Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 17th 2017 Contents A58 sports
guardian.co.tt Friday, March 17, 2017
What to watch out for this weekend
Manchester City and Liverpool ex-
pected to be slugging it out for the
title on the home stretch. Instead
they meet at Anfield on Sunday in
a tussle just to be among the four
Champions League qualifiers.
City, which is reeling from its
Champions League exit at Monaco,
is only a point ahead of Liverpool in
Despite the swirling storm around
Arsene Wenger, fifth-place Arsenal
is only five points behind Liverpool
with two games in hand. But Arsenal
travels to West Bromwich Albion on
Saturday having only won twice in
the last month --- both times against
fifth-tier teams in the FA Cup.
Leicester is on a roll again since
Claudio Ranieri was replaced
by Craig Shakespeare. The ail-
ing champions have moved three
points clear of the relegation zone
with two Premier League wins under
Shakespeare, who has also steered
the Champions League newcomers
into the quarterfinals.
Middlesbrough will be hoping
the end of Aitor Karanka's reign on
Thursday produces a similar uplift as
it sits next-to-last in the standings
going into Sunday's game at sixth-
place Manchester United.
Sevilla can't dwell on its Cham-
pions League elimination if it wants
to guarantee a return to the compe-
At the start of the month, third-
place Sevilla was nine points in front
of Atletico Madrid. Now the gap is
down to five points ahead of their
meeting in Madrid on Sunday.
Finishing fourth requires teams to
contest a playoff to reach the group
stage of the Champions League.
"We have to reverse this situation
and do well in the league so we can
quickly return to the (Champions
League)," Sevilla captain Vicente
Besides the 2-0 loss at Leicester
on Tuesday, Sevilla is coming off two
Unlike Sevilla, Atletico is through
to the Champions League quarter-
finals after ousting Bayer Leverkus-
en. It also won its last two domestic
Real Madrid will be defending its
two-point lead over Barcelona when
it visits seventh-place Athletic Bilbao
The next day, Barcelona, coming
off a 2-1 loss at Deportivo La Coruna,
hosts Valencia at the Camp Nou.
Only an extraordinary collapse will
deny Bayern Munich a fifth straight
With a 10-point lead and 10 games
remaining, Bayern visits Borus-
sia Moenchengladbach on Sunday
having only lost once in the league
Europe is 'Gladbach's only route
to a trophy.
In the battle to stay in the Bun-
desliga, last-place Darmstadt is at
Wolfsburg, 11 points ahead and in
danger of being one of the teams
that has to contest a playoff to stay
in the top division.
Hamburger SV and Werder Bremen
are behind Wolfsburg on goal differ-
ence. Hamburg is at sixth-place Ein-
tracht Frankfurt on Saturday, when
Werder Bremen hosts second-place
Next-to-last Ingolstadt has a
tough trip to third-place Borussia
It will be a clash of Serie A's top
scorers when Inter Milan visits To-
rino on Saturday.
Torino forward Andrea Belot-
ti is at the top of the scoring chart
with 22 goals. Mauro Icardi scored a
nine-minute hat trick in Inter's 7-1
rout of Atalanta last weekend to take
his tally to 20.
Inter's victory kept its hopes of
qualifying for the Champions League
alive. Inter is fifth, six points behind
third-place Napoli and the final
Champions League spot.
Napoli visits Empoli on Sunday,
when it will be a case of the league's
best attack against the weakest. Na-
poli has scored 65 goals, while Empoli
has found the back of the net only
Lazio, which is four points below
Napoli, visits Cagliari, while sec-
ond-place Roma hosts Sassuolo.
Also, Juventus visits Sampdoria
as its goes for a record sixth straight
Serie A title.
It's all been about Monaco teen-
ager Kylian Mbappe in recent weeks
But other forwards have been per-
forming well and the league never
looked so attractive.
Among them are Edinson Cavani
and Alexandre Lacazette, who will
be facing off on Sunday.
Cavani, the league's best striker
with 27 goals, will be leading Paris
Saint-Germain's attack at the Parc
des Princes as the defending cham-
pions host in-form Lyon.
