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Wednesday 26th Feb 2020   
KO 20:00
 Real Madrid v City
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Leicester City 0 Manchester City 1  City Outfox the Foxes
Saturday 23rd February 2020 : Alan Martin for GYKO at The King Power Stadium

What did it mean? Does it matter that a late Gabriel Jesus goal gave Manchester City victory at Leicester? What does any of it mean? At least when we stand on the edge of the abyss and gaze into the void, wondering if there might be any purpose to any of it, football usually offers the consolation of the league table. We can cling to that, in its tallying of points find a point. And yet now with the shadow of City’s Champions League ban, and a probable appeal against that, and the possibility of a Premier League points deduction, although nobody seems to know for what season it might apply, the certainties of the table seem somewhat less secure.

If City’s ban is upheld without any delay for the appeal, fifth will be enough for Champions League qualification. Which is great news for Leicester, whose lead over Sheffield United in sixth is 10 points – even after a run of only three wins in 11 games. And it is not as though Chelsea in fourth, whose win on Saturday was just their fifth in 15 games, are breathing particularly aggressively down their neck. And if the ban is upheld, what really have City left to play for, other than the indisputable income that comes with second place?

And that is where Uefa’s action and City’s response have left us, in a limbo in which everything is contingent and nobody quite knows what anything means. Even the defiance of City’s fans seemed a little uncertain, the chants supporting Sheikh Mansour and promising to see Uefa in court less vociferous than the boos with which the home crowd greeted every touch from their former darling Riyad Mahrez. Amid such uncertainty, what is to be done? Nothing perhaps, but to go on, to strive against the futility and try to win football matches.

With Wilfred Ndidi ruled out because of recurrent pain in his knee – leading Brendan Rodgers this week to insist he had not rushed him back after surgery – and Hamza Choudhury suspended, Leicester were left without any holding midfielders. Rodgers’s response was to adopt a back three for only the second time in the league this season. The first brought a 3-0 win at Newcastle, but it is fair to say City offer a very different threat – which is to say, a threat. The presence of Christian Fuchs as a left-sided centre-back, though, offered some support for Ben Chilwell, who was left horribly exposed against Mahrez in the game at the Etihad, which City won far more comfortably than the 3-1 scoreline suggested.

Jamie Vardy’s pace against a City side alarmingly vulnerable to the counter-attack had been the main threat in that game and so it was again, the Premier League’s leading scorer hitting the post after eight minutes as he ran on to a Youri Tielemans though-ball. Worryingly for City the chance stemmed from Aymeric Laporte first squandering possession and then, having won it back, being caught on the ball. After two substitute appearances it was the defender’s first start since sustaining a knee injury at the end of August. His return should in time bring greater stability to a City rearguard that has been suspect at times this season, but that is a process that may take time. There had been a theory that he would not be risked here with the Champions League tie at Real Madrid on Wednesday, but that early shakiness suggested he needs the minutes to feel his way back into form before a game of that magnitude.

City dominated possession and had the bulk of the chances but, other than an Ilkay Gündogan opportunity that he rather scuffed at Kasper Schmeichel, City’s threat was limited before half-time.

Restricting City to long-range efforts – a deflected Benjamin Mendy strike, a snapshot from Kevin De Bruyne, a couple of free-kicks – particularly without either first-choice holding player suggested Rodgers’s tweak had worked.

Or at least it had worked as far as anything can against City. Against them, even when they are not quite at their sharpest, the flow can seem relentless. There will always be chances. Schmeichel made one exceptional save low to his left to deny De Bruyne and then beat away Sergio Agüero’s 62nd-minute penalty, awarded by VAR after Dennis Praet had blocked Gündogan’s drive with a raised elbow. It was the fifth penalty City have missed of their last seven.

But the goal did eventually arrive, fired home by the substitute Gabriel Jesus with 10 minutes remaining after a surging run from Mahrez. Whether it matters is an entirely different issue.
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Even before the ban City found themselves on a mezzanine of futility, comfortably in the Champions League places but far distant from Liverpool. Now they are reliant on their appeal even for European qualification. Meaning has come to feel an extremely vague concept

Leicester (5-3-2): Schmeichel: Pereira, Soyuncu, Evans, Fuchs (Perez 90), Chilwell; Tielemans, Praet (James 85) , Maddison; Vardy, Iheanacho (Barnes 45)
Subs unused: Ward (Gk), Justin, Morgan, Albrighton

Man City (4-2-3-1): Ederson: Walker, Laporte (Otamendi 58), Fernandinho, Mendy; Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, De Bruyne  B Silva; Aguero (Jesus 77)
Subs unused: Bravo (Gk), Stones, Cancelo, D Silva, Foden

Referee: Paul Tierney       Attendance: 32,068

Manchester City 2 West Ham United 0  Training Session
Wednesday 19th February 2020 : GYKO at the Etihad

There has been anger and unbridled aggression from Manchester City in the five days since UEFA plunged their world into uncertainty, though Pep Guardiola on Wednesday revealed that the defence of your position is inestimably classier when delivered with calm insistence.

