Tagged in: UCL

Man City’s Guardiola: I won’t sleep ahead of Neymar, Mbappe meeting

Pep Guardiola stated he won’t sleep ahead of Manchester City’s Champions League semifinal with Paris Saint-Germain if he thinks too much about the threat posed by Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

City will come up versus PSG’s formidable forwards in the first leg in Paris on Wednesday and Guardiola said the pair are so good, they can give opposing managers restless nights.

“Always I believe the quality of these players, they have too much,” Guardiola told a news conference on Tuesday. “I tried to sleep well last night and that was when I was not thinking of them. Incredible top players, their quality. We are ready to try to stop them, defend as a team, play good football and try to score goals.”

Guardiola first faced Neymar when the Brazil forward was playing for Santos versus Barcelona in the Club World Cup in 2011.

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After joining Barcelona in 2013, Neymar moved on to PSG in 2017 but Guardiola said there would be more Champions League trophies in the Camp Nou trophy cabinet had he stayed.

“I remember against Santos, I said this was the king of Santos and all the players were open mouthed: ‘Oh my god, what a player,'” Guardiola added.

“A joy to watch as a spectator, he has Brazil on his shoulders, the No. 10, it’s not easy to wear.

“I’m pretty sure if he’d stayed in Barca they’d have won two or three more Champions Leagues. With Neymar, [Lionel] Messi and [Luis] Suarez, the best three I’ve seen.”

While the tie is only City’s second Champions League semifinal, PSG are trying to reach for the final for the second year in a row after narrowly losing out to Bayern Munich last campaign.

Since then, Thomas Tuchel has been replaced as manager with Mauricio Pochettino.

The former Tottenham boss has been able to get the best out of Neymar since he arrived in January, leading to speculation the 29-year-old is a candidate for the Ballon d’Or and is set to extend his contract.

“I have already talked about it [his contract],” Neymar told a news conference on Tuesday.

“It is not a topic now. I feel great. I am happy this season. It has been by far my happiest this season. “My main objective is the Champions League, not the Ballon d’Or. That is not a priority. I want to be a leader for my team. I want to win. In the future, I will want to remember I have managed to win the Champions League a few times.”

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Colin Poche will miss the season with torn UCL

Rays lefty Colin Poche has been diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow and will miss the 2020 campaign, the team announced.

Tommy John surgery has been suggested for the 26-year-old Poche, who has been placed on the 45-day injured list. Tampa Bay selected veteran catcher Kevan Smith to the big league roster in a corresponding move.

The loss of Poche is a tough blow for the Tampa Bay bullpen. While last season’s 4.70 ERA doesn’t exactly stand out as an impressive mark. Poche’s secondary numbers were all considerably better.

The southpaw averaged 12.5 strikeouts and 3.3 walks per nine innings pitched with a 4.08 FIP in 51 2/3 frames. In spite of that unsightly ERA, Poche overwhelmed both left- and right-handed hitters, yielding just a .167/.276/.348 slash to lefties and a .190/.277/.388 line to righties.

A 67.6 percent strand rate that was massively worse than his career mark in the minors, and Statcast pegged Poche in the 91st percentile or better in terms of swinging-strike rate and his opponents’ expected batting average, slugging percentage and weight on-base average.

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A breakout season for the talented lefty seemed eminently possible, but he could now be sidelined into late 2021 — if not all the way into the 2022 campaign.

Poche will get a year of service time in 2020 as he rehabs on the 45-day IL, and he’ll need to be placed on the 60-day IL to open the 2021 season as well. If he is indeed out until 2022, he may be arbitration-eligible as a Super Two player by the time he’s able to return to the mound, although with 114 days under his belt at the moment, he’d be a very borderline case for Super Two status.

As for the 32-year-old Smith, he’ll likely make the club’s roster as a backup catcher. Smith has seen time in each of the past four seasons — 2016-18 with the White Sox and 2019 with the Angels — hitting a combined .272/.318/.381 along the way.

