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  • Thu, 21 Jan 2021 14:32:50 +0000: Manchester City hit by more Covid problems as Sergio Agüero tests positive - Manchester City | The Guardian
    • Argentinian striker had been self-isolating
    • 32-year-old has started only three matches this season

    Sergio Agüero has announced he has tested positive for coronavirus. The Manchester City striker had been self-isolating after being identified as a close contact of another confirmed case.

    The Argentinian tweeted: “After a close contact, I’ve been self-isolating and the latest test I took was positive for Covid-19. I had some symptoms and I’m following doctor’s orders for recovery. Take care, everyone!”

    Related: Aston Villa rue luck as Gundogan and Silva help Man City to sixth straight win

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  • Wed, 20 Jan 2021 20:14:33 +0000: Manchester City 2-0 Aston Villa: Premier League – as it happened - Manchester City | The Guardian

    A wildly entertaining game was somehow heading towards a goalless conclusion, until Bernardo Silva’s late, decisive - and controversial - strike

    No word from the managers, as the television coverage switches breathlessly to Craven Cottage. You can go there too, with our old pal John Brewin. Should anything of interest be said - and Dean Smith’s interview promises to be lively - you can be sure to read all about it later on this very website. But no need to worry, because Jamie Jackson’s verdict has landed! You know what to do: click, click, click! Thanks for reading this MBM. Stay safe, healthy, dry and warm, everyone. Nighty night!

    Related: Silva and Gündogan send Manchester City top as Aston Villa rue luck

    The Premier League have explained why Silva’s decisive goal stood. Rodri was trotting back from an obvious offside position, but once Mings chested it down and attempted to make a pass, he effectively played Rodri back onside. Here’s the relevant law: “A player in an offside position, receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball, is not considered to have gained an advantage.” Is the law an ass? Well, Mings wouldn’t have played the ball had Rodri not been where he was in the first place. You can understand why Villa are aggrieved, but it would seem City have the laws of the game on their side. A long evening of heated debate stretches out ahead on social media, which is one of the many reasons your humble MBM hack doesn’t go on it.

    The win puts City top of the Premier League! That’s the first time they’ve got there all season, and they’re now the ninth team to take pole during this wild and wonderful season. Now on 38 points after 18 games, they depose Leicester City (played 19) on goal difference. United (played 18, 37 points) have the chance to regain top spot by winning at Fulham. John Brewin is all over the 8.15pm kick-0ff. Villa meanwhile remain in 11th position on 26, though they’ve only played 16 matches so far.

    Related: Fulham v Manchester United: Premier League – live!

    It could have ended 8-3, 2-4, or anything in between. But this is how it ends. What a sensationally entertaining game of football. Just a shame there’s a whiff of controversy over Bernardo Silva’s winner, Rodri getting away with interfering from an offside position. But on balance, it would be tough to argue that City didn’t deserve the win over the piece. Villa can be proud of their performance, though.

    90 min +2: Four extra minutes. Most of the first two are taken up with celebratory faff. Villa are understandably deflated. They gave this everything.

    Gundogan has missed tonight from four yards, and two yards, but he makes no mistake from 12. Batter! City are going top, for a couple of hours at least!

    Cancelo has a batter from distance. It’s tipped round the post by Martinez. Villa deal with the corner, but City are quickly coming back at them. Jesus wins a header, just to the left of goal. It’s going wide, but hits Cash’s arm. Penalty, as his arm was miles out of position.

    87 min: More admin: Taylor is booked for some transgression or other, while Walton explains that Dean Smith wasn’t shown a second yellow; after the yellow was shown, Smith must have offered some trenchant analysis that deserved a straight red. What a ride this game has been.

    85 min: If you thought this game hadn’t been weird enough already, BT Sport refereeing expert Peter Walton has disagreed with the officials over the goal! His view: Rodri was interfering with play, and the goal shouldn’t have stood. And you know what, he’s exactly right. Rodri came back from an offside position, miles off, then hassled Mings, whose mistake Silva capitalised from.

    83 min: Mahrez breezes down the right with Villa short at the back. Mahrez thinks there’s somebody with him on the overlap, and plays a pass to nobody. Martinez gratefully receives the gift.

    81 min: Villa claim that Rodri was offside during that move. He wasn’t interfering with play, according to both the ref and VAR. Dean Smith takes the protest too far, and is first given a yellow card, then a red. He stomps off towards the dressing room muttering words beginning with eff and cee.

