After starting the season as Manchester City’s first-choice striker, it now seems that Ferran Torres could be on his way back to Spain in the January transfer window.
The Spain international started the season well in the number nine role for Pep Guardiola’s side and with his performances for the national team too, Barcelona are reportedly very interested in bringing him to the club.
All three parties are reportedly willing to make a deal happen during the winter window, but what would that mean for Man City’s season?
Torres had made the central striker role his own ahead of Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling at the start of the season, before suffering an injury while on international duty with Spain.
It means he hasn’t featured for City since scoring in the 6-1 Carabao Cup win over Wycombe Wanderers back in September.
Despite that though, City have been able to top their Champions League group ahead of Paris Saint-Germain and currently sit second in the Premier League table just one point behind Chelsea.
Only Chelsea and Liverpool have scored more goals than the 27 they have managed in the 13 Premier League games they’ve played so far, while Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus and more recently Sterling have all been having good seasons. They’ve not missed him much.
However allowing him to leave mid-season is unlikely to be much help to City, so if the reports are true then they will need to replace him adequately.
Whether City will renew their push for Harry Kane as a central striker option or whether they would rather target a wide man to replace Torres is unknown, but the apparent €70million fee would open up plenty of potential options for them.
After spending just €20m on him from cash-strapped Valencia two summers ago, it would be a deal that represent big profit for a player who’s hardly ripped up any trees since joining.
Torres is a good young player with plenty of potential and talent, but he’s far from indispensable to this City side and they’re more than capable of replacing him if they need to.
He would fit in well at Barcelona with their new crop of young players coming through and would be able to establish himself with the national team while earning regular minutes at club level.
It’s a move that suits all if they can get it done, but the replacement will be key to if this one gets over the line.
It isn’t often that Manchester City winning a game is in any way helpful for Manchester United, but Wednesday’s Champions League tie against PSG could be exactly that.
The French giants travel to the Etihad Stadium for a crunch Champions League group stage game, with City intent on exacting revenge for their meeting earlier this season where PSG earned a 2-0 win at the Parc des Princes.
But while a win for City obviously is ideal for them, it could also be ideal for their city rivals United in their managerial hunt.
What they perhaps didn’t envisage though, is that the former Tottenham boss is keen to take over immediately and is willing to leave Paris mid-season to take the job of his dreams.
While he is at PSG, a club he played for and captained during his career, he will give 100 percent, but their Champions League position could look quite bleak if they are defeated on Wednesday night.
The Champions League group currently stands with Man City sitting at the top on nine points, with PSG just behind them on eight. Club Brugge have earned four points so far while RB Leipzig have capitulated and already been eliminated, earning just one point so far.
If City win the game they will guarantee that they finish top of the group, while a win for Brugge agains the already eliminated Leipzig means PSG would be forced to go into the final game-week before trying to claim qualification.
That final game will see them host Brugge in Paris, with a draw all that’s needed to secure progression to the next round. But the pressure will be on Pochettino for it even getting that far with the squad he has assembled, and speculation linking him to the United job is only likely to increase the longer it goes on.
PSG aren’t usually ones to act impulsively when it comes to the managerial situation, but with Champions League qualification on the line it’s possible they could opt for stability and to let Pochettino go ahead of that game if he were to fail against City.
That would make it much easier for United to get their man and for Pochettino to get his move, while PSG are expected to move for Zinedine Zidane should the Argentine leave the club mid-season.
For that reason, and that reason only, United fans might be quietly cheering for a City win for a couple of hours on Wednesday night. But don’t tell anyone.
Sergio Aguero has been forced to retire aged 33 after being diagnosed with heart problems.
The Argentina striker joined Barcelona in the summer on a free transfer after 10 years with Manchester City in the Premier League, where he became the club’s all-time top goalscorer.
After joining the Camp Nou side to play with Lionel Messi, he was left angered when Messi was forced to leave the club after financial problems meant his contract could not be renewed.
Aguero suffered a calf injury which delayed his debut for the club until October, before scoring his first goal for the club as a substitute in El Clasico during the 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid.
He completed his first 90 minutes for the club in a defeat to Rayo Vallecano, but in his next appearance ‘Kun’ would only last 42 minutes before going down unchallenged with breathing problems.
He has since been diagnosed with a cardiac arythmia and although Barcelona announced that he would unavailable for a period of three months while his health was monitored, it’s now believed he will retire.
According to leading Barcelona journalist Gerard Romero, the club will host a press conference this week to officially confirm the player’s retirement from professional football at the age of 33.
