‘Raheem is an incredible human being’ – Guardiola rallies behind Sterling amid racism storm

Pep Guardiola has hailed Raheem Sterling as an “incredible person” after the Manchester City and England winger spoke out amid allegations he was subjected to racist abuse.

Sterling issued a statement via his Instagram account on Sunday, in which he drew contrasts between media coverage of black and white footballers in the UK – a disparity he believes “helps fuel racism and aggressive behaviour”.

The post came a day after Sterling was targeted by Chelsea fans during City’s 2-0 Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea suspended four people from attending their matches pending an investigation, with the club and the Metropolitan Police launching investigations into whether the England international was racially abused by supporters.

Sterling’s public stance has won widespread support and, speaking alongside Leroy Sane ahead of his team’s Champions League match against Hoffenheim at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, Guardiola spoke warmly and passionately of the 24-year-old’s human qualities in the midst of a bleak situation.

“Leroy said it perfectly, he is an incredible person. Raheem is an incredible human being,” the City manager said.

“It’s tough to understand today what happened years ago, for the whole history for the black people.

“You have to protect how equal we are, all together. It’s tough to understand in the 21st century, we are still in that position – not to accept the diversity that helps us to be better.

“That is why sport is amazing. You live with different people. My kids go to school with Indian people, with black people, with people from everywhere.

“We have to defend and we have to protect them [those who are abused].”

 
 
 
 
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Good morning I just want to say , I am not normally the person to talk a lot but when I think I need my point to heard I will speak up. Regarding what was said at the Chelsea game as you can see by my reaction I just had to laugh because I don’t expect no better. For example you have two young players starting out there careers both play for the same team, both have done the right thing. Which is buy a new house for there mothers who have put in a lot of time and love into helping them get where they are, but look how the news papers get there message across for the young black player and then for the young white payer. I think this in unacceptable both innocent have not done a thing wrong but just by the way it has been worded. This young black kid is looked at in a bad light. Which helps fuel racism an aggressive behaviour, so for all the news papers that don’t understand why people are racist in this day and age all i have to say is have a second thought about fair publicity an give all players an equal chance.

A post shared by Raheem Sterling  (@sterling7) on

The flashpoint in City’s weekend match came when Sterling went to collect the ball for a corner and was berated by Chelsea supporters leaning towards the advertising hoardings, including one man who appeared to use a racial slur.

The fan in question, Colin Wing, denied racially abusing Sterling but conceded he was “deeply ashamed by my own behaviour” in an interview with the Daily Mail.

On suffering abuse of the alleged nature, Sterling wrote: “Regarding what was said at the Chelsea game, as you can see by my reaction I just had to laugh because I don’t expect no better,”

“Obviously I think it’s kind of sad that this happens still,” he team-mate Sane said. “We all support Raheem and are on his side.”

“He’s a strong guy, a good guy and knows how to handle it. He’s not getting down about this stupid stuff.”

Guardiola ruefully acknowledged problems of racism are not merely restricted to football.

“Unfortunately it is everywhere. That is why you have to fight every day. There [must be] zero tolerance on that issue,” he said.

“I appreciate what Chelsea did, if it happened at my club we would do the same.

“We have to fight for the human rights and for everything to make a better society for the future, for everyone.

“Today we are in dangers. Not just in England, everywhere. Absolutely everywhere, all across Europe.”

Returning specifically to media criticism of Sterling, who has starred for City with eight goals and six assists in 13 Premier League appearances this season, Guardiola added: I don’t know, really, the reason why.

“Hopefully the reason would be a criticism if he plays s*** or plays bad. That would be perfect! Everyone is exposed to that, the managers and the football players.

“But just for the colour of his skin? Right now, that is ridiculous. That is why everybody has to make the effort to protect this situation.”

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FIFA 19 vs Goal: Which Team of the Champions League Group Stage is better?

FIFA 19 have revealed their Team of the UEFA Champions League group stage ahead of the final matchday before Europe’s premier club competition goes into hibernation for the winter.

