Pep Guardiola gunning for FA Cup glory as Man City begin crucial fixture period

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Guardiola has his sights trained on winning the FA Cup.

Pep Guardiola has insisted Manchester City remain committed to lifting the FA Cup this season despite the prospect of a nightmare-run of fixtures.

The City manager has earmarked an 11-day spell in late February and early March as the defining period of the club’s season, when they will face four matches across three competitions.

That sequence will begin with the English League Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley on February 25, followed by a Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium four days later.

The following Sunday comes a home league match against Chelsea, before the second leg of City’s Champions League last-16 tie against Swiss champions Basel three days later.

Should they lose their FA Cup fourth-round tie at Cardiff on Sunday, City will have a clear 12 days next month to prepare for that testing run of games.

But a victory over the second-tier club in south Wales will guarantee City a fifth-round tie on the weekend of February 17, a week before the League Cup final.

Guardiola has repeatedly refused to discuss the idea of City winning the season quadruple of Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup, something which has never yet been achieved in English football history.

Guardiola's men beat Bristol City to enter the final of the Carabao Cup.

Guardiola’s men beat Bristol City to enter the final of the Carabao Cup.

His predecessor at City, Manuel Pellegrini, effectively had to give up on the FA Cup two seasons ago amid similar fixture congestion.

Pellegrini picked a side made up largely of fringe players and academy graduates for a fifth-round tie at Chelsea, played three days before a Champions League away match against Dynamo Kiev, and ended up losing 5-1.

Guardiola said he understood why Pellegrini made that decision – with City going on to reach the Champions League semi-finals – but added that the club are in a stronger position to deal with such tests now.

“That situation was completely different to now,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday. “The club tried to speak to the federation (England’s governing football Association) to ask for the fixture to move, to have one more day to go to Kiev.

“I understood what the club did. But here (in England), the television companies decide the fixtures and we’ll adjust,” the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager added.

“We are going to play the final at Wembley on February 25, and then play on Thursday against Arsenal in the Premier League. Sunday it’s Chelsea, then the Champions League after that.

“We’d prefer more time but we are in four competitions and we have to adapt. That’s not going to change.

Pellegrini had played a weakened squad against Chelsea in the FA Cup.

Pellegrini had played a weakened squad against Chelsea in the FA Cup.

“Sometimes you have one more day to prepare for a game, and sometimes you have one day fewer, because television decides. There are a lot of games. We have played a lot, and we have a lot to play.

“But I prefer to be in the four competitions and we’ll see where we get to.

“It’s another final on Sunday. Every game is so important. Game by game, we will see where our level is.”

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Aubameyang can form "unbelievable" partnership with Mkhitaryan but work rate is an issue for Arsenal

Alex Rea 26/01/2018
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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has provided an update on the move for Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – there isn’t one.

The two clubs are locked in negotiations for the Gabon international after the Gunners saw a €50million rejected this week with the Bundesliga giants looking for a fee closer to €70million.

Wenger admits the move could go down to the wire with the transfer window shutting next week but it seems all signs are pointing to Aubameyang becoming the club’s record signing.

To analyse what Arsenal would be getting for their money, we’ve enlisted the help of Bild’s Borussia Dortmund correspondent Sebastian Kolsberger to get the lowdown on the 28-year-old striker.

His temperament is a big talking point as he has developed a reputation now of being difficult but is this a fair characterisation?

When he moved to Dortmund four years ago, Auba was a funny guy who always had fun with his teammates. After Robert Lewandowski was gone (the Pole left for Bayern Munich in 2014), he became an inspiring figure for the young players.

For Ousmane Dembele he was like a big brother and he was helping him to develop. But in the summer the situation changed. He wanted to leave the club, but there was no offer for him.

It was a big mind change for him. He did everything to provoke a move, and he showed his real character. Everything is about money, and he doesn’t care about the club and his teammates.

Dembele (now of Barcelona) and Aubameyang last season

Dembele (now of Barcelona) and Aubameyang last season

Because of his age, is there a concern his pace is on the wane and obviously that’s an impressive ability of his but are we overlooking other aspects of his game?

