Manchester City are eyeing a January move for Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez as Pep Guardiola looks to add depth to his squad, as per Don Balon.
The Citizens currently sit at the top of the Premier League table with 34 points, eight points ahead of their nearest rivals, Manchester United, who have 26 points from their 12 fixtures so far. With Manchester City set to go big this season, Pep Guardiola doesn’t want to take any chances and is said to be looking for more options off the bench.
The Sky Blues offloaded a few players earlier this summer, one of which was Jesus Navas, who departed for Sevilla. City are yet to bring in a replacement for him, and it is now believed that Riyad Mahrez has emerged as one of their options, with the Algerian already looking to seal a move away from Leicester City.
Mahrez’s desire to leave is no secret after the 26-year old released a statement stating the same, virtually issuing a come-and-get-me plea. However, Leicester City remained stubborn all summer, refusing to sell for anything less than £50 million, a price tag that put off many of his suitors, including Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and FC Barcelona.
AS Roma were the only club to have made a formal approach for Riyad Mahrez, but Leicester City rejected all four of their bids, the latest being somewhere around £38 million. Eventually, Mahrez had to stay against his wish at the King Power Stadium.
The 2015/16 player of the year began the season with the kind of lack of interest that you’d expect from a wantaway, but he has improved in the recent times, having had a direct hand in five goals in his last six games (two goals and three assists). His form has fuelled the fire yet again, and as a result, Manchester City have emerged as strong contenders to land him.
Safe to say, were Pep Guardiola to come calling, it’d be a no-brainer for Riyad Mahrez, even if he only briefly warms the Etihad Stadium bench before moving to a smaller club.
Philippe Coutinho has handed Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp a significant boost by declaring himself ‘100 percent’ fit ahead of Brazil’s friendly against England.
Coutinho, 25, has missed Liverpool’s last three games with a thigh problem but looks set to start at Wembley on Tuesday night when Brazil face Gareth Southgate’s England.
‘Unfortunately, I could not play for Liverpool in the past three games because of injury,’ Coutinho said.
‘Now I feel 100 percent fit, I have recovered and I am in a good shape to be available for the game against England.
‘I never want to miss any Brazil games. I am honoured to wear this shirt whenever I can. England will be our first European opponent under [manager] Tite. We are looking forward to battling with them.
‘They have a lot of quality players who operate in a top league like the Premier League. It will no doubt be a difficult encounter.’
Coutinho, who missed fixtures against West Ham, Maribor and Huddersfield Town due to the thigh problem, added: ‘Every day, I work harder than before to improve myself and become a better all-around footballer.
‘Thanks to football, I live in England today. Thanks to football, I am able to feed my family. Football has been very generous for me.’
A scintillating first half-hour laid the foundation for City’s 2-1 win as a clever and resilient Napoli side forced their way back into the game thereafter, pushing City more than any other opponent so far this season.
City started where they had left off against Stoke at the weekend, with a whirlwind attacking spell that had Napoli in absolute knots. Mesmerising football, concentrated on the left flank to start, brought immediate rewards and perhaps should have delivered more before the game turned.
Tired legs? Over-confidence? Over-elaboration at the back? Or simply an opponent of a different calibre? Having done the hard work and exerted energy streaming forward for more, City were suddenly pushed back by an opponent that had spent the first 30 minutes unable to hold onto the ball and trapped inside their own half.
Manager Rating out of 10
8 — Pep Guardiola chose exactly the same starting line-up with good reason. Saw his side play outstandingly sharp and incisive football for half an hour, then be closed down and forced backwards by a crafty and well-balanced Napoli side. Now needs to give some a rest.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Ederson, 9 — Was already playing well, when he was asked to face a penalty. The scuffed shot by Dries Mertens came straight down the middle and he saved well with his left boot. Outstanding in his quick darts to the edge of the box and in his safe, confident handling.
DF Kyle Walker, 7 — So far forward that his blocked shot in the box led to Raheem Sterling’s early breakthrough. Was being given more food for thought at the other end, however, and despite his ability to recover quickly, he gave away the first penalty by pulling Raul Albiol back at a corner. Often left Lorenzo Insigne in too much space in the second half.
DF John Stones, 9 — Outstanding again at the back as City’s tactics unravelled in the second half. Quick to recover and nick the ball from the menacing Mertens, directing plenty of traffic from left to right and back again as City controlled possession. Somehow got his belly in front of one goal-bound shot as City almost paid dearly for their dallying. A dazzling 94 percent pass accuracy tells the story of his night.
