Kyle Walker on 'intense' Guardiola driving Man City to success and desire to make World Cup squad

Alam Khan 20/01/2018
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They may not be the ‘Invincibles’ this season, but Manchester City are driven in their desire to be the best.

Last weekend’s 4-3 loss to Liverpool saw the Etihad outfit miss the chance to match Arsenal’s 2004 mark of going through the entire Premier League season unbeaten.

But that won’t derail a campaign that has seen City take a 12-point lead at the top, hold a 2-1 advantage over Bristol City in the semi-finals of the League Cup, visit Cardiff in next weekend’s FA Cup fourth round and face a Champions League last-16 test with Basle.

Defender Kyle Walker believes that mentality comes from the standards set by themselves – and manager Pep Guardiola.

“It’s intense really because the manager here wants the best out of us – as we do ourselves,” he said of working under the Catalan.

“But it’s good. You would rather have a manager that cares about you than one who doesn’t speak to you or doesn’t want you to learn.

“He spends time on and off the field with you on how you can improve, what you can do better, but he also tells you what you do well.

“That is obviously good coming from the guy you are working under. It boosts your confidence.

“We want to be the best. That’s just the group of lads we have got in the dressing room.

“They are all quality, with good international experience, and if we didn’t demand the best for ourselves and myself then we would be doing ourselves an injustice.

“When you are winning football games it’s hard to be down. That’s what we work hard all week to get the result that we want. If we are winning every game and coming in unhappy then there might be something the matter with us and we need checking.”

And Walker says the bond and spirit in the City camp has been so good that Kevin De Bruyne has become an adopted Yorkshireman.

Guardiola’s backline has been notable for the presence of the £50 million right back, Barnsley-born centre-back John Stones and midfielder-turned-left back Fabian Delph.

And the Tyke trio have provided fun as well as fine performances, prompting the Belgian playmaker to join in.

“Me, Fabby and Stonesy are doing all right,” added the Sheffield-born Walker, who has provided balance and brilliance in City’s swashbuckling displays following his summer arrival from Spurs.

“I’ve known Fab since about six when he was playing for Bradford and it’s a joy to play with him. He’s a fantastic player and a good lad on and off the pitch.

“We all have a laugh in the changing room together and I think it’s good to keep the spirit high on and off the field.

“Kevin tries to join in with us as well. He’s basically English as well. He’s a Yorkshireman definitely!”

It was often said in cricket that a strong Yorkshire side meant a strong England. And Walker is hoping that applies to the national football team too and the contingent can all play a part in this summer’s World Cup.

Kyle Walker is determined to feature for England at the 2018 World Cup

Kyle Walker is determined to feature for England at the 2018 World Cup

The 27-year-old is eager to feature on the biggest stage of all, having missed out on the Brazil tournament four years ago with a pelvic problem.

Injury also saw Walker ruled out of the 2012 European Championships after a superb season that saw him named PFA Young Player of the Year.

He said: “I missed out on Euros and a World Cup, but I believe in fate. Things happen for a reason and that wasn’t meant to be.

“It’s not nice when you miss out on big tournaments or big games. I can remember getting the phone call telling me I wouldn’t be in the squad for the last World Cup, it hurt.

“I thought I had a decent season. OK I got hampered by injury but you have to take it on the chin.

“You have to say ‘OK I’m going to prove you wrong and you are going to put me in the team next time’.

“I went to the Euros two years ago and thought I did reasonably well personally, although we didn’t do as well as a country. So hopefully I can follow on that this summer if I get the nod to go to Russia.”

But Walker’s focus is on City for now as he added: “I’m not looking too far into the summer though. My main job is with City until I join up with England next. I’m all about City now and trying to help them get into finals.

“For me it’s concentrating on football and helping Manchester City get to where we, the manager, and the coaching staff, want to be this season.”

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Brighton home form a cause for concern for Chelsea as champions visit Fortress Amex

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Chelsea beat Brighton 2-0 at home last month.

Chelsea are yet to win a game in normal time in 2018, with their only taste of success coming in Wednesday’s win over Norwich City on penalties in their FA Cup third round replay.

They’ve scored only three goals in their five games since the turn of the year, and have failed to score in three of those games.

Brighton are similarly struggling for goals, failing to score in seven of their last 10 Premier League games, and have seen a promising start to the season derailed as they’ve been sucked into the relegation battle that many expected them to have to face. They’re now only three points outside the relegation zone.

