out with a knee injury, possibly for the season, Thiago Alcantara has a hip problem and is unlikely to play, Luis Diaz still has a knee problem but I am told this has almost cleared up and after training with the academy youngsters and a full session this week he could be available. Darwin Nunez was being assessed this week for his ankle injury sustained in the 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid. Cody Gakpo was taken ill at the Euros and a decision will be made on Saturday morning whether the Dutchman is available. Klopp still has a strong forward line from which to choose and he has pencilled in Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota, and Mo Salah along with Gakpo as his options.
Stellini faces tough challenge taking over from Conte
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Stand in Tottenham boss Cristian Stellini was promoted last Sunday to take charge of the team following Antonio Conte’s departure from the club. Conte’s number two is going to find fighting at the top of the league a tough challenge. Tottenham are desperate to make the top four at the end of the season so they have a strong hand to play in keeping Harry Kane at the club when his contract expires at the end of next season. Emerson Royal has provided Stellini with his first challenge and he will be unavailable in this weekend’s match against Everton. The defender was preparing for surgery on his knee as I write this and is expected to be out for six weeks. He will face a tight race to be fit to finish the season on May 28th. Ben Davies and Richarlison suffered muscular problems in the 3-3 draw at Southampton and Davies has a hamstring problem which will put him out of the team until May. Richarlison will return in the middle of April. Ryan Sessegnon is also on the treatment table and he will not make the Everton game. Hugo Lloris made it through a friendly game behind closed doors against Ipswich last week and should be available.
The nod from the Tottenham Stadium is that Julian Nagelsmann is the current favourite to take over as coach and he is the bookmakers favourite but chairman Daniel Levy is also talking to several interested parties and wants to tie up a deal as soon as possible. Mauricio Pochettino is the fans choice but I have heard he might wait in the hope of landing the job with Real Madrid if Carlo Ancelotti leaves in the summer. Spurs Director of Football favours Luis Enrique and last night Zinedine Zidan’s name cropped up.
A tough road back for Smith-Rowe
Arsenal midfielder Emile Smith Rowe has endured a worrying few years during which time he believed his top flight career might be short-lived. A continuous groin injury has plagued him since he was 18 years old. He said, “It started when I was on loan at Leipzig in the Bundesliga and I found it very difficult to keep playing. Doctors told me that my skeleton wasn’t quite developed and finally after playing against Manchester United earlier this season, I decided that I had suffered enough pain and had to have an operation. With the break in the World Cup it was the right time but I knew I would miss some matches and afterwards I was quite depressed because I had never had surgery before. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know if I would be the same player. I found returning to training difficult but I feel ready to go now. I’m just building on each game I play.” Mikel Arteta did everything he could to include Emile, make him part of the team set up and he attended every meeting to talk about tactics, game analysis and he stayed around the team despite not playing. He took time out to praise his teammates with a special mention for new Gunners Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus. He said, “Zenko is one of the best technical players I have ever seen.” Emile is back now, playing for the England Under-21s and looking forward to joining Arsenal as they fight for the league title.
Tuchel aims for a treble
Thomas Tuchel claims he was surprised to get the call to coach Bayern Munich. The ex-Chelsea boss is now in line to go for a treble with the German champions. Manchester City are determined to stop him in the Champions League. 49 year-old Tuchel said, “Winning all the titles is still possible. It will be about the details and I have an idea of what to do and I’m really looking forward to it.” Tuchel is hoping to take his former Chelsea assistant coach Anthony Barry with him.
Weghorst is built “like a house”
Wout Weghorst believes he has made the most of his unexpected opportunity to lead the Manchester United strike force. Following his loan to Besiktas, after Burnley’s demotion to the Championship last season, he was shocked to receive a phone call from Erik Ten Hag. After cutting a deal to leave Besiktas and travel to United, he has started all 18 of United’s games since arriving. The 6ft 6” striker said, “Anthony Martial was the striker and he was doing fine – but he is injury-prone and the manager wanted all positions to have cover. The coach told me that it was up to me, to force things and only the best players are selected.” Martial’s future at United is in doubt because of yet more injury problems while Weghorst says, “My physique is like a house and has been all through my career. I have never had an injury and never even had to miss a single match. It is bizarre, really.” He is dedicated to a good nutritional diet and prides himself on his mental condition. Wout has still scored only two goals but he plays exactly the way Ten hag wants him to perform and he will be around for a while yet.
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