Daily Archives: January 6, 2017

Pep Guardiola anticipates “special” first FA Cup game

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Pep Guardiola expects a “special” first FA Cup game in charge of Manchester City in their third-round match against West Ham United.

City will meet the Hammers at the London Stadium at 19:55 GMT tonight, with Guardiola naming a first-string team for the FA Cup tie. The match is the first of 32 third-round ties across four days this weekend.

“I will try to win the game,” he said. “It will be a tough match away from home against a Premier League side, so I will not be rotating.”

“I like the English cup competition. In Spain it is a little bit predictable but the FA Cup is more like the cup competition they have in Germany. It is a proper knockout, with small teams able to beat big teams.”

“I’m looking forward to it, but of course it’s a Premier League game so it will be tough. We were unlucky in the draw.”

Guardiola’s West Ham counterpart Slaven Bilic said the tie is a “big game” for both sides and the fans, but is convinced that City are “not that confident any more” and that high pressing could be the key to deterring the Manchester club.

“They will put out a very strong team because it is a big chance for them to get a trophy,” Billic said.

“Some teams tried to press them even in the early period of the season because we knew from Germany and from Spain how they would play. But they were coming out of that pressing more than now.”

“After you have three or four wins on the trot then the opponent may be pressing you but you are not scared. OK, you can occasionally lose the ball but you don’t care; at the end of the day, it’s the plan. But after you make some mistakes and it ends in defeat then you think twice about it. You try it again but you are not that confident any more. It’s like a chain.”

Prediction:

West Ham United 1 – 2 Manchester City

Inter and Milan needs to step up – Italian FA president

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Italian Football Association president Carlo Tavecchio expresses his desire to see the Milan clubs return to being competitive again to end Juventus’ complete domination in the country.

Juve is currently four points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand against second-placed Roma, are almost on course to win Serie A for a record sixth straight season.

Internazionale, who are currently seventh in Serie A, were eliminated from this season’s Europa League in the group stage of what had been their first European tournament since 2012.

On the other hand, AC Milan is currently fifth in the Serie A, but last qualified for the Champions League in 2013. The club has now been absent from European club competition for the past three seasons – their longest run without participating European football.

On a more optimistic note, Milan had defeated Juventus on two occasions this season, first in the Serie A on home ground, and then winning the Supercoppa Italiana by beating the Bianconeri on penalties. Still, they are nine points behind the league leaders approaching mid-season, with Inter a further three points behind.

“Our football is not in a state of decline, but we are lacking something and we need Milan to recover,” Tavecchio said. “Not only for the city, but for the whole of Lombardy.”

“With its history, Milan cannot remain absent from a stage where, with all due respect for Rome and Naples, Turin currently has an organisational superiority in terms of its winning culture.”

“Inter are in a more convenient position since they will have a club structure consolidated by major investment and I believe this will happen already next season, with the arrival of a specific management,” he added.

“Milan, on the other hand, could recover if they maintain the current board, but throughout all this Juventus are going to be careful with any changes because they will see rivals emerging very soon, if in Milan they do what they need to do.”

Juventus takes on Bologna at home this Sunday with nothing less than a win expected, while Milan hosts Cagilari and Inter goes on a visit to Udinese.

Nine-man Athletic Bilbao stuns FC Barcelona in Copa Del Rey

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A depleted by resolute Atheltic Bilbao team held on to a two-goal lead to stun a visiting FC Barcelona in San Mames Stadium by 2-1.

Bilbao, who is seventh in La Liga, had two players sent off in the second-half; but espite the glaring disadvantage, they managed to hold on to for an unlikely win.

The home team took the lead when Raul Garcia and Aritz Aduriz exchanged passes. The striker, who at 35 became Spain’s oldest goalscorer in the World Cup qualifying win over Macedonia in November – continued his scoring streak by beating Marc-Andre ter Stegen with a glancing header at the near post.

As the crowd roared in approval, an emboldened Bilbao, not content to sit back on their lead, gained reward when Inaki Williams found the net with a fine strike not four minutes later.

Barca quickly try to respond but could not find a way as the first half draws to a close, and twice appealed for penalties in first-half stoppage time, first for a challenge on Neymar and then for one on Luis Suarez, but their calls were dismissed.

But the Catalans managed a response early in the second half. As the referee called a foul on Neymar by Garcia, Lionel Messi curled in the ensuing free-kick from the left, with the ball bouncing down off the crossbar and crossing the line.

Garcia then received his first booking for a foul on Messi and was sent off 20 minutes later after a second yellow for a late challenge on Neymar. His fellow midfilder Ander Iturraspe’s met the same fate following a foul on the Brazilian forward.

But with a resolute Bilbao defense still keeping Barca out, Luis Suarez attempted a lob of Gorka Iraizoz which failed to come off, before Messi hits the post at the death as Barca’s fell short.

The second leg will be played at the Camp Nou next Wednesday.