Some of the football’s biggest stars such as Neymar and Lionel Messi have been recognised for their performances, but there are a few players who are perhaps unlucky to have missed out on a place in their team but have made it into Goal’s XI.

For example, Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has been in fine fettle for the Serie A champions during their European excursions, keeping four clean sheets in just five UEFA Champions League matches – no other stopper has kept more.

Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte’s form also arguably warranted a place in FIFA’s XI; along with his stellar defensive work, the Frenchman has scored twice in the UCL this season – no other defender has scored more.

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On the other hand, Nabil Fekir was rightfully included in FIFA 19’s team, with the Lyon star one of only eight players to have 2+ goals and 2+ assists in the UCL this season.

Along with Fekir, Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski made the grade. On Matchday 5, the Polish superstar became the third fastest player to ever score 50 CL goals (now as 51).

Which Team of the UCL Group Stage is better?

FIFA 19, complete with brand new UEFA Champions League features, is out now.

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‘Any team that has Messi is the favourite’ – ex-Spurs midfielder Nayim

Ex-Tottenham midfielder Nayim has claimed that any side featuring Lionel Messi will always be favourites as Mauricio Pochettino’s side get ready to face Barcelona in a crucial Champions League clash on Tuesday night.

The midfielder joined Spurs from Barca in 1988 and went on to play 144 times for the Londoners, scoring 18 goals.

Pochettino’s side know that they must better Inter Milan’s result against PSV to ensure qualification for the knockout stages of the European competition, and are likely to need a victory.

But the Spaniard has warned his former club that any side boasting five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi is bound to be at an advantage.

The Argentina international is already the leading goalscorer in the Champions League this season with six in three appearances and he produced a star turn during Barca’s 4-2 win against Spurs at Wembley back in October.

In an exclusive interview with Goal, Nayim said: “Any team that has Leo is slightly more the favourite than the rest but in the end, he can not do it all by himself, it can happen that there are games that tie him very well and other teammates have to appear.

“Without a doubt, but there are other important teams that can win, Barcelona seems to have the Champions League as their main goal and until now I have seen how they are competing in Europe quite well.”

The 52-year-old added that should Barcelona fail to go into the match without the necessary intensity, Spurs still have a chance of a positive result: “It depends on how Barcelona comes in. If it goes as Tottenham should, it will be very difficult for them even though they are capable of winning, they are a very solid team with very dangerous players.

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“When Leo Messi is inspired, it is very difficult to stop his team, but if they do not come out with the necessary tension, Tottenham will increase their chances.”

Nayim did, however, acknowledge the importance of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen returning to the side after both missed the defeat against Barca in the reverse fixture.

He said: “Undoubtedly, we are talking about two very good players, especially on the offensive level, they are guys who know how to create opportunities from nothing and finish very well, they have shot from a distance and we will have to be very aware of them.”

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Manchester City vs Hoffenheim Betting Tips: Latest odds, team news, preview and predictions

Manchester City will be determined to put league defeat to Chelsea behind them when they welcome Hoffenheim to the Etihad Stadium for Wednesday’s Champions League clash.

The Citizens are already sure of a place in the last 16, but need to avoid defeat in this final game to secure top spot.

Latest Odds

Having run out 2-1 winners in the reverse meeting in Germany, they are 1/5 (1.20) favourites with to return to winning ways with a victory here.

Sergio Aguero vs Hoffenheim

Julian Nagelsmann’s men are already out of the competition but can clinch a Europa League spot should they win and Shakhtar Donetsk lose at home to Lyon, and are available at 14/1 (15.00) to pull off a shock in this one.

Both of the guests’ away matches in the group so far have resulted in draws, and there are odds of 7/1 (8.00) on offer on them claiming a share of the spoils once again.

Team News

Sergio Aguero remains a doubt after missing out on the last two games, while Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva are both doubts and Benjamin Mendy, Claudio Bravo and Eliaquim Mangala still on the sidelines.

Adam Szalai and Kerem Demirbay are both suspended, with Kevin Vogt, Lukas Rupp, Havard Nordtveit and Nadiem Amiri all ruled out through injury.