Aguero scored an amazing 260 goals for Man City in 390 appearances for the club during a ten-year stint where he won five Premier League titles, six Carabao Cups and an FA Cup.
The shock retirement will come as a blow to new Barcelona boss Xavi, who earmarked Aguero’s experience and quality as something to build on when taking over from Ronald Koeman.
It means Memphis Depay will be tasked with being the club’s chief goalscorer this season along with youngster Ansu Fati, while Luuk de Jong, Martin Braithwaite, Ousmane Dembele and Phillipe Coutinho will also need to chip in when they play.
Women’s Football weekend took place last week and was a rousing success for the women’s game in the United Kingdom.
Games across the top league were screened on television as exciting matches were played and new stars were born.
But what did we learn from the weekend as a whole and how did it help to shape the Women’s Super League season? Lets take a look at three things in particular that came to my attention.
Vivianne Miedema is clutch
Although this should have been common knowledge prior to Women’s football weekend, Vivianne Miedema showed once again why she is deemed one of the best in the world.
With Spurs on the brink of a historic victory against their north London rivals, Miedema rose the highest from a corner in the 92nd minute of the match to grab a point for her side.
Her stoppage time equaliser epitomised everything she’s about within the box – not only a hugely physical presence, but more so her desire to sniff out danger and weakness of the opposition.
Viv seemed to understand what was at stake as she headed the ball into the back of the net and her reaction to the goal summed up just how clutch she is.
Immediately after scoring, she instructed Nikita Parris to grab the ball and for the rest of her teammates to focus – shouting “THINK!” as her side sought after a winner. What a player. What a team.
Arsenal are becoming used to winning and it’s a feeling that Miedema wants to have running through the club. She embodies everything that the coach Jonas Eidvall is trying to create.
Rehanne Skinner is building a resilient team at Spurs.
Having taken over this Tottenham team mid-season, Rehanne Skinner was thrown into the deep end in regard to the fact that the Spurs team that she joined had yet to win a single game, despite being six games into a 22 game season.
She was tasked with steadying the ship last season and starting to build a team that would last in the WSL long term. After having worked with the players now for a year, this Women’s football week match epitomised everything that a Skinner team is about.
Spurs had never beaten Arsenal before, and this task was made even more difficult because of the great form that Arsenal are in – before the weekend, they were yet to drop a single point. However, Spurs were able to take away a point and were unlucky not to walk away with all three.
The amount of defensive discipline on display from the whole team just shows how well drilled they’ve been by Skinner. Their awareness of high danger moments also points towards being an extremely well prepared team as well as the fact that they created many goal scoring opportunities down the other end.
You can really see the changes that Skinner is implementing with the team and everyone seems to be buying into her philosophy. A competitive Spurs only bodes well for making WSL derbies more competitive.
Manchester City are really in a tough spot right now
Manchester City’s injury crisis is unlike one that I’ve seen in recent time. At certain points, they’ve had 5 of their usual starting 11 out with long term injuries – luckily they’ve had Keira Walsh return to the starting line up following her injury lay-off.
It’s less than ideal having your first and second choice keepers out injured and it once again was an area that opposition looked to exploit. Normally these Chelsea vs Manchester City matches end up being the title deciders, however we were met with the opposite of that during Women’s football weekend.
City right now, especially in defence, look bereft of confidence and that is heavily down to the fact that they’re having to use a makeshift back four.
Though Chelsea seemed to show no mercy as Jessie Fleming scored within the first 90 seconds of the game, I actually thought City did well with the ball and we saw shades of what we expect from them – a team that uses the ball really well and can carve out chances from any area of the pitch.
The main issue was that it seemed as though every single shot on target that Chelsea had was resulting in a goal, whilst City were less clinical offensively.
As their injured players trickle back into the squad I expect City to turn it around soon, but they’re definitely in a bad spot right now as results don’t seem to be going their way – suffering heavy defeats to the other “Big 3” members.
After Euro 2020, it seemed as though Raheem Sterling had got his career back on track after a stellar tournament for England.
The winger chipped in with three goals in the first four games, then assisted Harry Kane’s first goal in the quarter-final against Ukraine before winning a penalty in extra-time of the semi-final against Denmark to help England to their first final since 1966.
But despite that form and level of performance, Sterling has found himself on the periphery at Manchester City once again this season.
After losing his place to Phil Foden in the second half of last season, Sterling was named as a starter in the Champions League final defeat to Chelsea which gave many some hope that he would be involved going forward.
