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Pep not a party pooper

Guardiola’s Manchester City, 14 points behind Liverpool and second in the table, host Crystal Palace on Saturday
Manchester City players

Agencies   |   Manchester   |   Published 17.01.20, 09:29 PM

Pep Guardiola defended his Manchester City stars on Friday following reports they flew in 22 Italian Instagram models for their delayed Christmas party after last weekend’s 6-1 Premier League win at Aston Villa.

The defending champions were not allowed to attend City’s own Christmas event as Guardiola was concerned there would be a repeat of the 2018 gathering that saw several players out into the early hours.

But the City manager said he is a big believer in the value of his squad relaxing together. Guardiola made it clear he was aware of the recent party and had no problem with players letting off steam.

“I knew (about) it. When they have time, they make a lot of dinners together, with the staff. They did it many times anyway,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday.

“And I like it when they are together outside here, they do it sometimes at home, sometimes in a restaurant as was the case. It was nice.”

Guardiola’s side, second in the table, 14 points behind Liverpool, host Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Captain Maguire

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed Harry Maguire as Manchester United’s new captain less than six months after his $104 million move from Leicester.

Maguire will take over as skipper from Ashley Young, who is expected to complete his move to Inter Milan soon.

The England international, 26, has led the side in games when Young has been absent and was an obvious choice for the role having played in every Premier League match this season. “Harry has been wearing the captain’s armband and he will keep wearing it,” said Solskjaer, whose side take on runaway leaders Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

“He’s come in and been a leader in the group. I have not been surprised but I’ve been impressed by his leadership skills.”

“He is part of a group that we’ve had that have been leading this young group,” added Solskjaer.

Rashford doubtful

Solskjaer’s main concern ahead of Sunday’s match is the fitness of striker Rashford, who was injured during his substitute appearance in the midweek FA Cup win against Wolves.

“We’ll do some more checks and treatment with him,” said the United boss. “Yesterday was just a recovery day and some treatment for him.

“I’m not going to hold my breath. I would probably think he wouldn’t be ready, but let’s see.” Rashford has been in impressive form this season, with 22 goals for club and country, meaning his absence would be a big blow for Solskjaer.

United are the only team to have taken any points off Liverpool in the Premier League this season following the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in October but trail their rivals by 27 points.

Liverpool boost

Liverpool have been handed a double injury boost ahead of their Premier League meeting against Manchester United on Sunday with defender Joel Matip and midfielder Fabinho both fit, manager Juergen Klopp said on Friday.

Matip has not featured since the 1-1 league draw with United in October after picking up a knee injury while Fabinho has been out since a 1-1 draw with Napoli in the Champions League the following month due to an ankle problem.


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