Pep tar­gets tiki-taka re­turn

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

LON­DON — Brazil cap­tain Ney­mar has tipped Liver­pool for­ward Philippe Coutinho (pic­tured) to be­come the big­gest star in Eng­land af­ter some eye-catch­ing dis­plays in the Pre­mier League.

The fleet-footed Coutinho has played an im­por­tant part in Liver­pool’s resur­gence in re­cent weeks, with the Brazil­ian adding greater con­sis­tency to his bur­geon­ing bag of tricks. Barcelona for­ward Ney­mar played along­side Coutinho as they came up through the youth ranks of Brazil­ian foot­ball and is a big ad­mirer.

“He can be the star player in Eng­land. This sea­son I think every­body in Eng­land is see­ing how tal­ented he is - and I know he has a lot more to show,” Ney­mar was quoted as say­ing on the Liver­pool web­site (www.liv­er­

“When he has the ball at his feet, he can make things hap­pen for him­self and he can make things hap­pen for other play­ers. He is a very spe­cial player.” Although few have doubted Coutinho’s tal­ent, his abil­ity to reg­u­larly in­flu­ence games was of­ten called into ques­tion.

He now seems to be a more con­sis­tent threat, how­ever, and scored a su­perb win­ner to help Liver­pool beat sec­ond-tier Bolton Wan­der­ers in the FA Cup on Wed­nes­day last week.

“He will play a big part in the fu­ture of the na­tional team,” Ney­mar added. “The na­tional steam is very strong, but the way he is play­ing for Liver­pool, I’m sure he will be a big part of Brazil go­ing for­ward.”

— Reuters BER­LIN — As Bay­ern Mu­nich steam to­wards an in­evitable 25th Ger­man league ti­tle, Pep Guardi­ola wants a re­turn to “tik­i­taka” foot­ball in the Bavar­ian gi­ants’ as­sault on the much-cov­eted Cham­pi­ons League ti­tle.

“We’re not per­fect, I know that. We have to im­prove,” said Bay­ern’s per­fec­tion­ist Span­ish coach af­ter Satur­day’s rou­tine 2-0 league win at bot­tom side VFB Stuttgart.

Un­der Guardi­ola, Barcelona dom­i­nated Span­ish foot­ball by win­ning 14 ti­tles from 2008 un­til 2012 with their fast-paced pass­ing, dubbed “tiki-taka”, to keep the ball away from the op­po­si­tion.

Bay­ern are used to en­joy­ing around 70 per­cent pos­ses­sion un­der Guardi­ola, are eight points clear in the Bun­desliga and on course for a third straight league ti­tle.

But af­ter three be­low-par do­mes­tic per­for­mances so far in 2015 by Bay­ern’s own lofty stan­dards, the Spa­niard will use this week for some fine-tun­ing be­fore their Euro­pean as­sault recom­mences.

The 2013 Cham­pi­ons League win­ners travel to Lviv on 17 Fe­bru­ary to face Shakhtar Donetsk, due to the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine, in their last 16 first leg clash.

Ham­burg are Bay­ern’s next do­mes­tic op­po­nent in Mu­nich on Satur­day in their fi­nal warm-up, but Guardi­ola wants to show the north Ger­mans no love on Valen­tine’s day.

“We have to find our game, that is our goal for the next few games,” said Guardi­ola.

“The key is less run­ning and more play, make the pass as quickly as pos­si­ble.”

An Ar­jen Robben first-half goal and a won­der­ful free kick from de­fender David Alaba gave Bay­ern three more league points in Stuttgart, but Guardi­ola wants more.

“The win was im­por­tant for the psy­che, but also for (our place in) the ta­ble,” said Guardi­ola.

“The re­sult was im­por­tant for our prepa­ra­tions against Ham­burg and Donetsk, but we have to im­prove to reach our level.”

There has been a ner­vous en­ergy to Guardi­ola since Bay­ern were thrashed 4-1 at sec­ond­placed Wolfs­burg on their re­turn from the win­ter break at the end of Jan­uary.

Guardi­ola sailed close to the wind in the 1-1 draw at home to Schalke last Tues­day by storm­ing out of his tech­ni­cal area to re­mon­strate with as­sis­tant ref­eree Markus Hacker af­ter a Robert Le­wandowski goal was dis­al­lowed.

He later hugged the fourth of­fi­cial when Ar­jen Robben gave Bay­ern the lead but es­caped any sanc­tion from ref­eree Bas­tian Dankert.

Guardi­ola reg­u­larly be­moans the ex­pec­ta­tions from Bay­ern’s board and fans alike for his side to win ev­ery match by a sig­nif­i­cant score­line and a con­vinc­ing per­for­mance.

Hav­ing wrapped up last sea­son’s Bun­desliga ti­tle in April with a record seven matches to spare in his first sea­son, Guardi­ola is now un­der pres­sure to de­liver an­other Cham­pi­ons League crown, es­pe­cially with this year’s fi­nal to be held in Ber­lin on 6 June.

Bay­ern are still smart­ing from los­ing the last fi­nal on Ger­man soil when they were beaten by Chelsea in 2012 at their own Al­lianz Arena.hav­ing been well-beaten by Real Madrid in last sea­son’s semi-fi­nals, Guardi­ola is ea­ger to win a third Cham­pi­ons League ti­tle, hav­ing lifted the tro­phy twice as Barcelona coach.

But he in­sists his side are far from the fin­ished ar­ti­cle.

“We need a bit more time; the Jan­uary win­ter break wasn’t so good for us - you can’t play for eleven months at this level and al­ways win, win, win,” he in­sisted.

It’s Guardi­ola’s de­sire for con­stant im­prove­ment which has pushed Bay­ern to new heights, ac­cord­ing to France leg­end Zine­dine Zi­dane.

“FC Bay­ern were al­ways good, but the club is now one of the top sides in the world,” the 42-year-old, who now coaches Real’s re­serves, told Ger­man daily Bild on Sun­day.

“That’s down to Pep; he has given the club an ex­tra kick and has brought his own touch to their game, which makes the dif­fer­ence.

“They al­ways played fast, at­tack­ing foot­ball, but un­der Guardi­ola, they have added a bit ex­tra.”— Reuters

PEP Guardi­ola (front right) wants to fine-tune the Bay­ern Mu­nich side be­fore their Euro­pean as­sault recom­mences.

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