Fast forward to the start of the season though and Pep Guardiola had signed Jack Grealish from Aston Villa for £100m and only Sergio Aguero had left the club. Sterling’s place was under more threat than ever before.
As we approach the mid-point of November, Sterling has started just four games in the Premier League and Champions League combined. With one goal in each, plus an assist in Europe, it’s not a surprise that he is struggling to get game time.
But for England, it’s a totally different story. Gareth Southgate continues to select him as a key member of the attack and he is performing to a high level still, albeit against lesser opposition.
With his contract due to expire in June 2023, it’s crunch time for his Manchester City future now.
Reports suggest that clubs such as Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain are keen on recruiting the former QPR and Liverpool man, but while Man City won’t stand in his way should he look to move thy will demand a relatively high fee for their asset.
That leaves Sterling in a predicament, as he risks isolating himself by asking for a move and then not getting one.
But as it stands, asking for a move is the best thing he could possibly do. Sterling is 26-years-old and will turn 27 by the time the January transfer window opens, meaning he is in the absolute peak years of his career.
He has done most things at City, winning three Premier League titles with the club, an FA Cup, four Carabao Cups and reaching a Champions League final. He is also the player who has scored the most goals under Pep Guardiola for the club.
But you need to know when to cut your losses, and it seems as this point that Guardiola has moved away from needing Sterling in the team and is taking his squad in a different direction.
Instead of fighting a losing battle, Sterling should cash in on the fact his contract is running down and get the big-money move that is inevitable should he depart.
A move to Barcelona would be great from a status point of view, playing for one of the biggest and most prestigious clubs in the world on a weekly basis and trying to help them re-find their former glory.
But a better option would be a move to the French capital to another mega-rich team in Paris Saint-Germain, who look certain to lose star-man Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid on a free transfer in the summer.
They will surely look to make a statement signing to replace him and with Lionel Messi, Neymar and Angel Di Maria in their ranks already, Sterling would add some youth and more top level experience to an already star-studded squad.
PSG would likely be able to afford any fee that City would demand for him and he would be an excellent addition. For Sterling, he almost guarantees more trophies for his own personal cabinet, gets to play for one of the best teams in the world with some of the best players and ultimately get back to competing at the highest level week in and week out.
With Women’s Football Weekend fast approaching, it wouldn’t be fair to not dissect the players that you should you keep your eyes absolutely peeled to.
Due to injury we don’t have the full radar of the leagues talent on show, but there’s still so many showstoppers that you should be on the lookout for.
In order to not overwhelm you, I’ll keep the list brief – but you definitely don’t want to miss these players during this upcoming game week.
Lauren Hemp (Manchester City) Position: Winger
It wouldn’t be right to do a ‘ones to watch’ list without the talent that is Lauren Hemp.
Outside of her Manchester City and England teammate Chloe Kelly (who is still recovering from her ACL injury), she’s probably the most electric player in the league. What makes her stand out amongst other people is the fact that she can beat every single full-back in the world with her direct and positive running.
Her first thought always seems to be beating the defender and driving into the dangerous areas in the final third. Another thing that makes her so electric also revolves around the fact that she is comfortable going down the byline and whipping in a cross, but also cutting in on the inside and delivering a shot or killer pass.
Either way, her unpredictable nature, speed and decision making makes her an easy decision for ones to watch – both this weekend and beyond.
Kim Little (Arsenal) Position: Midfielder
Kim Little – where do I start? Probably the most dependable player in the league.
Between her intelligent movement, understanding of her teammates movement, and her ability to make a moment (even when dealing with scraps) is unmatched.
What makes her so dependable is the fact that this ‘moment’ with Little, may not even necessarily be a goal. She seems to just understand exactly what her team needs at that given moment and she delivers it.
This could be her ball retention when her team is under severe pressure, but also the fact that she can single-handedly dance her way through a midfield and put it on a plate for her attackers.
Based on how Arsenal have been looking this season, it’s been the latter as she’s been popping up with goals and assists weekly. But her intelligence is a joy to watch and someone that I recommend playing close attention to as she’s at the heart of everything good Arsenal do.
Sarah Mayling (Aston Villa) Position: Full-back
Sarah Mayling is known for the whip she gets on all her crosses, set-pieces or not. She has to be included in this ones to watch list because given the fact that it’s a local derby against what was her former club Birmingham City, I expect her to have to say in what the eventual result is.
We’ve all heard of a set-piece specialist, but Mayling appears to have mastered how to manipulate the ball especially when crossing or taking free-kicks.