At times in City's troubling past six months, Guardiola has looked and sounded like he would much rather be somewhere else, though he was a remarkably fine advocate for his club in the face of that UEFA ban which threatens to remove him and them from Europe for two seasons.

He is no lawyer, he admitted. He is having to take what City executives tell him about financial manipulation on face value. He did not shy away from the word 'sentence' when discussing legal ramifications. But his articulation of how City feel and will respond – the first anyone has offered in plain view, out from the sanctity of controlled club media – provided more encouragement than anything City's fans have received so far.

When the UEFA line of question had been closed down and Guardiola was making to leave, a Spanish journalist made it clear he wanted to ask more. The subject was closed, he was told, but Guardiola insisted that the individual be heard. What, Guardiola was asked, did he make of the Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu applauding UEFA's actions?

'Don't talk too loud, Barcelona - that is my advice because everybody is involved in situations,' Guardiola replied. 'We are going to appeal and hopefully in the future we can play in the Champions League against Barcelona.' Yes: this was certainly an object lesson in class.

There will be noise in the months ahead, too. The anthems of protest are in gestation already. 'UEFA cartel, 'See you in court' and 'UEFA mafia' were among the banners here.

But for one night, at least, some of the greatest players assembled within these shores could demonstrate how shrewdly City have spent the money now under dispute.

There was Kevin De Bruyne, anchor and architect of yet another of those regulation victories here. From him, a goal and assist of artistry to erase the present troubles. Guardiola's side had entered the match on the back of consecutive defeats – to Tottenham in the Premier League and Manchester United in the Carabao Cup – but any suggestion of further drama quickly evaporated.

A Champions League clash with Real Madrid was the occasion that City really needed, in the aftermath of UEFA's announcement. That is the occasion when the club can make a statement transcending anything their executives have to say. Winning the Champions League – the one trophy which has eluded them: that is the ultimate response.

A re-arranged fixture against a side with as little ambition as West Ham was something rather more prosaic. It can by no means be said that every home seat was taken up for the occasion and with away fans leaving a large section of their allocation unused, the stadium was not exactly the scene of an insurrection.

The chant of 'f*** UEFA' sounded on the half hour. Guardiola's name, and the reminder that the fans here are City till they die did seem to take on more profound meaning. But the first half felt like a training routine at times in front of David Moyes' brittle five-man defence.

It would have also helped to get a revolution started had Gabriel Jesus had shown a sharper edge. Twice in the first 20 minutes, the wonderful artistry of David Silva seemed to have set him on his way. Twice, he dithered.

But City went ahead with easy inevitability when Rodri's arcing header from a De Bruyne corner, executed from well outside the six-yard box, looped into the net just before the arriving Aymeric Laporte got a foot on it.

De Bruyne doubled the lead, exchanging passes with Bernardo Silva on the right side of the box, then locating the Portuguese again in penalty box space before racing forward to take the ball off his toe to score.

West Ham's failure to register a scintilla of threat was shocking to behold. Once behind, the side had nothing to lose, yet nothing to offer. Five touches in the opposition area and not a single shot at goal until Michail Antonio blasted over with 15 minutes left. The last time they were in the relegation zone at this stage, as they are now, they finished bottom.

'We did a decent job but not good enough,' said David Moyes. 'There will be very few teams who will come here and be open.' That was unconvincing.

Guardiola embraced his players and prepared for a half hour of questions in which he could not have been more equivocal about his intentions to see his contract through to its conclusion at the end of next season. Now for the hard part: the weekly grind of a Premier League campaign in which the title is lost, with the European uncertainty and all that brings swirling around in the background. There are far bigger demons than West Ham up ahead.

Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte (Stones 65), Mendy; De Bruyne (Gundogan 78), Rodrigo, D Silva (Foden 84); Aguero, Jesus, B. Silva
Subs not used: Bravo, Fernandinho, Mahrez, Cancelo, Foden

West Ham (5-4-1): Fabianski; Fredericks (Zabaleta 60), Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Masuaku; Snodgrass, Rice, Noble, Soucek; Antonio
Subs not used: Randoplgh Balbuena, Anderson, Lanzini, Bowen, Haller

Referee: K Friend (Leicestershire)     Attendance : about 40,000

Tottenham 2 Manchester City 0        City Fire Blanks
Sunday 2nd February 2020 : Kim Beresford for GYKO at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Some might call it efficiency, some might call it a Jose Mourinho masterclass. The man himself will call it the only thing that actually matters: victory. And maybe a bit of vindication.

For Manchester City, you might call it part of an ongoing meltdown that is costing them their title in record time, Or perhaps, just one of those days. If this 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur win over Manchester City did feel a long way from the best days of the Pep Guardiola-Mourinho rivalry, it did recall one of the Portuguese’s key principles from that time, and something he used to say to the Real Madrid players a lot. He might repeat it with a little more pride in the Spurs dressing room after this: “Whoever has the ball is more likely to make a mistake.”

City of course made many more mistakes, having naturally had so much more of the ball. They were particularly error-strewn with Ilkay Gundogan’s missed penalty, Oleksandr Zinchenko’s foul for the red card and so many missed chances.

There, crucially, Spurs didn’t make a mistake once. The stats after the clinching second goal recorded them having a mere two shots. They scored from both. The first was a peach of a finish and a peach of a moment. Promising new signing Steven Bergwijn celebrated his debut with a divine volley on the turn. That was the turning of the game.

The second - from Son Heung-Min - was a little cruder, given it came from a deflection, but still told the story of the game. Spurs’ minimalist directness beat City’s overwrought elaboration.

On another day, to be fair, the defending champions - something they won’t be able to say for much longer - could have been 3-0 up after an hour. That is why the merits of the tactics shouldn’t be overstated. It was, really, one of those days. Spurs did get lucky. But you still have to actually use that luck, and go and do it. That’s the only way to describe their performance. They went and did it. It was so basic but, against this anxiety-ridden City, effective.

Spurs’ main attacking play seemed to be getting the fast players - usually Son Heung-Min - to run at goal in a straight line. It initially seemed so easy to read, but eventually broke Spurs, mostly through that Zinchenko red card. His foul on Harry Winks was certainly easy to read. Zinchenko’s willingness to get involved in the confrontation after the penalty came back to cost him.

In contrast to such straight lines, City were putting together all matter of patterns. But maybe too many. This was one of those matches where it seemed they over-elaborated, that in itself then only deepening the anxiety and second-guessing about actually scoring. How else to explain so many missed chances?

Well, one fair explanation for a lot of those chances was that too many - the penalty, and two efforts right in front of goal - fell to Gundogan. It was not his day either.

The penalty was so tame, but perhaps worse was his third effort. Coming just moments after he’d skied that admittedly awkward opportunity from the open goal, the chance saw the ball pulled back to him, only for Gundogan to completely miss it.

This was the story of City’s display. It was one of those games where they had so much of the ball, but then so little poise with it once they got within 15 feet of Lloris’s goal.

Perhaps the elongated penalty incident scrambled their mindset, fostering a doubt. There should really be no doubt about the actual decision itself. Serge Aurier did indeed make contact with Sergio Aguero.

After that, though, everything seemed to suddenly combine so City were gradually pulled apart. The penalty ended up proving a set-back as Gundogan missed. The confrontation from Sterling’s controversial fall allowed Spurs to get into their heads. It saw Zinchenko pick up the yellow card that eventually resulted in his red.

After that, and Bergwijn’s brilliant finish, the space was there for Son to cut City open. Guardiola’s side had had most of the ball and pretty much all the chances - but also made all of the mistakes. The Catalan will now look to whether there have been errors in recruitment, and there will surely be those around him wondering whether it might be a mistake to stay on. That talk is only growing, in tandem with City’s loosening grip on the trophy.

It is why this might just have been one of those days, but similarly can't be written off that. It is part of bigger problems that have come to cost City time and again this season. It is starting to create doubt about the future.