    It’s gone in no! Mings fails to deal with a long ball. Silva picks it up, advances down the inside-right channel, drops a shoulder to move back infield, and curls an unstoppable shot into the top left! To be fair, that had been coming.

    77 min: This is beyond absurd now. This is positively psychedelic. This is four-years-of-Trump trippy. Mahrez romps in from the right. The ball deflects off Mings and somehow squirts across the face of goal and inches wide of the left-hand post. Then from the resulting corner, Jesus swings one in from the left, the ball shaving the right-hand post. How is this ball not going in?

    76 min: McGinn doesn’t have his shooting boots on tonight. A cute roll-back and flick by Grealish tees up McGinn, free on the spot. Fresh-air swipe. Oh my.

    75 min: Now it’s City’s turn to escape! McGinn slips Watkins into space down the left. He crosses low. Ramsey is waiting to tap in, but Dias, aquaplaning across the turf, somehow hooks it away just in time!

    74 min: Targett has picked up a knock, and he’s replaced at left-back by Taylor.

    72 min: City must be wondering how the hell they haven’t scored. Gundogan has missed two absolute sitters, from a combined distance of about five yards. Pep responds by rolling the dice, swapping Sterling for Mahrez.

    70 min: A positively absurd miss by Gundogan! More box bagatelle, and the ball breaks to Gundogan on the edge of the six-yard box. He heads goalwards. It’s blocked. Martinez is out of position, and the ball’s back to Gundogan, who merely has to poke home from a couple of yards ... but he can’t sort his feet out, somehow missing it, the ball magically whistling between his legs! Villa hack clear.

    68 min: Luiz is booked for a cynical tug on Silva. Before play restarts, Villa make a double change, El Ghazi and Ramsey coming on for Traore and Barkley.

    67 min: Watkins is released down the left. His low shot-cum-cross is half cleared by City. The ball breaks to Luiz, who hits a screamer through a thicket of players. Ederson pulls off a marvellous parry in the circumstances. Chances are the flag would have gone up for offside had that gone in, with Barkley lurking behind the last man.

    66 min: Luiz slaps the free kick witlessly into the wall. What a dangerous position that was. What a waste for Villa.

    65 min: Barkley, to the left of the D, slips a ball infield for McGinn, who purchases a cheap free kick from an over-committed Gundogan. A free kick in a central position, just outside the D.

    64 min: Luiz sends a 25-yard riser straight down Ederson’s throat. Tell you what, not much of this game has been played in the middle third. I’d quite like to see the stats for that. It must be some sort of Premier League outlier.

    63 min: Some penalty-box pinball down the other end now, as Foden fizzes one in low from the left. Jesus can’t control. Gundogan can only slash wide left from close range.

    61 min: After some penalty-box pinball, McGinn slices a shot from the edge of the box so badly that it ends up behind him, curling through 180 embarrassing degrees. Above the piped-in crowd noise, you can hear a cruel, but perfectly timed, “hoo hoo” of laughter.

    60 min: Space for Foden down the left. He rolls inside for Jesus, but there’s to be no instant impact for the City sub. He’s swarmed and Villa break, Grealish grooving his way down the left and winning a free kick off Cancelo. A free kick just to the left of the City box.

    59 min: De Bruyne makes way for Jesus. He gestures towards the ankle he hurt against Palace. City fans will hope this is just precautionary.

    58 min: Foden bullies Traore off the ball and barges in from the left. Foden enters the box and goes for the curler towards the top right, but gets the spin all wrong and it sails miles wide.

    56 min: De Bruyne is on the turf again, but only because Grealish has slid in on him late. Grealish offers his apologies immediately. He’s slightly lucky to get away without a yellow, but the referee is probably taking the slippery conditions into consideration.

    54 min: De Bruyne reverts to type, his wily pass finding Cancelo, who sashays in from the right, enters the box, and lashes a rising shot off the top of the crossbar! How on earth is this still goalless? It’s been a brilliant game, with chances aplenty.

    52 min: This is one-way traffic. Down the left, Foden wins a corner off Konsa and takes the set piece himself. Martinez claims, and launches long for Traore down the right. Traore brings it down from the sky and dinks it infield with one touch, sending - of all people - De Bruyne sprawling on the wet turf! Traore’s away! He races down the right, cuts inside past Zinchenko, but doesn’t quite get enough purchase on his curler towards the bottom left. Ederson claims. That would have been goal of the season, not least because the Premier League’s most consistently brilliant player over the last few seasons was the hapless victim!

    51 min: Gundogan, out on the left, rolls a pass infield for Foden, who cushions a return. Gundogan opens his body and looks for the curler into the top right. Not quite; too high.

