There’s high praise indeed for both Leroy Sane and Pep Guardiola in Saturday’s media watch as Manchester City get set to return to domestic duty away at Fulham following the international break.
A trio of leading pundits give their predictions ahead of the game, there’s also some in-depth analysis on Raheem Sterling’s huge impact this season and a word from one of the Blues youngsters currently impressing while away on loan duty.
But we start with a handsome tribute to Blues winger Sane from German legend Lothar Matthaus who believes the 23-year-old has all the credentials to go on and become one of the game’s leading figures.
Sane was on target for Germany in midweek in a 3-2 Euro 2020 qualifying win away in Holland and World Cup winner Matthaus is adamant he can go on to be a talisman for both club and country.
And the Star reports: “Matthaus told ESPN that Sane is adored, both in England and Germany, and has backed him to become one of the game’s elite.
“He said: “He’s a great player.
“They love him in England, they love him in Manchester City and we (Germany) love him too.
“He made the difference in the last five or six games. He plays always at the highest level.
“I think he can be one of the best players in the world.”
The immediate focus for Sane and his City colleagues is on today’s return to Premier League duty with our lunch time assignment at Craven Cottage where victory would take us back to the top of the standings.
In contrast to the Blues, the Cottagers have suffered a tough time on their return to the elite league with both Slavisa Jokanovic and Claudio Ranieri having departed the Fulham hot-seat this season.
Scott Parker is the man who has been placed in charge until the end of the season – and looking ahead to the visit of the Blues, revealing to Fulham’s official website his huge admiration for City in general and, in particular, manager Pep Guardiola.
Parker told Fulhamfc.com: "Manchester City are a fantastic team with a manager who will go down as one of the greatest. But we're looking forward to it.
“I think we all understand the challenge ahead; it’s fantastic players and a fantastic team.
“It’s a massive challenge for us as a club – the players, myself and the coaches, and with that we are looking forward to it.
“We’re up against a well coached and well drilled team, and ultimately we need to try and give the lads as much information as we can and prepare them as well as we can to face the challenges ahead of us.
“They’re that good that we can put all of the scenarios in place and understand how they’re set up, but you’re still up against it because they’re that good.
“I like to think we’ll go into the game prepared well, and we’ll see what happens. We’re going to fight and drive as much as we can to finish this season as well as possible.”
Meanwhile, the Manchester Evening News’s Paul Clarke reports how a trio of pundits are all backing the Blues to keep up the title pressure this weekend at Craven Cottage.
Clarke reports: “City technically hold the advantage in the race for the Premier League trophy, sitting two points behind with one game in hand. But considering that match is against Manchester United next month, Liverpool dropping more points is important as well.
“The good news this weekend comes in the form of predictions galore all saying City will heap pressure on Liverpool by cruising past Fulham and briefly jumping back into first place on Saturday afternoon.
“Michael Owen, Mark Lawrenson and Paul Merson are all backing City to prevail with ease. Owen has a victory and both teams to score in his BetVictor blog, Lawrenson is predicting a 3-0 win in his BBC column, while Merson has told Sky Sports that he believes Pep Guardiola’s men will romp to a 4-0 success.
“But the bad news comes in the form of a hard-fought win for Liverpool against Spurs. Not only do the three pundits expect the Reds to succeed, both Lawrenson and Merson have Klopp’s side to prevail 2-1, while Owen says his old side will triumph and Spurs will net a goal as well.”
In a fascinating article for the Premier League’s official site, Adrian Clarke digs deep to look at the huge impact made by Raheem Sterling since the turn of the year.
And Clarke reveals how Raheem’s effective and devastating use of space across both flanks has helped the England winger lift his game to even greater heights.
Clarke scribes: “Scoring 13 goals and making five assists in just 14 starts for club and country in all competitions since 6 January, the in-form forward is now among the leading contenders to win the EA SPORTS Player of the Season award.
“The 24-year-old has shone on both wings for Pep Guardiola's title-chasers in recent weeks and will be at the forefront of Fulham’s minds when the Cottagers entertain City on Saturday.
“Since working with Guardiola, Sterling’s positional awareness and eye for space have become much more refined.
“His progress has been particularly evident in his last four Premier League starts when deployed on the left side of Man City’s attack.
“In the home match against Arsenal, Sterling cleverly used the full width of the pitch.
“Aware that Gunners right-back Stephan Lichsteiner wanted to stay narrow and cover his centre-back in the four-man rearguard, he deliberately hugged the touchline, creating enormous problems.
“Sterling opened up Unai Emery's side with two outstanding assists, both as a direct consequence of creating the space for himself to run at Lichsteiner.
“Lulling his markers into a false sense of security by staying in the same part of the field before making well-timed sprints inside the full-backs, he also made a devastating impact against Chelseaand Watford.
“Four of the five goals he netted in those two contests came because he moved into space inside him at the opportune moment.
“Sterling has operated equally devastatingly on the opposite flank, surging inside from the right to inspire the breakaway that led to Leroy Sane’s dramatic winner at home against Liverpool.
“He has adapted his style to suit each specified game plan, teasing defenders in a variety of ways.
“He tormented Chelsea's seasoned defender Cesar Azpilicueta with his mesmeric dribbling, earning a penalty, and also cleverly drifted into the centre-forward’s position to claim tap-ins against the Blues and Huddersfield Town.
“Sterling is undoubtedly playing the best football of his career. And, at 24, there is scope for plenty more development from this supremely gifted star."
Finally, in a first-person column for the Lancashire Evening Post, Lukas Nmecha – who is on a season-long loan at Championship side Preston North End, has revealed his desired outcomes for the rest of the season for both North End and City.
Nmecha writes: “It was very difficult to start with because I wasn’t used to how we played and I was having to learn.
“I’d never had to work as hard as I do here, at City it was kids football and I had been used to being the one who scored the goals.
“Obviously, I would have liked to have scored more goals here than I have done and hopefully I can chip in with a few between now and the end of the season.
“The international break is now over and my aim now is to help Preston get into the play-offs.
“These are exciting times and the next eight games are massive.
“The dressing room here is a strong one, it is a great of bunch of lads who encourage one another – if you have a bad game, they won’t call you out.
“What would be great for me is that Manchester City won the Premier League title and Preston got promoted.
“That is a double that I would love to happen!”