Tottenham: Lloris; Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Tanganga; Winks, Lo Celso; Son, Alli (Ndombele 70), Bergwijn (Lamela 70), Moura (Dier 84)
Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Vertonghen, Sessegnon, Fernandes

Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Fernandinho, Otamendi, Zinchenko; Gundogan, Rodri, De Bruyne; Sterling (B. Silva 84), Mahrez (Jesus 72), Aguero (Cancelo 64)
Subs not used: Bravo, Garcia, D Silva, Foden

Ref: Mike Dean     Attendance : 61,022

Manchester City Fixtures & Results 2019/20


Date Kick Off Opponent Venue  Comp Result
Su 04/08/2019 15:00 Liverpool Wembley CS D 1-1+
Sa 10/08/2019 12:30 West Ham United A PL W 5-0
Sa 17/08/2019 17:30 Tottenham Hotspur H PL D  2-2
Su 25/08/2019 14:00 Bournemouth A PL W 3-1
Sa 31/08/2019 15:00 Brighton & Hove Albion H PL W 4-0
Sa 14/09/2019 17:30 Norwich City A PL L  3-2
We 18/09/2019 20:00 Shakhtar Donetsk A CL W 3-0
Sa 21/09/2019 15:00 Watford H PL W 8-0
Tu 24/09/2019 19:45 Preston North End A LC W 3-0
Sa 28/09/2019 17:30 Everton A PL W 3-1
Tu 01/10/2019 20:00 Dinamo Zagreb H CL W 2-0
Su 06/10/2019 14:00 Wolverhampton Wanderers H PL L  2-0
Su 20/10/2019 17:30 Crystal Palace A PL W 2-0
Tu 22/10/2019 20:00 Atalanta H CL W 5-1
Sa 26/10/2019 12:30 Aston Villa H PL W 3-0
Tu 29/10/2019 19:45 Southampton H LC W 3-1
Sa 02/11/2019 15:00 Southampton H PL W 2-1
We 06/11/2019 20:00 Atalanta A CL D 1-1
Su 10/11/2019 16:30 Liverpool A PL L 3-1
Sa 23/11/2019 17:30 Chelsea H PL W 2-1
Tu 26/11/2019 20:00 Shakhtar Donetsk H CL D 1-1
Sa 30/11/2019 12:30 Newcastle United A PL D 2-2
Tu 03/12/2019 20:15 Burnley A PL W 4-1
Sa 07/12/2019 17:30 Manchester United H PL L  2-1
We 11/12/2019 17:55 Dinamo Zagreb A CL W 4-1
Su 15/12/2019 16:30 Arsenal A PL W 3-0
We 18/12/2019 19:45 Oxford United A LC W 3-1
Sa 21/12/2019 17:30 Leicester City H PL W 3-1
Fr  27/12/2019 19:45 Wolverhampton Wanderers A PL L  3-2
Su 29/12/2019 18:00 Sheffield United H PL W 2-0
We 01/01/2020 17:30 Everton H PL W 2-1
Sa  04/01/2020 17:31 Port Vale H FAC r3 W 4-1
Tu  07/01/2020 20:00 Manchester United A LC SF 1L W 3-1
Su 12/01/2020 16:30 Aston Villa A PL W 6-1
Sa 18/01/2020 15:00 Crystal Palace H PL D  2-2
Tu 21/01/2020 19:30 Sheffield United A PL W 1-0
Su 26/01/2020 13:00 Fulham H FAC r4 W 4-0
We 29/01/2020 19:45 Manchester United H LC SF 2L  L0-1 $
Su 02/02/2020 16:30 Tottenham Hotspur A PL L  2-0
Su 09/02/2020 16:30 West Ham United H PL W 2-0
Sa 22/02/2020 17:30 Leicester City A PL W 1-0
We 26/02/2020 20:00 Real Madrid A CL r16  
Su 30/02/2020 14:00 Arsenal H PL  
Sa 07/03/2020 15:00 Manchester United A PL  
Sa 14/03/2020 15:00 Burnley H PL  
Tu 22/03/2020 20:00 Real Madrid CL r16  
Sa 21/03/2020 15:00 Chelsea A PL  
Sa 04/04/2020 16:30 Liverpool H PL  
Sa 11/04/2020 15:00 Southampton A PL  
Sa 18/04/2020 15:00 Newcastle United H PL  
Sa 25/04/2020 15:00 Brighton & Hove Albion A PL  
Sa 02/05/2020 15:00 Bournemouth H PL  
Sa 09/05/2020 15:00 Watford A PL  
Su17/05/2020 14:00 Norwich City H PL  

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