Goals at both ends

It is not difficult to pinpoint the reasons for Die Kraichgauer’s elimination from this tournament, and it is certainly not down to their attacking play.

Manchester City v Hoffenheim Betting Preview

The German tournament debutants have scored 10 goals in their five group games so far, a figure exceeded by only seven of the 31 other teams in the competition.

Indeed, they took the lead in the 2-1 defeat at home to Pep Guardiola’s team, and will be confident of causing more problems for a backline that has kept just once clean sheet in five fixtures.

Predictions

All in all, odds of 5/4 (2.25) look like strong value on City coming out on top despite conceding against an enterprising Hoffenheim team that has found the net in all seven previous Champions League matches.

Betting Banner - Best Bet    Manchester City to win and both teams to score for a 1.5pt stake at 5/4 (2.25) with

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How can Nigeria get the best out of in-form Ola Aina?


COMMENT    By Solace Chukwu     Follow on Twitter 


Coaches in modern football have increasingly come to be categorized by their concept of squad building. Opting to give primacy the integrity of the system is associated with a proactive approach, while a more player-centric model is termed reactive. 

There are, of course, grey areas, overlap and a certain irony in the fact that today’s most proactive coaches rely on strict positional play and eschew free-form attacking. However, it is a useful criterion for categorization, and it might hold the key to understanding why Ola Aina has struggled to assert himself in international football with the Super Eagles. 

On loan at Torino, the wing-back has shone away from the uncertainty of parent club Chelsea, and stood out at the weekend in a goalless draw against AC Milan at San Siro.

Yet, even in the absence of the injured Tyronne Ebuehi, there is a sense that he is a recourse rather than a first pick at right-back. 

Ola Aina - Nigeria vs. Libya

Some of that is to do with the loyalty that so defines Gernot Rohr, as the German has favoured converted midfielder Shehu Abdullahi instead for most of his time at the helm of the Nigeria national team.

The wider issue, however, is a tactical ome: Aina is a wing-back playing in a team that does not often use wing-backs. 

Rohr has preferred a back four for the most part, and there is an element of misfortune in that, on the occasions when he has used a back three instead, Aina has been unavailable: he was not selected for the World Cup, and picked up a knock on the eve of November’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa in Johannesburg. 

If we surmise that the job of the national team manager is to make the most effective use of the most in-form players available to him, what then might that mean for the national team, and for Aina?Ola Aina quote 

It would depend, on some level, on how much of a marginal gain he could offer in an altered system, and also how the other components of the team fit around that. 

At the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations, erstwhile Head Coach Jo Bonfrere had a problem going into the final; mercurial midfielder Jay-Jay Okocha had been suspended for the semi-final, an unfortunate circumstance which, ironically, helped him discover his best midfield pairing.  

Tijani Babangida struck twice against South Africa to nook a final place, but now the Dutchman had a problem: would he leave Okocha out, as the team seemed more solid and cohesive without him, and risk the ire of the public, or would he sacrifice sure footing in order to accommodate his magician?

Jay-Jay Okocha of Nigeria

In the end, he did neither: Okocha returned to the side, but in a weird left-sided role in midfield which both neutered him and opened up the team on that flank. The marginal gain was that he scored a belter in the second half, but it in no way made up for the imbalance his presence created.

Would the team have been so dire as to go 2-0 down in the first place? Probably not. 

The lesson here is simple: only by playing your best players in their preferred roles can their best be elicited for the benefit of the entire side.  Ola Aina Torino

Aina’s form, as impressive as it is, is tied unmistakably to the wing-back role, one which to some degree masks his underdeveloped defensive instincts.

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Played as a full-back in a back four, he is required to fulfill more defensive duties, and it is no surprise that he has looked shaky when deployed there: over both legs against Libya, he struggled positionally, and was arguably culpable for the first Libyan goal in the return leg in Sfax.  

If the Super Eagles are to get his very best, it would necessitate a permanent move to the 3-5-2 that has been used only occasionally.

Whether he can elevate the team enough to justify that change is the question which Rohr must answer.  

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