    49 min: Cancelo drives down the right and whips a cross in. Easy for Martinez this time, but Villa are struggling to get out.

    48 min: Sterling plays an elegant long-distance one-two with De Bruyne down the right, but his cross, intended for Foden at the far post, is way too heavy.

    47 min: City are quickly on the attack again. Sterling opens his body to shoot, having cut in from the right, but Mings blocks.

    Villa - who had been happy to keep their hosts waiting in the rain - eventually get the second half underway. No changes.

    More half-time entertainment. You lucky people.

    Look at that touch from Dean Smith... ✨

    Half-time entertainment. For your aural pleasure.

    Related: Leicester go top, Lampard feels the heat and Milan march on – Football Weekly

    An extremely entertaining half comes to an end. City have posed more threat; Villa have defended staunchly and will be the happier of the teams as everyone goes in to wrap themselves in hot towels and pop on some fresh kit. Don’t go anywhere!

    45 min +2: Now some heroics from Villa’s other full back, as Targett smashes the ball away just in time, De Bruyne waiting for a Foden pull back to arrive.

    45 min +1: City go up the other end and should take the lead. De Bruyne, out on the right, somehow spots, then threads a pass towards, Foden, free in the box on the left. Foden smacks a shot goalwards, but it’s blocked by Cash.

    45 min: Barkley advances on the City box again. He’s got Grealish to his left, and Watkins to his right, but opts for the curler towards the bottom right again. It’s deflected out for a corner, reward his poor shot didn’t really deserve. Nothing comes of the set piece.

    43 min: City probe this way and that, but Villa hold their shape well. Rodri eventually flings a long cross in from the right. Foden meets it with a header, but there’s no power on it, and Martinez snaffles with ease.

    41 min: Foden and Zinchenko combine well down the left, but the substitute isn’t causing Cash as many problems as Cancelo did. Zinchenko is forced to turn tail, and the move peters out.

    39 min: City’s eighth corner of the match leads to a ninth, out on the right. Martinez comes out to claim number ten, flaps like a swan, and is fortunate to be awarded a free kick for clanking into Stones. Keepers always get those.

    37 min: Barkley advances into the City box and tries a curler towards the bottom right. Ederson holds on well in these sodden conditions, and good thing too for City, because Traore was sniffing around in the hope of picking up any rebound.

    36 min: Mings takes his own sweet time over a free kick. The City bench spring up as one, incensed at the perceived time-wasting. Dean Smith, on the other hand, views it as professional clock management. The referee has a word with Mings. For a second, it looks as though Smith and Guardiola are going to lock horns, but what initially looks like a full and frank exchange of views ends in broad smiles and low fives.

    34 min: Foden wheechs a glorious ball across the face of the six-yard box from the left. Any toe-poke and it’s in. But nobody in sky blue has bothered to take a gamble. Villa escape again.

    33 min: Incidentally, Zinchenko has taken up his position at left-back. Cancelo has moved over to the other flank to deputise for poor Walker.

    31 min: Rodri has a belt from distance. Sterling becomes the victim of friendly fire, and the deflection goes out for a goal kick.

    30 min: City apply some pressure on the pedal. De Bruyne has a whack from just inside the area. His powerful sidefoot is blocked out for a corner. From the set piece, the ball’s worked to Sterling on the right. He fizzes into the six-yard box, but that one’s blocked out too. The third corner leads to nothing.

    28 min: Dr MBM is vindicated! Walker does indeed limp to the bench, after trying his best to run that thigh injury off. Zinchenko comes on to replace him. The good doctor’s hard-won reputation restored!

    27 min: Grealish slips Traore into the City box down the left, but with options in the middle, Traore flashes an ambitious effort from a tight angle into the side netting.

    26 min: Corner for Villa out on the right. Grealish’s delivery is no good, and City are quickly breaking upfield. Villa are light at the back, but De Bruyne plays an uncharacteristically clumsy pass down the left, hoping to release Sterling but only managing to clump it out for a goal kick.

    25 min: Dr MBM is a right quack. Walker, at death’s door a couple of minutes ago according to this report, is running freely again. Zinchenko, who had been warming up with a view to replacing him, has sat back down again.

    23 min: De Bruyne heads a pass down the right for Sterling, who skitters into the Villa box and wins a corner off Targett. De Bruyne takes. The ball clanks off Konsa and tees up Rodri on the penalty spot. Rodri gets a shot off, but it’s weak and straight at Martinez.

