EVERTON LOSE WINGER YANNICK BOLASIE FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR: HE IS HAVING SECOND OPERATION

Yannick Bolasie is unlikely to play for Everton again until the end of the year, with the £25m winger due to undergo a second operation on his injured knee.

The 27-year-old has been sidelined since 4th of december when he sustained a serious knee injury against Manchester United. Bolasie had surgery to repair damaged cartilage a fortnight after the game but needed to make a full recovery from that procedure before his ruptured anterior cruciate ligament could be addressed.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo international is scheduled to have an operation on the ACL next month and Ronald Koeman, the Everton manager, admits it could be another eight months before his main summer signing is in contention for a first-team return.

Koeman said: “Yannick will have a second surgery at the beginning of march. The surgery was expected because his first surgery was about the meniscus, and now what will happen at the beginning of March is about his cruciate.”

“It is difficult to put a timescale because normally a cruciate can be six, seven or eight months. We had to repair the meniscus and then wait until his knee was ready to have the second operation.”

The Everton manager said Bolasie is confident of making a full recovery in time but has endured difficulties during his prolonged spell on the sidelines.

“He is in several times during the week,” Koeman said. “He was OK, really positive, and working hard to come back but like every player in that situation you get difficult moments in a day, difficult moments in the week. He is positive about coming back as strong as possible.”

Romelu Lukaku, Kevin Mirallas and James McCarthy, by contrast, have provided the Everton manager with better injury news by returning to training ahead of Saturday’s Premier League game against Sunderland. Lukaku missed the team’s warm-weather training camp in Dubai last week due to a calf problem and had treatment back home in Belgium, but resumed full training on Tuesday.

Mirallas and McCarthy have also recovered from minor knocks in time for David Moyes’ return to Goodison Park and the midfielder Mo Besic, who has been sidelined with a knee problem since pre-season, is also close to resuming full training.

KEVIN DE BRUYNE: MANCHESTER CITY ‘GETTING BETTER AND BETTER’

The Etihad Stadium’s first truly great European night? A Champions League match for the ages?

“This was one of the crazy ones, definitely,” says Kevin De Bruyne, among the chief architects of Manchester City’s 5-3 comeback against Monaco tuesday.

The 25-year-old might have starred in comparable matches during his time in Belgium and Germany, but admits the game was “nerve-racking with a lot of emotion.”

“Luckily we won the game,” he says, as City take part in warm-weather training on the grounds of Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace.

“It’s not done yet but obviously a nice feeling to win in the end. Hopefully we can go through against Monaco and see what we can do after that.”

Since Sheikh Mansour and the Abu Dhabi United Group began transforming the English club in 2008, success at this stage of Europe’s premier club competition has rarely come easily.

“We’ve only been in the Champions League for four, five years,” De Bruyne reflects.

“Obviously it’s something new in the beginning but the team is establishing itself more and more in Europe and last year to reach the semifinal was already good,” added the Belgium international, referring to City’s loss to Real Madrid last season.

“I think it’s getting better and better with the team every year.”

Source: http://edition.cnn.com

TRUMP LAWYER PUSHED PRO-RUSSIA DEAL FOR UKRAINE, POLITICIAN CLAIMS

The setting was a Manhattan restaurant, and after 25 minutes what allegedly emerged was a pro-Russian peace plan for Ukraine that its author believes may have ended up in the White House.

In a CNN interview, Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko said that he discussed his left-field proposal for Ukraine in January with US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who offered to deliver the plan to the Trump administration.

The exact details of the plan are unclear, yet reports have suggested it revolves around leasing Crimea – annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 – to Moscow for 50 to 100 years. In exchange, Russia would withdraw its troops from the separatist regions in Ukraine’s war-torn east.

Artemenko declined to discuss the plan’s details, yet hinted that a lease might be part of the idea.

The lawmaker says Cohen, who has long advised Trump, wanted to take the plan to Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser.

Any suggestion that the White House might consider a plan that formalizes Russia’s control of Crimea would cause consternation in Kiev and among its allies in Europe. The White House has flatly denied any knowledge of the proposal.

In his interview with CNN, Artemenko shines a light on how a key Trump associate was allegedly prepared to push a controversial peace plan that might benefit Russia at a time when questions were being raised about the Trump’s ties to that country.

The Ukrainian member of parliament told CNN he met Cohen through a mutual acquaintance, businessman Felix Sater, and that the three had dinner in a Manhattan hotel in January.

Cohen told CNN in a text message that although he had dinner with Artemenko, they never discussed peace in Ukraine. Other media organizations reported that he offered them a different account. The White House has denied that Cohen delivered any peace plan to Flynn.