These two sides faced off in a league fixture less than a month ago, with Chelsea winning 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day.

Here are some of the interesting stats and facts for Saturday’s clash.

– Alvaro Morata hasn’t scored in his last three league starts – he last had a longer run ending in August 2016 (eight starts with Juventus and Real Madrid combined). His last game against Leicester was his only Premier League game this season where he didn’t have a single shot.

– This is only the 10th ever meeting between Brighton and Chelsea – the Blues have won each of the last seven contests in all competitions.

– Chelsea have won all five of their English league matches against Brighton – should they win this match, only one team will have a better 100% record against an opponent since the Football League began in 1888 (Wimbledon against Bournemouth, eight wins out of eight).

– Brighton have picked up just one win from their last 12 Premier League games (D5 L6), failing to score in eight of these fixtures.

– However, at home Brighton have lost just one of their last 10 in the Premier League (W3 D6), though both of their defeats at the Amex Stadium this season have been against ‘big six’ opposition (Man City and Liverpool).

Brighton have been formidable opponents at home.

Brighton have been formidable opponents at home.

– Chelsea have won just one of their last five away league games (D3 L1), drawing each of the last two. They’ve not gone three away games without a win in the Premier League under Antonio Conte.

– The Blues have won 44 of their 75 away games against newly promoted sides in the Premier League – only Arsenal (45) have won more. Chelsea’s last defeat in such a fixture was in March 2014 at Crystal Palace, winning nine and drawing two since.

– Brighton have never beaten the reigning top-flight champions in a league match (P9 W0 D2 L7).

– Antonio Conte has dropped only two points from 27 available in Premier League matches against newly promoted sides (P9 W8 D1 L0), a 1-1 draw with Burnley last season.

– Chris Hughton is winless in seven matches against Chelsea in all competitions (D2 L5), losing each of the last five; his only victory against them came in the League Cup in September 2010, a 4-3 win at Stamford Bridge for Newcastle United.

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Mohamed Salah out-scores entire Swansea team as Liverpool travel to Liberty Stadium

David Cooper 19/01/2018
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Liverpool will no doubt still be beaming from their thrilling 4-3 win over Manchester City last week.

The Reds brought an end to the Premier League leaders’ unbeaten streak this season.

Liverpool top scorer Mohamed Salah and defenders Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan are all expected to recover from illness to face Swansea on Monday.

Centre-back Virgil van Dijk returns to the side after a tight hamstring ruled him out of last week’s win over Manchester City.

Swansea have been linked with ambitious moves for Atletico Madrid pair Kevin Gameiro and Nicolas Gaitan and Ajax winger Amin Younes, and Carvalhal admits that transfer negotiations are difficult in modern-day football.

Here, we look at the key statistics and match facts ahead of Monday’s clash including Salah’s stunning goal-scoring record this season.

– Although Swansea have conceded 27 goals in 13 Premier League games (W3 D3 L7) against the Reds, just six of those have come at Liberty Stadium.

– 14 of Liverpool’s last 15 Premier League goals in this fixture have been scored in the second half (93%).

– Since Swansea and Liverpool last met in the Premier League at Liberty Stadium in October 2016 – Francesco Guidolin’s last match in charge – the Swans have had five different managers take charge of a Premier League game (Bradley, Curtis, Clement, Britton and Carvalhal), spanning 54 games; by contrast, Liverpool have had five different managers span 517 Premier League games.

– Liverpool, who won 5-0 in the reverse fixture, haven’t won both league matches in a season by such a margin or greater against an opponent since 2001-02 against Ipswich Town (6-0 away, 5-0 at home).

– Roberto Firmino has scored five goals in his last three Premier League games against Swansea, including braces in each of the last two.

Roberto Firmino

Roberto Firmino

– Mo Salah has scored 18 goals from 44 shots on target in the Premier League this season – Swansea, by contrast, have scored just 14 goals as a team from 52 shots on target.

– This will be Liverpool’s first away league visit to a side starting that day bottom of the Premier League since February 2016, when they won 6-0 at Aston Villa.

– Swansea have lost each of their last three Premier League games played on a Monday, conceding at least three goals each time.

– The Reds have scored at least twice in each of their last six Premier League away games – just one short of their record in the competition of seven between February and May 2014.

– The Swans have scored fewer home goals than any other Premier League side this season (6), while Liverpool have scored the most away from home (29).

Statistics provided by Opta

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