    21 min: It doesn’t look as though Walker is going to be able to continue. A problem with his thigh? His hamstring? He’s down getting treatment, though he springs back up quickly enough and appears determined to play on. Not sure how long he’ll last, as he’s still jogging around very gingerly.

    19 min: More space for Cancelo, who is having a whale of a time out on this left wing. He reaches the byline yet again and whips through the six-yard box. Sterling can’t get anywhere near, blocked off cleverly by Mings.

    17 min: Although to be fair to Walker, he’s hobbling a bit and grimacing quite a lot. After another phase of play, Grealish comes over again and puts his arm around his England team-mate’s shoulder. All friends again. The tussle itself looked innocuous.

    15 min: Grealish and Walker tussle under a high ball out on Villa’s left touchline. Walker ends up in a heap on the floor and isn’t too happy about it. The referee comes over and reminds both that they’re grown men.

    14 min: Another corner for City, on the left. Gundogan challenges at the far post. Villa get it clear, after a minor stramash in the six-yard box. There is absolutely no way this match is going to end goalless.

    12 min: Cancelo throws a couple of shapes down the left and confuses Cash. He breaks into the box and tees up Foden, whose shot is blocked by Konsa. Barkley over-elaborates with a back-heel as Villa try to clear their lines, but City can’t capitalise on the mistake. Out since November, the rusty Barkley got away with one there.

    10 min: And now it could easily be 2-2, and should be 0-1. Villa have a man over on the break. Grealish is in acres to the right of the D. Barkley, driving upfield, slaps the pass straight at Cancelo. Now it’s Villa’s turn to wonder how they haven’t converted a fine opportunity into a goal. This is great entertainment.

    9 min: Foden shimmies in from the left, dropping one shoulder then the other, and makes his way into the box. He releases a pearler of a shot, but it’s blocked and deflected out for a corner, which comes to nothing. Just the nine minutes gone, yet this could easily be 2-1.

    8 min: Foden dances along the byline to the left of goal. His cutback is cleared. This is breathless.

    7 min: Grealish diddles his way down the left and reaches the byline, before fizzing a dangerous low ball into the mixer. There’s nobody in black to receive the cross, so City clear and go up the other end again.

    6 min: ... then pour up the other end, Barkley finding Traore in space out on the right. He sails past Cancelo with ease and dribbles into the box. Serious danger for City here! But Traore over-elaborates, torn between shooting from an angle and teeing up Grealish in the middle, and is eventually crowded out. Great start, this.

    5 min: Nothing comes of the next corner. Villa relax ...

    4 min: A free kick for City out on the right. De Bruyne knocks it in. Grealish concedes a corner. From the corner, the ball drops to Silva, a couple of yards out. He’s got to score, but somehow Martinez gets in the way to block. What a save! Stones tries to poke home the rebound, but Cash deflects over the bar for another corner. What an escape by Villa!

    2 min: It already feels like City have made over 200 passes. Villa haven’t touched it yet. Ah now they have, Gundogan spraying a diagonal ball towards Silva on the right, Targett chesting it down to intercept.

    Here we go, then. Manchester City get the ball rolling ... but only after the knee is taken. No room for racism. Kick it out.

    The teams are out! Manchester City wear their sky blue, while Aston Villa are in second-choice black. Jack Grealish looks in a very chipper mood, exchanging cheery patter with the officials. Some breaking news: it’s raining in Manchester. We’ll be off in a minute or two.

    I missed a tinder-dry zinger from Dean Smith: “We’re unbeaten in 18 days.” He’s here all week, ladies and gentlemen. Try the egg.

    Pep’s up next. “We still haven’t finished the first leg. We have many games to play for all the teams, so many things can happen. This is the toughest period, the weather conditions are tough, you don’t see the light, you don’t see the sky. Our life is training and go home. Another game, go. That’s just what we will have to do.”

    Dean Smith talks to BT Sport: “It’s nice to be out of the house! We haven’t played since New Year’s Day. Hopefully the lads will be fresh but we’ve had the Covid situation and players who have been suffering, so hopefully they will be OK. There’s a little bit of the unknown, but we’re not making any excuses and hopefully this is a team that can compete tonight.”

    Manchester City make three changes to the team sent out to batter Crystal Palace 4-0 on Sunday. Phil Foden, Rodri and Joao Cancelo come in; Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho and Oleksandr Zinchenko drop to the bench.

    Aston Villa’s last fixture was the FA Cup tie against Liverpool. They were forced to send out the whippersnappers for that one, so let’s look back to the New Year’s Day match at Old Trafford instead. Just the one change to the team that was unfortunate to go down 2-1: Ross Barkley comes in for Anwar El Ghazi, who is named today as a sub.

    Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Joao Cancelo, De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Sterling, Foden.
    Subs: Gabriel Jesus, Zinchenko, Steffen, Torres, Mendy, Fernandinho, Mahrez, Garcia, Bernabe.

    Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett, Douglas Luiz, Barkley, Traore, Grealish, McGinn, Watkins.
    Subs: Heaton, Taylor, Nakamba, El Ghazi, Engels, Guilbert, Elmohamady, Davis, Ramsey.

    Welcome to our coverage of the second phase of an elegant game of leapfrog. Last night Leicester City hopped over Manchester United and Manchester City to hit the top of the Premier League table. Now it’s City’s turn to attempt the leap from third to first, which they’ll do this evening if they see off Aston Villa. The third manoeuvre comes later, when Manchester United visit Fulham, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

    City are hot favourites to beat Villa. They’re bang in form, having won their last five in a row, while Villa’s Premier League squad haven’t played since New Year’s Day thanks to an outbreak of this damn virus. Villa’s players can be forgiven if they lack some match sharpness, then, and of course who can predict the effect on anyone who has had Covid-19. There’s also the small matter of Villa’s historical record at City: they’ve lost on 14 of their last 15 visits, and are on the wrong end of an aggregate score of 33-4.

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  • Wed, 20 Jan 2021 20:04:31 +0000: Aston Villa rue luck as Gundogan and Silva help Man City to sixth straight win - Manchester City | The Guardian

    This was a breathless affair for which an abacus was needed to keep count of the endless chances. Manchester City created most of these in a blur of activity close to Emiliano Martínez’s goal and when Aston Villa were finally breached on 79 minutes it was deserved.

    Tyrone Mings dallied, Rodri mugged him, the effervescent Bernardo Silva received the ball, swerved away from a clutch of defenders, then fired in a memorable strike. This brought jubilation for City and anger for Villa as the visitors complained Rodri had come from an offside position. Dean Smith’s ire was enough to have him sent off by Jonathan Moss, the referee unimpressed by the manager’s vociferous complaints.

    Related: Manchester City v Aston Villa: Premier League – live!

    Related: Ten transfer targets for Premier League clubs from across Europe

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  • Tue, 19 Jan 2021 15:55:10 +0000: Pep Guardiola says Aymeric Laporte can decide own future at Manchester City - Manchester City | The Guardian
    • Frenchman unable to break partnership of Stones and Dias
    • ‘He has to be focused to come back in the best condition’

    Pep Guardiola has said Aymeric Laporte can reclaim his first-choice status for Manchester City, despite the impressive central defensive partnership of John Stones and Rúben Dias.

    The Frenchman had been an automatic choice since signing in January 2018 before a poor display in the 2-0 defeat at Tottenham in mid-November allowed Stones to re-establish himself in the XI, alongside Dias. Laporte has also since struggled with injury. Stones and Dias have been key in City’s impressive record of 17 clean sheets this term but the manager is clear there is a route back for the 26-year-old.

    Related: England Women put Hege Riise in temporary charge after Neville's exit

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  • Mon, 18 Jan 2021 08:00:24 +0000: Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend action - Manchester City | The Guardian

    Ole Gunnar Solskjær takes a leaf out of Fergie’s book, Mason Mount channels vintage Lampard and Wolves’ woes go on

    There has been recent evidence that Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s adherence to the lessons learned at Sir Alex Ferguson’s feet was wavering. His Manchester United have lately shown something of their own identity, but here Solskjær used a classic Fergie blueprint. Even when United were far superior to Liverpool, Anfield was where the old master’s team would sit deep and try to score on the counter, or from set pieces. It is not difficult to imagine unsung players like Scott McTominay and Fred being handed a Ferguson detail of sweeping up the bits and pieces in midfield in the mould of a Phil Neville or Quinton Fortune. There was to be no unlikely goalscoring hero in the mould of a John O’Shea, Diego Forlan or Gary Pallister. Instead, Sunday will be recalled in future for Anfield’s emptiness, a match endured rather than enjoyed. And Ferguson, even during his imperial period, would probably have been happy with a point. John Brewin

    • Match report: Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United

    Related: Steve Bruce turns to brutal honesty as moment of truth looms for Newcastle | Louise Taylor

    Klopp concedes Liverpool are in top-four fight

    Related: Jürgen Klopp’s tepid attack is feeling ripple effects of a drained defence | Barney Ronay

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