Russia and Ukraine have since rejected the plan, and Artemenko has now become the subject of investigation for treason for suggesting it to Cohen.

In a hurried interview in a Kiev hotel, Artemenko said Cohen told him that Flynn – who resigned in mid-february due to a controversy over calls with the Russian ambassador to the US – was his best connection at the White House.

“Michael Flynn is the best person, the best of my connections in the Trump administration, who if he likes [it], it’s going to [get] huge support, huge support,” Cohen said, according to Artemenko.

Flynn did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on this story.

Artemenko knew the proposal would be controversial as it undercuts both the US and Ukrainian diplomatic corps, and he says he knows it angered Kiev, who will have seen it as a pro-Russian proposal.

“That’s why I feel pressure, and for sure today I can see people accusing me, and I see the prosecutor of Ukraine is trying to do something, to open a new case, to do an investigation about me,” he told CNN.

He said of the january meeting that Sater invited Cohen to “a dinner in the hotel in Manhattan, and we probably spoke around 20-25 minutes, where I presented my intentions, my peace plan for the Ukraine, how we can stop the war, how we can stop the killing.”

Artemenko said he had never dreamed that his proposal would be seen by the White House, but he claims Cohen said the plan had “great potential” and wanted to deliver it to the Trump administration.

“It was Michael Cohen’s idea,” he said. “He mentioned his name first in my meetings. And he said ‘listen, Michael Flynn’ – from his personal opinion – ‘is most powerful man who can really support this idea, who can support, who can help you, who can provide this information to President Trump.'”

Flynn resigned 24 days into the job after misleading administration officials regarding his communications with the Russian ambassador to the US before Trump took office.

Flynn made several calls to the ambassador in December, including some on the same day that the outgoing Obama administration placed fresh sanctions on Russia over alleged election meddling.

The Justice Department also warned the Trump administration in January that Flynn could be subject to Russin blackmail, a person familiar with the matter told CNN last month.

In a text message to CNN, Cohen denied delivering any documents to Flynn, and refuted Artemenko’s recollection of their January conversation.

“If this continued fake news narrative wasn’t so ridiculous, I would be angered. Despite the multitude of statements issued denying any nexus between Presidents Trump and [Russian President Vladimir Putin], the main stream media just keeps on trying to perpetuate this lie.”

“I acknowledge that the brief meeting took place, but emphatically deny discussing this topic or delivering any documents to the White House and/or General Flynn; something I stated to the New York Times.”

According to the Times, Cohen said that he left a sealed envelope with the proposed peace plan in Flynn’s office. Later, Cohen denied delivering a peace plan to Flynn.

Artemenko insists, however, that it was Cohen’s idea to show the peace proposal to the senior White House official. “It was his idea, absolutely his idea,” he said.

After Russia seized the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, it sent military help to separatists in the country’s east, where violent conflict over disputed territory drags on to this day.

Kiev has refused to discuss the official transfer of the peninsula to Russia, and dismissed Artemenko’s plan as a result.

Moscow considers the peninsula already its territory, after its residents – under a substantial Russian military presence – voted in a 2014 referendum to join the Russian Federation.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov says Russia refuses to discuss the lease of a region it already controls: “How can Russia rent its own region? This question itself is absurd.”

Sater, who attended the dinner with Artemenko, did not respond to emailed questions, yet he emphatically denied any links between the Trump camp and Russia in an interview with Fox News: “What could be wrong in helping stop a war and trying to achieve peace? I have done so much for my country and thought that promoting peace was a good thing. People are getting killed, it’s a war.”

A White House spokesman offered this statement in response to CNN’s request for comment: “No one in the White House – including the President, Vice President and senior members of the NSC — has spoken to Mr. Cohen about any Russia-Ukraine peace proposal, and no one has spoken to Andrii Artemenko at all about any matter.

“In addition, the NSC keeps comprehensive records of documents received, and we have no record of receiving any proposal from Mr. Cohen. This is another absurd, misleading attempt to distract from the real reform taking place under President Trump.”

Artemenko left the interview with CNN to attend what he said was a meeting with the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, although the presidential administration denied such a meeting took place.

Yet moments after leaving the interview, Ukrainian prosecutors announced he would be investigated for “treason” over the deal.

Source: http://edition.cnn.com

HUNDREDS RESCUED FROM CALIFORNIA FLOODWATERS IN SAN JOSE

Rescuers chest-deep in water steered boats full of people, some with babies and pets, on Tuesday from a San Jose neighborhood inundated by water from an overflowing creek.

