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Media Watch: 'Advantage City in title race'

There’s plenty to ponder after another crucial weekend in the Premier League title race ended with City holding a slender but vital one-point lead at the top over Liverpool.

There are musings on the battle to claim the league title, Pep Guardiola’s assertion that City have kicked on again after last season’s heroics, a tasty slice of transfer gossip and praise for Blues star Keira Walsh from England Lionesses boss Phil Neville.

But we start with reflections on what felt like a pivotal weekend in the battle to be crowned champions.

Our 1-0 win at Bournemouth on Saturday, which was followed by Liverpool’s goalless draw at Everton yesterday, meant City moved ahead of the Anfield side for the first time on the same number of games since December 7th.

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And the BBC’s chief football writer Phil McNulty reported on how the weekend had handed the initiative back to the Blues

McNulty writes: “Manchester City have claimed a slender advantage in the Premier League title race after Everton refused to stand aside for Liverpool at a thunderous Goodison Park.

“From an air raid siren blaring out before kick-off to an Everton ball boy applauding in Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp's face after the final whistle, this was a bearpit for the title chasers and one in which they had to settle for a point.

“And while Liverpool boss Klopp, quite rightly, insisted Liverpool were not losing their nerve, this is a season of fine margins and Liverpool's attacking well suddenly looks a little dry.

"Manchester United and now Everton - as well as Bayern Munich - have kept their attack at bay in the past two weeks, while Manchester City's one success against Bournemouth's massed ranks on Saturday was enough to edge Pep Guardiola's side ahead.

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“Manchester City had threatened to fall decisively off the pace after they lost at Newcastle United on 29 January but have since regrouped with five straight league wins to reassert their authority.

“Liverpool are still very much in this race but there was no disguising the delight around Goodison Park and the frustration of their counterparts from across Stanley Park as the final whistle sounded.”

In the Daily Telegraph, chief football writer Jason Burt also reflected on the ramifications of the weekend.

Burt reports: “The reality is that having been seven points clear at the turn of the year Liverpool are now a point behind City with nine games to go.

“It is the first time since December 7 that City have topped the table having played the same number of games, and it feels like the momentum has shifted to Pep Guardiola’s side – at least for now.

“Liverpool have lost just once, and are only the 11th team in top-flight history to earn at least 70 points from 29 games and have also just recorded their fifth successive clean sheet in all competitions. But the most pertinent fact is this: they are no longer ahead in the table.

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“They are not losing but they are shedding points, having drawn four of their past six league games, and they need to hold their nerve as City have won nine of their past 10 and look increasingly ominous.”

Regardless of the how the next two and a bit months pan out, the Daily Mail’s Ian Ladyman reported how Pep Guardiola believes his City side have improved on last year’s record-breaking achievement.

The Blues boss made his declaration reflecting on Saturday’s crucial 1-0 win away at Bournemouth.

Ladyman reported: “Once again Guardiola’s team came through and afterwards the City manager went so far as to suggest that this team is on its way to outstripping last season’s achievements, regardless of whether they win the title.

“‘In the way we play, we are much better,’ said Guardiola. ‘We have 71 points and that is incredible, whatever happens.

“‘You always think today may be the day it doesn’t happen, you don’t win. Maybe this is the day the players will be tired and that today may not be our day.

“‘But then it turns out the opposite. Time and time again the players are there. We won everything in January and February and now we start again and the feeling is there again.

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“‘Every player knows what we have to do, everybody is there for each other. If we have that we can compete. We may lose but if we do we have no regrets.’.

"So Liverpool have fewer miles in the legs than City, but also less experience at winning titles.

"‘For me there is no stress, it’s nice to be there,’ said Guardiola.

"‘Two titles in our pocket already this season and being there with Liverpool, the best Liverpool in their history in terms of points in the Premier League. Even in their history winning leagues they didn’t have these results.

"‘When you have won 100 points you can get complacent but we are there again. We are in the last 16 of the Champions League and one game from a Wembley semi-final in the FA Cup. So that is not stress. No it’s the opposite, a joy.’

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It wouldn’t be media watch without a slice of transfer gossip and the Mirror’s John Richardson has a story claiming that Guardiola is eyeing up a reunion with Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara who played under him in Germany.

Richardson scribes: “Pep Guardiola wants to raid Bayern Munich and be reunited with Thiago Alcantara for a second time.

“The Manchester City boss is a huge fan of the Spain international, who is seen as a long-term option to replace Fernandinho as a holding midfielder.

"Guardiola took over as Bayern boss in 2013, and quickly signed Thiago from Barcelona for £21million.

“Bringing in an influential midfielder is a summer priority for manager Guardiola.

“Guardiola also admires Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez, and has been encouraged by his fellow Spaniard recently switching agents.

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“But the problem is that Saul is only two years into a staggering nine-year contract.

“Meanwhile Thiago would jump at the opportunity to play under Guardiola again, giving City hope in the chase for a top midfielder.”

Finally, there is high praise for Keira Walsh from England boss Phil Neville after England’s thrilling 2-2 draw with the United States in the weekend’s latest SheBelieves Cup clash in America.

City colleagues Steph Houghton and Nikita Parris both scored for the Lionesses – but Neville told the Independent’s Jack Rathborn he wanted to highlight’s Walsh’s contribution

Rathborn reports: Neville enthused “The two central midfield players today were probably the bravest players on the pitch in terms of having to take the ball under the most pressure. Bronze and Walsh in midfield were colossal.

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“Keira Walsh, I think, is getting up to the level of being world class and believing it: she takes the ball, she passes the ball, she’s athletic and has real energy.

“And then you throw in the style of football that we want to play – it means that we’ve got a good system.”

"Neville added the game was the perfect advert for the women’s game. 

“That’s how football should be played. I think both coaches will admit that the result probably wasn’t the most important thing," Neville said. 

"We’ve just put on an advert for women’s football that was probably as good as I’ve seen.”


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