Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Has Guardiola lost the Midas touch?

Published:Friday | January 20, 2017 | 1:00 AM
Guardiola
Pochettino
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LONDON (AP):

In one dugout at Etihad Stadium tomorrow will be a manager enjoying a six-match winning streak with his second-place team. In the other, a manager reeling from the biggest loss of his career and down in fifth place.

Few at the start of the English Premier League would have predicted it would be Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino with the edge over struggling Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola.

But the top of the standings is confounding expectations in the second half of the season. City host Tottenham with Guardiola's side trailing the second-place London club by three points and leaders Chelsea by 10 points.

Having already ruled City out of the title race, Guardiola is now in a scrap just to secure Champions League qualification by finishing in the top four as he endures a difficult first season in English football.

It was against Tottenham in early October when Guardiola experienced his first setback at City, with Pochettino ending the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach's winning league start. Last weekend, he was humbled by a 4-0 loss at Everton, a career low for the Champions League-winning coach.

Has Guardiola lost the Midas touch?

"The coach has to adapt with the players, the players have to adapt with the coach," Eric Abidal, who played under Guardiola at Barcelona, told The Associated Press yesterday. "Tactically, and the methodology of Pep Guardiola is methodology from Barcelona ... he needs time. They will win trophies."

City racked up six successive wins in the league before losing 2-0 at Tottenham on October 2. Since then City have dropped 18 points, winning seven of their 14 games as the shortcomings of the brittle defence and shaky goalkeeper Claudio Bravo have been exposed.

City's attacking options have been reinforced with Gabriel Jesus completing his move from Palmeiras in time to feature against Tottenham.

And for the 19-year-old Jesus, Guardiola played a big part in deciding his next destination.

"He was the only manager who called me, so I was very pleased," Jesus said. "One thing I've noticed is that, like me, he is mad about football. He lives football 24 hours a day. I'm like that, too."

Tottenham could move six points clear of City by completing the double over Guardiola's side.

And for Pochettino, it's not just about securing a second successive season in the Champions League, but delivering the north London club's first domestic title since 1961.

"We have to try to show that we can be real contenders for the Premier League, that's the real challenge," Pochettino said. "It's more important that we can show ourselves, rather than show Manchester City.

"We need to show ourselves we are capable of dealing with that pressure, and to try to win games to achieve big things."

Tottenham have received more positive news on defender Jan Vertonghen's ankle injury. After initial fears the centre back could be out for three months, Tottenham now expect him back in six weeks.

AT THE BOTTOM

Two of the teams in the relegation zone have tricky trips to top-four opposition.

Paul Clement takes Swansea to third-place Liverpool tomorrow for a daunting second league game in charge of the bottom-place team.

"It does not look hopeless," the former Bayern Munich assistant coach said. "We are one point behind the team outside the relegation zone and not far behind the teams just above that as well."

Sunderland, who are above Swansea on goal difference, are at West Bromwich Albion. Hull are a point further up the standings going into Sunday's game at leaders Chelsea.

THIS WEEKEND

TOMORROW

7:30 a.m.: Liverpool vs Swansea

10 a.m.: Bournemouth vs Watford

10 a.m.: Crystal Palace vs Everton

10 a.m.: Middlesbrough vs West Ham

10 a.m.: Stoke City vs Man United

10 a.m.: West Brom vs Sunderland

12:30 p.m.: Man City vs Tottenham

SUNDAY

7 a.m.: Southampton vs Leicester

9:15 a.m.: Arsenal vs Burnley

11:30 a.m.: Chelsea vs Hull City

points standings

P W D L GF GA GD Pts

Chelsea 21 17 1 3 45 15 30 52

Tottenham 21 13 6 2 43 14 29 45

Liverpool 21 13 6 2 49 24 25 45

Arsenal 21 13 5 3 48 22 26 44

Man City 21 13 3 5 41 26 15 42

Man Utd 21 11 7 3 32 20 12 40

Everton 21 9 6 6 32 23 9 33

West Brom 21 8 5 8 28 28 0 29

Stoke City 21 7 6 8 27 33 -6 27

Burnley 21 8 2 11 23 31 -8 26

B'mouth 21 7 4 10 30 37 -7 25

West Ham 21 7 4 10 26 35 -9 25

S'hampton 21 6 6 9 19 26 -7 24

Watford 21 6 5 10 23 36 -13 23

Leicester 21 5 6 10 24 34 -10 21

M'borough 21 4 8 9 17 22 -5 20

Crystal P 21 4 4 13 30 40 -10 16

Hull City 21 4 4 13 20 45 -25 16

Sunderland 21 4 3 14 20 40 -20 15

Swansea 21 4 3 14 23 49 -26 15