DF Nicolas Otamendi, 7 — Hectic time for him. Less composed with the close passing across the back but right at home with the lunging interceptions, one of which robbed Mertens before half-time and another came critically to the rescue towards the end as Napoli pressed.
DF Fabian Delph, 7 — Calm and assured in early period, but appeared a little rattled by the second half onslaught. Overhit a pass that put Fernandinho in trouble in front of his own goal, but showed battling qualities and a calmness on the ball that was admirable.
MF Fernandinho, 8 — An all-action game from the Brazil international. Great deal of steady possession early on, first to the loose ball when Ederson saved the first penalty and always attentive to Napoli’s attacks down the flanks. Worked hard through the middle and dug out one lovely through-ball to Jesus. Blotted his copybook by giving away the second penalty, for which he was booked.
MF Leroy Sane, 6 — Appeared to have put the wrong studs in, so often was he on the floor. Gave Albiol plenty to think about, but also lost possession far too easily. Drew a yellow for Christian Maggio.
MF Raheem Sterling, 7 — Fast to the rebound when Walker’s shot came to him early on and his cool finish put City ahead. Gave Kalidou Koulibaly plenty to think about but it’s a shame he cannot arc a ball into the box like Kevin de Bruyne.
MF David Silva, 8 — Key to releasing Leroy Sane early on, he produced the deft cut-back that led to the opening goal. Outshone Marek Hamsik early on but failed to release the ball in time when there was a chance for a third goal. Replaced by Ilkay Gundogan after a clash of heads with Elseid Hysaj.
MF Kevin de Bruyne, 8 — Bossed the start and produced another sublime pass to set up the second goal on a plate for Jesus. One amazing left footer hit first time came back off the underside of the bar. So clever in his working of tight spaces and changing direction of attacks.
FW Gabriel Jesus, 8 — A real lung-busting effort in chasing down the defenders all night. Touched in the second might have had a second, had Koulibaly stopped it on the line between his knees.
MF Bernardo Silva, 7 — Arrived as a 68th minute replacement for Silva and immediately went on a terrific slalom through the middle. However, he was bypassed by a lot of the flow in the other direction.
MF Ilkay Gundogan, NR — On for Sane after 75 minutes and found himself pushed well forward to aid a tiring Jesus.
DF Danilo, NR — Replaced Jesus as Guardiola tried to bung some holes.
Jose Mourinho says Manchester United do not need to prove anything at Anfield on Saturday but has warned Liverpool his team are better equipped to win there than they were last season.
United have started their Premier League campaign with six wins and a draw from their first seven games, but only two of those matches have been against teams that finished in the top 10 last season, while the contest against Jurgen Klopp’s side will be their first against another of the big six.
The Anfield clash has been labelled a test of United’s title credentials, though Mourinho disagrees.
“We have to prove nothing,” he told Sky Sports. “We have our objectives for the season, we know where we want to go and how we have to go.
“This is press talk, or pundit talk: ‘We have something to prove, [Romelu] Lukaku has to score, we have to win’ [is what they say]. One match, one result, one performance. That’s not going to change anything.
“You can say, like some people do, we have not played one of the top five teams but last season we did not beat West Ham at home, last season we did not beat Everton at home or Southampton away.”
United left Anfield last season with a point after a goalless draw. They managed just one shot on target and Mourinho was accused of using defensive tactics to spoil the game — although Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a chance to win it in the second half.
Lukaku will lead the line against Liverpool this time after he proved his fitness with a 23-minute runout and a goal in Belgium’s 4-0 win over Cyprus on Tuesday.
And the striker, who has scored 11 goals in 10 games since arriving at Old Trafford in the summer from Everton, is one reason Mourinho says this team is better than the one that lined up at Anfield last season.
“I think we are a better team [than we were],” he said. “I think it would be unfair to say Lukaku and [Nemanja] Matic did not make an impact, we have to admit that and give them what they deserve. But also the team give Matic and Lukaku the conditions to arrive the way they have.
“Globally we are a better team — does that mean we are going to be as successful as last season, winning two titles? I don’t know. But we are better.”
Mourinho has a good record at Anfield in the Premier League, losing just one of his seven visits, while winning four and drawing two.