That’s pretty solid production from behind the plate, but Smith also owns a woeful 14 percent caught stealing rate and has posted sub-par framing numbers as well.

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Noah Syndergaard to have Tommy John surgery from torn UCL

The New York Mets have lost an important member of their vaunted rotation for the 2020 campaign. Hard-throwing righty Noah Syndergaard has a torn ulnar collateral ligament and will have Tommy John surgery, the Mets confirmed Tuesday. Syndergaard, 27, will have surgery on Thursday, the team stated.

“After experiencing discomfort in his elbow before Spring Training was suspended due to the pandemic, Noah and our health and performance department have been in constant contact,” GM Brodie Van Wagenen said in a statement.

“Based on the persistence of his symptoms, Noah underwent a physical examination and MRI that revealed the ligament tear. A second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache confirmed the diagnosis and the recommendation for surgery. 

“Noah is an incredibly hard worker and a tremendous talent,” Van Wagenen added. “While this is unfortunate, we have no doubt that Noah will be able to return to full strength and continue to be an integral part of our Championship pursuits in the future.”

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Before his elbow began acting up, Syndergaard appeared in three Grapefruit League matches this spring and looked healthy.

He allowed four runs (three earned) in eight innings while striking out 11 and walking zero. There were no indications his ulnar collateral ligament was about to give out.

Syndergaard is among the most obviously talented pitchers in the game. He throws in the upper-90s with ease and has an array of dastardly secondary pitches. Despite that, he mustered only a 4.28 ERA in 2019 and has a 3.73 ERA in 352 innings the last two seasons combined, numbers that are merely good rather than great.

Syndergaard is the latest big-name pitcher to require Tommy John surgery this spring. Red Sox ace Chris Sale, Yankees righty Luis Severino, Giants righty Tyler Beede, Padres setup man Andres Munoz, and Tigers prospect Joey Wentz have all needed their elbows rebuilt in recent weeks.

Tommy John surgeries typically peak in February and March as pitchers raise their throwing.

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De Bruyne lauds Pep lineup surprise in City victory

Kevin De Bruyne has admitted Manchester City players were ‘surprised’ when they learnt the line-up before the Real Madrid match on Wednesday night.

Pep Guardiola raised eyebrows by benching Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Fernandinho and David Silva, while Gabriel Jesus was pushed out wide and De Bruyne played down the middle.

De Bruyne said: ‘I think, the four years we’re here with Pep, there are some surprises [within the squad], and even the players, they don’t know before the game starts what they need to do.

‘Some [changes] were good. I think we had some lesser moments. In a quality game like this, you’re going to struggle sometimes, but I thought we really fought really well together.’

His remarks were echoed by former England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who said in the studio a conventional City line up would have beaten Madrid by more.

De Bruyne went on to hail his side’s character after they fought back from a goal down to defeat Real Madrid 2-1 at the Bernabeu, putting them in pole position to claim a quarter-final spot.

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City were dealt an early blow when they lost Aymeric Laporte and were forced to draft in Fernandinho at the back again.And a defensive error saw Isco pounce and put the hosts ahead on the 60-minute mark.

Yet Jesus equalled things up when he latched on the end of a De Bruyne cross and headed the ball past Thibaut Courtois, who many may feel should have done more.

Sterling, who came on as a substitute in the 73rd minute, made a darting run at the Madrid defence and was hacked down in the box by full back Dani Carvajal.

After City have failed to convert from the spot countless times this campaign, De Bruyne stepped up to quell fears and roll it past Courtois.

The Belgian’s spot kick made City the first English side to win in the Bernabeu for 11 years.

De Bruyne told BT Sport: ‘It’s a very good start for the first game. The first 15 minutes we struggled for a bit but you have to go through the storm.

‘It was a pretty even first half and we started the second half pretty well. The (Real) goal came at a bit of a bad moment for us because I think we were dominating at the time.

‘I thought our response was brilliant. It was a beautiful goal from Gabi and the second goal, the penalty was very important for us.

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