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Pep Guardiola confident Man City can withstand fatigue with end of season in sight

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Manchester City playmaker Kevin de Bruyne will be a key player as the team seek to win the treble. PHOTO: AFP

Treble-chasing Manchester City face a hectic schedule over the season’s final few weeks, but manager Pep Guardiola is not concerned about his team spreading themselves too thin, saying his players understand the gravity of every game and that the rewards are great.

“It’s just a question of six games for sure, maybe seven to fight for everything – come on,” he said on Friday on his side’s full-throttle, late-season push.

“Every player is ready. Every player is ready to play and give his own contribution.”

City are just a point ahead of Arsenal (81) atop the Premier League with a game in hand, and will look to extend that lead when they face Everton on Sunday at Goodison Park. Arsenal also play on Sunday against visiting Brighton & Hove Albion.

“I think definitely (Arsenal) are going to win their three (remaining) games,” Guardiola added. “I would like them to drop points to be honest but I think they will get nine points.”

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City are coming off a tense 1-1 Champions League semi-final draw at Real Madrid on Tuesday, and host the Spanish giants in the second leg on Wednesday at the Etihad Stadium. They will also play in the FA Cup final against rivals Manchester United on June 3.

“We play for all competitions,” Guardiola said. “You have to switch and adapt. There are four games left in the Premier League and it’s really important to be there and keep our destiny in our hands.

“My thought (for now) is just Everton – no more than that. It’s a real, real priority, Goodison Park.”

When asked how his players bounce back from Tuesday’s physically and mentally draining draw, he said winning helps. His team have won 10 successive Premier League games.

“If in the previous game you win, mentally your recovery is quicker,” he said.

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“Always I believe the human being has incredible resources to move forward, keep going.

“It’s normal you’re tired, but at the same time, if your desire, your mental (state) is in the right position, the human being can have incredible energy.”

Erling Haaland was named the Football Writers’ Association’s men’s Player of the Year earlier on Friday, and Guardiola had kind words for his goal-scoring machine.

“I think it’s well-deserved, congratulations to him of course,” he said.

The Norway international has scored a record 51 goals in all competitions for City this season, and a Premier League single season record of 35 goals.

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Guardiola also said that Haaland is still in “fine” condition despite struggling against Real, but defender Nathan Ake is still a doubt for Sunday’s game.

Everton, meanwhile, have no fresh injury concerns but manager Sean Dyche has confirmed that captain Seamus Coleman has undergone knee surgery and will be out for the remainder of the season.

The Toffees, despite fighting relegation, head into the match on the back of a 5-1 thrashing of Brighton.

The victory also meant they ended their seven-game winless run in the Premier League, but they have not managed to triumph in back-to-back league matches since the beginning of October.

“The message will be simple – just take it on,” Dyche urged his team.

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“It’s a big challenge obviously. But it’s about taking it on with the mentality we showed at Brighton.

“All the details have got to be right against Manchester City. You might need them to have a soft one, and your key players play well, all of them things go in the melting pot. Yet, it’s still about us taking the game on.

“I’m sure the Evertonians will back us as they do, it’ll be a really good atmosphere for us to go and play in.”

Reuters/AFP

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Premier League

June 12 relief for Ten Hag…to stay at Old Trafford

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Manchester United Can Still Finish Fourth, Says Erik Ten Hag -

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag will remain in the job for next season and has entered into talks with the Old Trafford club over a contract extension despite the team’s lowest ever Premier League finish of eighth, British media reported.

The decision comes after an end-of-season review by the club’s board for the 2023-24 campaign, which finished on a high with a shock FA Cup final win over favourites Manchester City.

Ten Hag’s contract runs until the end of next season, with the club having the option of extending it a further 12 months.

Former Ajax Amsterdam coach Ten Hag had come under increasing pressure after 20-times English champions United suffered their worst start to a season since 1962-63 with eight defeats in their first 15 matches in all competitions.

They ended up eighth after 14 defeats in their 38 league games and bowed out of the Champions League in the group phase.