Chelsea’s 2-0 victory at Anfield in April 2014, aided by Steven Gerrard’s slip, was a hammer blow to Liverpool’s title chances, with Manchester City going on to win it.
Mourinho added: “I like to play against the best teams, I like to play against the best clubs and I like to play at the best stadiums — the stadiums with more history. At Anfield I’ve had great moments and I’ve had bad moments. They have had happiness against me, they have had very sad moments against me.
“It’s for three points, not four. Maybe if we were in a moment of the season where it was a duel between two teams it would mean more, but it’s not the case. At the same time, in these kinds of matches, every single moment plays a part. We are playing against a good team with very good players.”
Borja Mayoral and Gareth Bale scored one each for Real Madrid C.F. while the other one came from Sociedad defender Kevin Rodrigues as Real beat Sociedad 3-1 at Anoeta.
Real Madrid put their title defence back on track with a comfortable 3-1 win over Real Sociedad at Anoeta on Sunday, despite missing several key players.
Sociedad defender Kevin Rodrigues scored at both ends and Borja Mayoral and Gareth Bale netted Madrid’s other goals to help them equal the consecutive scoring record of 73 games set by Pele’s Santos between 1961 and 1963.
Madrid faced a tricky clash against an in-form side with Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo suspended and Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos injured but after disappointing consecutive league draws they made light work of Eusebio Sacristan’s men.
The champions ended Sociedad’s unbeaten start to the season and moved up to fourth place, cutting table-topping Barcelona’s lead on them to four points.
Real Sociedad are third, on nine points, one ahead of Madrid and one behind Sevilla, who beat Girona 1-0 away to move second.
With Madrid weakened, the 20-year-old Mayoral rewarded Zinedine Zidane’s faith in him by breaking the deadlock in the 19th minute.
The striker netted his first goal for the club with a poacher’s finish after Sergio Ramos tried and failed to tee himself up for an overhead kick, having scored a similar goal against Apoel Nicosia on Wednesday.
Mayoral’s strike extended Madrid’s scoring streak, which began in April 2016 at Anoeta with a 1-0 win over Sociedad.
However their joy was short-lived as 10 minutes later Sociedad levelled when Alvaro Odriozola crossed for Rodrigues, whose shot squirmed past Keylor Navas, who should have kept it out.
Navas was not the only one to suffer, with a cameraman behind the goal being injured during fans’ celebrations in a makeshift stand placed behind the goal, while Anoeta undergoes renovations. He was removed on a stretcher but still able to offer a thumbs up to the fans.
Seven minutes later Rodrigues scored again, this time putting the ball into his own net after a lightning break from the visitors.
The French left-back was in the thick of the action, coming close to beating Navas with a strike against the crossbar, before charging back moments later to cut out Mayoral’s cross, only to divert it past Geronimo Rulli.
Zidane asked for more from Bale ahead of the game after fans criticised his form and the Welshman delivered in the 61st minute, breaking through on to Isco’s pass and crisply dinking the ball over the onrushing Rulli.
Liverpool must put aside their Premier League disappointment as they return to Champions League football against Sevilla on Wednesday night.
Jurgen Klopp’s Reds have had a Jekyll and Hyde season so far, with a 4-0 thrashing of Arsenal immediately following by a 5-0 defeat at Manchester City last Sunday.
Liverpool are only three points off the pace in the Premier League table, but must find more consistency if they are to seriously trouble Europe’s elite in the Champions League.
And Klopp’s men must be wary of Sevilla – who painfully beat the 3-1 in the 2016 Europa League Final – with the Spanish side hoping to make their mark after winning a hat-trick of Europa titles recently.
Scroll down for Standard Sport’s comprehensive preview…
Liverpool host Sevilla at Anfield on Wednesday, September 13, with kick-off scheduled for 19.45 BST.
TV and live online coverage
The game will be televised live in the UK on BT Sport 2, with coverage starting at 7pm. Alternatively, you can follow live goal updates with Standard Sport’s scoreboard blog.
Philippe Coutinho could start for Liverpool as he continues his bid for match fitness following a failed summer move to Barcelona.
Right-back Nathaniel Clyne is set for an extended spell on the sidelines with a back injury while Adam Lallana (thigh) is still working on his recovery.
Sadio Mane is available for European action while he serves a three-match domestic ban for his red card after a high challenge on Man City goalkeeper Ederson.