More notably, her set pieces have sparked numerous comebacks for her club and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her changing the game with her deliveries this weekend.
Villa have started well and so I expect them to be on the front foot in this game – giving Mayling the license to go forward and shine.
Jessie Fleming (Chelsea) Position: Midfielder
Since Fleming’s arrival last season, she has struggled for minutes in this absolutely stacked Chelsea side.
This has had less to do with her ability, but more so the fact that this Chelsea team is filled with top class talent all over the pitch. Following her success with Canada at the Olympics, she seems to have started this season full of confidence off the back of winning Olympic gold.
Her cameo performances earlier on in the season have seen her rewarded with consecutive starts – and she’s been sure to take her chance.
The thing that makes her a standout for this weekend is the fact that she’s unpredictable. She fully understands the role that’s required of her in that Chelsea midfield – between supplying the wingers but also making sure that she’s aiding the attack by making third-player runs into the box and arriving late.
Her ability to do this has made her so dangerous because she’s an excellent finisher as well as the fact that her decision making is beyond her years. I can see her making more strides this weekend as Chelsea look to make strides towards the title.
After spending eight years of her senior career at Chelsea, Hannah Blundell made the switch up north – in search of more playing time.
Her ability to stay calm defensively as well as in offensive areas has seen her slot into the United line-up seamlessly. She’s already registered three assists this season, and I can see her adding to that tally this weekend.
Despite the difference in location, United vs Everton games have been played as though it were a derby since Casey Stoney’s tenure – with United coming out victorious most of the time.
That being said I expect Blundell to have a lot to do this weekend and she will need to be switched on, but there will be space for her to exploit and offer support to the forwards.
United have a legacy to protect when it comes to our fixtures against Everton and I’m sure Blundell will thrive on that pressure.
It was the most expensive transfer of the summer across the world, as Jack Grealish became the Premier League’s first ever £100m player.
Joining Manchester City from Aston Villa, it was expected that the 25-year-old would see an upturn in his reputation and also his performances on the pitch after helping Villa to a great season and then helping England reach the Euro 2020 final.
But while Grealish has played well, he’s hardly ripped up any trees at City so far. So is the deal doing what it was supposed to do?
It was expected by many that Grealish would go into the City team and instantly go up a level, surrounded by better players and with one of the best managers in the world coaching him.
But what we’ve seen from Grealish is arguably just more of the same of what we saw at Villa, but with better players and a better manager around him.
With Man City’s style of play being ball domination heavy, Grealish doesn’t have nearly as much space to drive into as he did at Villa.
It also hasn’t helped him that teams turn up to play City with two blocks of defensive lines and camp outside the penalty area to prevent them being carved open, whereas teams would attack Villa and give him a chance to work his magic.
With that said, Grealish hasn’t been bad by any stretch of the imagination. Grealish has contributed two goals and three assists in 13 games in the Premier League and Champions League so far, with City sitting second domestically and top of their Champions League group too.
He’s made the left-wing role his own, ousting Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden from the wide positions and formed a good partnership with Joao Cancelo from left-back.
But that X-factor that he had at Villa where he would take games by the scruff of the neck and create something out of nothing seems to have left his game.
City still automatically look to Kevin De Bruyne when they need saving and Grealish has seemingly just become a cog in the machine, rather than the guy who has the codes.
Guardiola wants his team to pass teams to death rather than carry the ball too much, something that Grealish has always excelled in. In the current system, it’s arguable whether or not Grealish is better or more effective than other wide options like Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez.
The magic in his game has been lost, but faith in him coming good is not lost.
Grealish, like any other player, needs to be given time to adapt to new surroundings, new teammates, new tactics and new expectations.
He has the talent to excel and improve, is young enough to have the time to do that and Guardiola has a track record of doing it. There’s no rush right now.
As it stands, he’s probably underwhelmed City fans and football fans since the move. But anyone ruling Grealish out of being a success already is simply delusional.
Manchester City will not be winning a record fifth consecutive Carabao Cup this season after they were eliminated in the fourth-round by West Ham on penalties.
Pep Guardiola named a relatively strong lineup for the clash against the Hammers, who had eliminated Manchester United in the previous round at Old Trafford, including the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, John Stones, Fernandinho and Riyad Mahrez.
But they couldn’t break down a resilient West Ham side, despite having 65% possession and 25 attempts on goal throughout the 90 minutes as they were held to a goalless draw.
The game went straight to penalties after 90 minutes and after West Ham went five from five with their spot kicks, Phil Foden’s miss from City’s first attempt was enough to condemn them to defeat.