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Ten Hag’s job security had been the subject of speculation all season and many pundits believed the FA Cup final would be the Dutchman’s last game with the team, win or lose.

But moments after their thrilling triumph, the 54-year-old insisted he had no doubt he would be back and said he had received the backing of the club’s owners all season.

“I’m in a project and we are exactly where we want to be. We’re constructing a team. When I took over it was a mess at United, and we are on our way to construct a team for the future,” he told reporters at Wembley.

“The team is developing, the team is winning and the team also plays to an identity. What you need to play is to be available, you need a strong squad in top football, and especially when you play in England, the Premier League is so competitive.”

INJURY WOES

Ten Hag pointed to United’s revolving door of injuries last term, the most of any Premier League team and concentrated in key positions such as central defence.

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He also spoke about the breakout seasons of young players such as midfielder Kobbie Mainoo, who is part of England’s Euro 2024 squad in Germany, and Argentina winger Alejandro Garnacho.

In Ten Hag’s two seasons in charge, United have played in three Wembley finals and lifted two trophies, having also won last season’s League Cup.

Media reports said that all eventualities were considered in the club’s post-season review and the clear preference was for Ten Hag to remain in charge at Old Trafford.

Among coaches linked to the job as potential replacements were Thomas Tuchel and England manager Gareth Southgate.

Ten Hag is United’s fifth permanent manager since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 as the club have searched for someone to lead them back to the heights of their glory years.

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He guided United to third in the league in his debut season

-Reuters

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Another Nigerian blood to flow in Chelsea veins

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Carabao Cup - Quarter Final - Everton v Fulham - Goodison Park, Liverpool, Britain - December 19, 2023 Fulham's Tosin Adarabioyo celebrates after the match REUTERS/Carl Recine

Chelsea have signed centre back Tosin Adarabioyo from fellow west London club Fulham on a free transfer, the Premier League side announced on Friday.

Adarabioyo, a former England youth international is of Nigerian descent. He is the latest Nigerian linked with Chlesea after Celestine Babayaro, Mikel Obi and Victor Moses among others.

The 26-year-old Adarabioyo who will join the Stamford Bridge side on a four-year contract beginning on July 1, has made one appearance for the England Under-19s and has played 78 times in the Premier League.

He is the first player to join Chelsea since they announced the arrival of new head coach Enzo Maresca, opens new tab earlier this week, and will bolster their options at centre back following the departure of veteran Thiago Silva.

“We are delighted to bring Tosin to Chelsea,” Chelsea co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said.

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“Throughout his career, he has showcased his maturity and defensive qualities and has gained a wealth of experience in the Premier League in recent seasons.

“He is ready to make the step up to Chelsea and work alongside the talented players in our squad. We look forward to Tosin joining up with us for pre-season.”

Chelsea are looking to revive their fortunes under Maresca after finishing sixth in the standings last season.

“I’m looking forward to starting work with Enzo and I’m sure the boys are too,” Adarabioyo said.

“It’s going to be exciting. We’re going to play good football and win a lot of games. There are top players in this squad and I’m eager to play with them all.”

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-Reuters

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Nigerian-born Ogbonna leaves West Ham after nine-year stay

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Premier League - West Ham United v Luton Town - London Stadium, London, Britain - May 11, 2024 West Ham United's Angelo Ogbonna applauds fans as he is substituted REUTERS/Tony Obrien/File Photo

West Ham United centre back Angelo Ogbonna is leaving the club after nine years in east London, the Premier League side said on Wednesday.

Ogbonna was born to Nigerian parents who emigrated to Italy from Nigeria in 1983, settling in the city of Cassino in the central part of the country, but managed to obtain Italian citizenship only after his 18th birthday. He is now 36.

The  Italy international made 201 Premier League appearances for the club and was part of their Europa Conference League-winning side last year.

The former Juventus player struggled with several injuries during his time at West Ham, including a cruciate ligament tear suffered in 2021 that kept him out for almost a year.

“When he was not playing, Ogbonna was always a willing supporter of the club’s community work,” West Ham said in a statement. “He will always be a beloved member of the West Ham United family

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-Reuters

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