Guardi­ola seeks to end record win­less streak

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MANCH­ESTER: Manch­ester City’s form un­der Pep Guardi­ola is be­gin­ning to show sim­i­lar­i­ties to their fi­nal sea­son un­der his pre­de­ces­sor Manuel Pellegrini, with a fast start fol­lowed by an au­tumn stum­ble. Last sea­son, City won their open­ing five matches un­der Pellegrini, then fell away so badly that they only just se­cured Eng­land’s fourth and fi­nal Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion place. Guardi­ola, whose team visit West Bromwich Al­bion in the Premier League to­day, would not be sat­is­fied with a re­peat per­for­mance.

Yet hav­ing won his first 10 com­pet­i­tive games with the club, he has gone six with­out vic­tory since. It is the long­est win­less run of his man­age­rial ca­reer, an un­wanted record se­cured on Wed­nes­day as his team were beaten 1-0 at Manch­ester United in the fourth round of the EFL Cup.

City have had some hard luck sto­ries to tell dur­ing that run, as they should cer­tainly have beaten Ever­ton two weeks ago, miss­ing two penal­ties in a 1-1 draw, and only took a point against Southamp­ton last week­end de­spite con­trol­ling the sec­ond half. It is also worth remembering that, for all their dif­fi­cul­ties in re­cent weeks, City re­main top of the Premier League and well placed to progress from the Cham­pi­ons League group stages.

Guardi­ola cer­tainly did not field his strong­est side at Old Traf­ford in mid­week, mak­ing nine changes and field­ing 19-year-olds Pablo Maf­feo and Aleix Gar­cia in his start­ing line-up. Those changes were made in the knowl­edge that more sig­nif­i­cant tests lie in wait, with Barcelona in Manch­ester for a piv­otal Cham­pi­ons League Group C game next Tues­day. There will be se­ri­ous rea­sons for con­cern, though, if Guardi­ola’s length­en­ing wait for a vic­tory is not ended at The Hawthorns.

“Every week­end we need to win and we need to show per­son­al­ity to play,” de­fender Maf­feo said. “We have six games in a row with­out a win. I think we are go­ing to win and we go in a good way. “Barcelona is an­other game. We showed on Wed­nes­day we can com­pete in tough games, very hard games, and I think we can go there (to West Brom) and we are go­ing to win.”

Good news

The man­ager re­ceived a piece of good news on Thurs­day, with cap­tain Vin­cent Kom­pany able to train de­spite com­ing off at half-time against United on Wed­nes­day, com­plain­ing of tired­ness. Kom­pany, who has suf­fered per­sis­tent in­jury prob­lems over the last two years, was mak­ing his sec­ond start in four days at Old Traf­ford, and there were con­cerns that he may have bro­ken down again.

Winger Kevin De Bruyne may also be fit to play some part af­ter re­cov­er­ing from a calf prob­lem. West Brom have proved awk­ward op­po­nents in re­cent weeks, al­most res­cu­ing a point at Liver­pool last Satur­day, but ul­ti­mately los­ing 2-1, which ended a run of three suc­ces­sive 1-1 draws. Saido Ber­ahino re­mains out of the team, hav­ing not started a match since Septem­ber 10, and has been placed on a fit­ness pro­gram af­ter man­ager Tony Pulis re­vealed the for­ward was eight pounds over­weight.

In Ber­ahino’s ab­sence, Hal Rob­son-Kanu has es­tab­lished him­self as the back-up to first-choice striker Salomon Ron­don, play­ing 25 min­utes at An­field af­ter mid­fielder James McClean-who is a doubt for this week­end-was forced off with a gashed leg.

Rob­son-Kanu, de­ployed as a winger last Satur­day, is hope­ful of more chances in a team he feels can im­prove on their cur­rent league po­si­tion of 13th. “We’ve got all the in­gre­di­ents, it’s just about ap­ply­ing our­selves game in, game out and pick­ing up points,” said the 27year-old Wales in­ter­na­tional, who scored a sen­sa­tional goal for his coun­try in their Euro 2016 quar­ter-fi­nal win over Bel­gium. “We prob­a­bly felt we could have nicked a draw at Liver­pool, but it wasn’t meant to be. We move for­ward from that.”

—AFP

MANCH­ESTER: Manch­ester United’s Por­tuguese man­ager Jose Mour­inho (L) watches as Manch­ester City’s Span­ish man­ager Pep Guardi­ola ges­tures on the touch­line dur­ing the EFL (English Foot­ball League) Cup fourth round match be­tween Manch­ester United and Manch­ester City at Old Traf­ford.

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