It’s the first time in five years that they have been eliminated from the competition, when Juan Mata scored the only goal of the game when they went to Old Trafford to take on Jose Mourinho’s Man United side.
It means a few less opportunities for youngsters such as Cole Palmer, Samuel Edozie and Zack Steffen but also means there could be even less minutes for fringe first-team players such as Nathan Ake, Oleksandr Zinchenko and even Raheem Sterling at this point.
Elsewhere in the competition on Wednesday night, Liverpool beat Preston 2-0 with a weakened team despite being under a lot of pressure for spells while Leicester were successful on penalties against fellow Premier League opposition Brighton. Tottenham also secured a 1-0 win over Burnley to progress to the quarter-final.
On Tuesday, Arsenal defeated Leeds at the Emirates with a 2-0 win while Chelsea defeated Southampton on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. Sunderland are also the only remaining League One side in the competition thanks to a win on penalties against Queens Park Rangers.
The quarter-final draw will take place on Saturday morning during the Soccer AM show on Sky Sports from 10:30am.
The buzzword coming out of the last weekend of Premier League fixtures seemed to be balance, after Manchester United’s 4-2 defeat to Leicester at the King Power Stadium.
After Ole Gunnar Solskjaer named all of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba in the starting line-up, pundits ripped his selection apart because the team “lacked balance”.
But Pep Guardiola put that entire argument to bed nice and quickly in Tuesday’s Champions League fixture against Club Brugge as Man City waltzed to a 5-1 win with five attacking players in their lineup.
Guardiola named a strong lineup which included all of Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez and City were able to dominate the game from start to finish and play some brilliant football in the process.
Foden created the first goal with a brilliant pass from deep for Joao Cancelo, before Mahrez stroked home a penalty that he won just before half-time.
In the second half it was more of the same, with Kyle Walker finishing off a brilliant passing move before Cole Palmer scored with his first touch and Mahrez capped off the night with another goal.
It was a masterclass in coaching from Guardiola, who’s side never looked in any danger throughout the game until a raft of changes meant the intensity in their game had gone.
For City, it was nothing new. They almost always play with five attacking players in some variation of a 4-3-3 formation, with two attacking full-backs in their arsenal too.
It puts to bed those ridiculous claims and arguments that United played too many attacking players in the defeat to Leicester, they just simply aren’t coached well enough to keep the balance when they do it.
Guardiola has always been able to keep his superstars in check by demanding they work hard off the ball, which in turn allows them to have the ball as much as they do.
It shows when they chase back and win the ball back quickly, then maintain possession for 65% of the game regularly while controlling the game and creating chance after chance.
City have been excellent for the most part this season and even without a centre forward they look a threat going forward regularly and are scoring goals freely.
With one of the best coaches in the world in the dugout and some of the best players in the world on the pitch, anything is possible – even playing five attacking players at one time.
When a top English team is linked with a defensive midfielder, Declan Rice is the first name on almost all of their wishlists currently.
The West Ham vice-captain has been linked with a move to Chelsea, Manchester United and most recently Man City after a string of impressive performances last season and now this for the Hammers and England.
He shone once again for David Moyes’ side in their 1-0 win over Everton on Sunday at Goodison Park and the praise has been non-stop ever since.
Rice has been playing in a more box-to-box role this season with West Ham, given license to push forward and attack more than previously.
The reason he was linked to the top clubs in the league was his ability to win the ball back, while his positioning and aggression was also attractive to sides who tend to retain large amount of possession.
But during the current campaign he has shown a new side to his game. The drives forward with the ball show he is capable of being a threat in the other direction, while his passing has improved too.
In possession he is still not of the required level to be an £80m+ player in my opinion, but there are signs of someone working hard to improve their game and get there.
Rice would undoubtedly be a fine addition in the defensive midfield role for any of the previously mentioned sides. He is a great ball winner, he is a great leader and he is a top professional.
The new all-action side to his game is certainly a positive and his athleticism is highly impressive. He has shone on the biggest stages, arguably being England’s best player before his substitution against Italy in the Euro 2020 final, and has been a stand-out performer for West Ham on a highly consistent basis.
Now he must maintain this new level in his new role in order to continue improving and ensure that when he does eventually move for a fee in that world-class category, that he is deserving and that the performances at least warrant it.
Rice is only 22-years-old and when he talks about the game he seems a keen learner and someone who wants to always improve.
He looks to be the perfect choice for the midfield position, but the price is something that has fans and clubs wondering and doubting. He needs to leave them in no doubt that he is the man this season.