At least 225 residents were taken to dry land and rinsed with soap and water to prevent them from being sickened by floodwaters that had traveled through engine fuel, garbage, debris and over sewer lines, San Jose Fire Capt. Mitch Matlow said.

Residents went door-to-door searching for people who needed to leave the neighborhood and only residents who could prove they had been cleaned of the floodwaters were allowed to board buses to shelters.

“This is like once-in-a-lifetime,” said Bobby Lee, 15, of the water around him.

He was rescued with his brother and parents, who took clothes, electronics and some photos from their home in a neighborhood that ended up littered with submerged cars.

Earlier Tuesday, firefighters rescued five people stranded by flooding at a homeless camp along the same creek in San Jose.

Firefighters went door-to-door to tell residents to get out of their homes because the city does not have sirens or another emergency warning system, San Jose spokesman David Vossbrink said.

The rains were the latest produced by a series of storms generated by so-called atmospheric rivers that dump massive quantities of Pacific Ocean water on California after carrying it aloft from as far away as Hawaii.

The latest downpours swelled waterways to flood levels and left about half the state under flood, wind and snow advisories.

In another area of San Jose, the fire department was called to Coyote Creek amid reports of as many as 40 people being stranded at a homeless encampment.

That number turned out to be inaccurate and five people were located and rescued, fire Capt. Mitch Matlow said.

Their condition was not immediately available.

In the Sierra Nevada mountain range, part of Highway 50, one of the main routes to Lake Tahoe, was in danger of collapsing after a roadway shoulder gave way following heavy storms, leaving a gaping hole about 40 feet long and 17 feet wide, Caltrans engineer Jarrett Woodruff said.

Crews opened one lane open Tuesday as Caltrans workers tried to fix the road failure after numerous mudslides blocked it for days at a time in recent weeks.

Heavy storms over the last two weeks caused parts of the shoulder and part of one lane on the four-lane highway give way.

In the San Joaquin Valley in California’s agricultural heartland, farmers used their tractors and other heavy equipment to help shore up an endangered levee along the San Joaquin River.

Some farmers took their tractors and other equipment to the levee to help shore it up, arriving to fill a big breach within half an hour of noticing the break, said alfalfa farmer Tony Coit.

“The farmers ran it like a boss,” he said, using soil from the levee itself to fill in the 30-foot-wide break until they could truck in large rocks for more substantial repairs.

The water level rose at Lake Oroville for the first time since authorities ordered an emergency evacuation of 188,000 people more than a week ago after a damaged spillway caused major flooding concerns.

The rains have saturated the once-drought stricken region and wreaked havoc for residents hit hard by the storms. At least four people have died in the storms throughout the state in the last week.

A motorist in Northern California was swept into a creek Saturday during another in the series of storms and drowned inside her car, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

Witnesses had seen the woman driving around signs blocking the road near Orland, Undersheriff Todd James of the Glenn County Sheriff’s Office told the newspaper.

The current storm system began to weaken Tuesday after dumping more than a half-inch of rain in the San Joaquin Valley, over an inch in San Francisco, and more than 5 inches in the mountains above Big Sur over the previous 24 hours, the National Weather Service reported.

Source: http://www.foxnews.com

WAYNE ROONEY TO STAY AT MANCHESTER UNITED DESPITE CHINESE INTEREST

Wayne Rooney has offers to go to China but is unlikely to leave Manchester United before the Chinese transfer window closes on Tuesday.

Rooney’s advisers have been approached by several Chinese Super League (CSL) clubs who are willing to make him the world’s best-paid player, offering £750,000 a week.

The clubs include Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande, who are managed by Felipe Scolari, and Beijing Guoan, who finished fifth in the CSL last season.

On Tuesday, Jose Mourinho failed to guarantee Rooney would stay at Manchester United until the end of the season.

Rooney has 18 months left on his Manchester United contract, although the club have the option of extending it by another year.

Under Mourinho, Rooney has become a squad player at United and has not played since 1st of february because of a muscle injury.

CSL clubs are allowed to have only three foreign players in their starting line-ups.

Three clubs still have a slot available for a foreign player – Tianjin Quanjian, Jiangsu Suning and Beijing Guoan – but other clubs could also sign Rooney and drop another one of their foreign players.

Rooney was a member of the United squad which travelled to China last july on a pre-season tour which was plagued with problems.

United were unable to train properly because of the intense heat and pollution in Shanghai and Beijing and their game against Manchester City was cancelled because of the poor state of the pitch at Beijing’s Birds Nest Stadium.