Of course, his pace is his best skill but he’s coolness personified in front of goal. He’s also very good at reading the mistakes of his opponents.

Would he be better served through the middle or wide right and can he play with a more traditional striker like Alexandre Lacazette? 

Jurgen Klopp tried to put him on both wings, but he is lost there. If he is running down the wings, there is no one to follow him through the middle – he’s a typical striker. Can he play alongside Lacazette? I don’t know.

Real Madrid have always been talked up as a possible destination and they are crying out for a forward in his ilk but why in your opinion has that move never materialised? 

The level in Madrid is too high for him. He’s not among the best players in the world and he is not the guy who can decide a game alone. He needs his teammates to shine.

He’s one of the most prolific forwards in Europe, but what is he not so good at and needs to improve on? 

Auba has one big problem – work ethic during a game. If it doesn’t work well for the team, you won’t see him for 90 minutes. And he’s not a good motivator because on the pitch he is silent.

He’ll be joining up with Henrikh Mkhitaryan again, how good were they playing together particularly in the 2015/16 season under Thomas Tuchel and why should Arsenal fans be excited about that possible reunion?

With Micki the pair played very well. Together, they were an unbelievable team. They created so many goals and chances and if there is a reunion, the Arsenal fans can be very happy about it.

In a team with Mesut Ozil and Mkhitaryan, does he possess the type of defensive aptitude required for Arsene Wenger?

In Dortmund he never showed a defensive attitude. But it was never required by any coach.

In terms of the numbers behind the deal, what will it eventually cost Arsenal and will it be viewed as value for money?

The deal will cost Arsenal around €70million. For Dortmund it is more than value for the money because Auba will be 29 in the summer.

Check out all Sebastian Kolsberger’s work on Twitter and online at Bild.de

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Manchester United target Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is worth €100m, claims Nemanja Vidic

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22-year-old Milinkovic-Savic is a hot property in Serie A.

Impressed ex-Serbia star Nemanja Vidic is convinced emerging compatriot Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has everything in his locker to one day justify a reported €100m (Dh455.9m) price tag.

Milinkovic-Savic, 22, is rumoured to have attracted admiring glances from big-spenders Manchester United – for whom Vidic starred from 2006-14 – and Paris Saint-Germain after his all-action displays in centre midfield for Serie A high-flyers Lazio.

Speaking to Sport360° in Dubai to hand over the latest adidas “Cold Blooded” boot pack to the city’s adidas Tango League Captains, Vidic believed his countryman is worth making a huge investment in.

“I think with how the market goes, €100m is a big money,” said the retired centre-back, who played 56 times for his nation from 2002-11. “But that is the market now.

“He is young, he has potential to grow. At the moment, he is a big deal as a player in Italy.

“I don’t dictate the market. But if you ask me, is he a quality player? Definitely.

“Does he have room to improve? Yes.

“He has a value. Is it €100 million? I do not know about that.”

Milinkovic-Savic – who will provide a major threat in Sunday’s visit to AC Milan – has excelled for I Biancocelesti since joining for just €4m (Dh16.3m) from Belgium’s Genk in July 2015, scoring 20 times in 101 run-outs. Despite these promising performances, disagreements with then Serbia head coach Slavoljub Muslin saw him miss out on the entire qualification path to World Cup 2018.

Former Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic hands over the new adidas “Cold Blooded” Predator boot pack as he meets the adidas Dubai Tango League captains

New leader Mladen Krstajic immediately recalled him for November’s friendlies against China and South Korea. Vidic praised the decision to award starts for both these games, in the build-up to this summer’s main event in Russia.

He said: “He did not play in the qualification, but now he’ll probably be invited for the World Cup as the manager has changed. I think he will be important for the squad, obviously we have other top players as well.

“I think he is talented and still has room to improve. I am glad that we have this kind of player, who is able to score the goals and create the chances.

“He will be a great addition to the team we had in qualification.”

Оrlovi – the Eagles – have been drawn in Group E, alongside Brazil, Switzerland and Costa Rica.

In their only entrant as a singular, independent nation, they were eliminated in the group stage of the 2010 tournament.

Nemanja Vidic with Dubai Tango League captains

Nemanja Vidic with Dubai Tango League captains

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