Lacazette has found the net 22
times for Lyon, which is unbeaten
in seven games in all competition.
Still reeling from its Barcelona
thrashing, PSG has no room for
mistake as it lags three points be-
hind leader Monaco in the defence
of its title, while fourth-place Lyon
netted 21 goals in it five last games.
Ahead of Saturday's trip to Nantes,
third-place Nice has not given up
hopes of winning the title despite
being five points behind Monaco,
which plays Caen.
European exit highlights
Guardiola's need to overhaul squad
LONDON---Far from elevating
Manchester City to European elite
status, the team has regressed in
Pep Guardiola's first season in
Guardiola has time to turn it around.
Many of his players won't. These will be
anxious days for aging members of the
City squad who will sense the looming
end of careers with a club they helped
Approaching the end of the first
decade under Abu Dhabi ownership,
City is in need of another large-scale
refresh in the dressing room. It has
the coach, certainly the finest of his
generation, now Guardiola needs the
squad to deliver on his vision --- starting
at the back.
The frailties in City's defense were
badly exposed on Wednesday when
Monaco's 3-1 victory carried the French
leader into the Champions League
"It is a massive disappointment,"
right back Bacary Sagna said. "We
forgot to play in the first half, we for-
got to fight as a team, defend as a team,
and press as a team. We gave them too
much respect and ... we put ourselves
Sagna is one of two defenders to start
in Monaco who is in his 30s and out of
contract at the end of the season. It's
the same situation for Pablo Zabaleta,
who remained on the bench as City's
pursuit of a first European Cup ended
in the round of 16.
City is also leaking too many goals
with Guardiola's biggest gamble ---
signing former Barcelona goalkeeper
Claudio Bravo and sending Joe Hart on
loan to Italy --- backfiring.
The defense shouldn't bear the brunt
of the blame, since it was Guardiola
who ordered the attacking approach
in Monaco where City had a 5-3 lead to
protect from the first leg while facing
one of the most formidable attacks in
"We changed the system and it
worked quite well, we managed to
create more chances," Sagna said,
"but unfortunately we didn't score
And that casts further doubt on the
future of Sergio Aguero. The striker lost
his place after 19-year-old Gabriel Je-
sus burst into the team with a flurry of
goals two months ago.
Aguero, whose goals clinched City's
first Premier League title in 2012, re-
gained his place in the starting lineup
only in February when Gabriel Jesus
sustained a likely season-ending injury.
The only prospect of silverware for
Guardiola is in the FA Cup where City
faces Arsenal in the semifinals. The
Premier League title bid faded long
ago, falling off the pace after the team
was the season's early front-runner.
Liverpool also expected to be chal-
lenging for the title, not slugging it out
with City just to stay in the top four
Champions League places.
Liverpool hosts City on Sunday in
fourth place, with Guardiola's City just
a point ahead in third.
"I expect a reaction from the team,"
Sagna said. "I expect more desire, to
show more passion. We did show pas-
sion in the second half (in Monaco) but
it is not enough. We have to recover be-
cause it was quite a difficult game and
then we have to think about Liverpool."
Don't discount Arsenal from forc-
ing either Liverpool or City from the
Premier League's top four. Arsenal is
demoralized, facing uncertainty over
Arsene Wenger's future, and five points
behind Liverpool but it does have two
games in hand.
Chelsea is coasting to the title and
could go 13 points clear of Tottenham
by beating Stoke on Saturday, with the
second-placed London club not in ac-
tion until Sunday against Southamp-
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero, centre, leaves the pitch with teammates
at the end of a Champions League round of 16 second leg soccer match
between Monaco and Manchester City at the Louis II stadium in Monaco, on
Wednesday. AP PHOTO
Monaco's Tiemoue Bakayoko, right, celebrates his side side's 3rd goal with
Kylian Mbappe during a Champions League round of 16 second leg soccer
match between Monaco and Manchester City at the Louis II stadium in
Monaco on Wednesday. AP PHOTO
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