Source: http://www.skysports.com

HUGE STAKES FOR TRUMP IMMIGRATION DO-OVER

President Donald Trump is preparing to seize on a second chance to make a first impression with the release this week of a new executive order temporarily halting travel from citizens of seven nations he says pose a high risk of terrorism.

The order will form the second thrust of a new administration push to significantly overhaul the shape of the American immigration system, following the release of new memos Tuesday empowering state and local authorities to enforce laws that could eventually lead to mass deportations.

It also marks an important moment for Trump’s vision of an expansive executive presidency as he contemplates other areas of sweeping policy action.

The significance of this new attempt – the language of which is expected as soon as Wednesday – is reflected in the participation of White House Counsel Don McGahn.

McGahn’s office had only a cursory look at Trump’s original order, which was written by transition and policy staff. Significantly, Trump’s key political aide Stephen Miller has had much less to do with the second executive order, sources familiar with the matter said, and the Trump administration was communicating with Republicans on Capitol Hill about the legislation.

Trump’s initial attempt to install a travel ban – one of his fundamental campaign promises – was a disaster, halting the administration’s fast start in its tracks.

The move temporarily blocking citizens of Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Libya from entering the US unleashed a weekend of chaos at the nation’s airports, after the hurriedly drafted and poorly implemented order caused confusion among border and customs officials about what it actually meant and which classes of travelers were included.

His order was quickly halted by the federal courts in a first showdown between his strong-arm executive powers and the judiciary – leading Trump to belittle judges on Twitter.

The showdown inflicted an early blow on the reputation of the new White House and claims that Trump’s expertise as a master dealmaker and businessman would make up for his inexperience in Washington and governance as he set about fundamentally transforming America.

Stung by the scorn of the courts and the political world, the White House eventually retreated to plot a new approach – one that is likely to be considerably narrower than the initial version. Permanent US residents, or green card holders, for instance, are expected to be exempted from the ban.

Trump rarely admits an error or apologizes for a misstep. But even he realizes that there is not much he can do but frame a new executive order to satisfy the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision upholding a stay on the order imposed by a federal judge in Seattle.

“The new order is going to be very much tailored to what I consider to be a very bad decision,” Trump said at a White House news conference on Thursday.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is meanwhile promising that the new attempt to impose a temporary ban to allow for the creation of an “extreme vetting” system promised by Trump on the campaign trail would be a “tighter, more streamlined version of the first executive order.”

It is vital for the credibility of the President and a White House that things go smoothly this time around.

This may be the best, last chance for the administration to establish whether it can write an executive order that can honor Trump’s goals but at the same time not fall foul of constitutional due process rights of travelers trying to get into the United States who might be covered by the ban.

The White House faces a high bar in drafting the new order because its constitutional interpretation has already proven open to being challenged. The 9th Circuit, for example, rejected the administration’s argument that the judiciary lacked the authority to block the travel ban as “contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.”

Apart from the legal minefield the new order must traverse, the Trump White House has huge political credibility tied up in the travel ban.

A repeat of angry demonstrations at airports, with tales of travelers being turned back after getting on planes with what they thought were valid visas, would deal another blow to the new administration.

Source: http://edition.cnn.com

GEORGE CLOONEY TALKS ABOUT BECOMING A FIRST-TIME DAD IN HIS 50s

George Clooney is ready for his next challenge – parenthood.

The actor, 55, opened up for the first time since news broke that he and his wife, Amal Clooney, are having twins.

“We are really happy and really excited. It’s going to be an adventure,” the actor said on the French TV show “Rencontres de Cinema.” “We’ve sort of embraced it all … with arms wide open.”

Clooney said his friends can’t help but tease him about becoming a dad later in life.

“My favorite part is, you know, all my friends who are my age, and I have many of them, they’re already done. Their kids are all grown up and away to college and they are laughing,” Clooney said.

“We went out to dinner the other night, and it’s a table of eight guys and all their kids are away in college, and we are sitting there and they were all being very supportive, ‘Everything is going to be great, you’re going to love it,'” he continued. “Then it got really quiet, and they all just started making baby crying and the whole table just busted up laughing.”

But he said he’s comforted that the French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo was 70 when he had children: “So I’m feeling a bit better about being 56 by the time we have them.”

Clooney and his wife’s lives are about to be turned upside down, but he couldn’t sound more certain.

“It’s going to change a lot of things but that’s OK, that’s life,” he said.

Source: http://edition.cnn.com

TRUMP CALLS RECENT ANTI-SEMITIC INCIDENTS ‘HORRIBLE’

President Donald Trump said Tuesday the recent spate of threats targeting the Jewish community in the US are “horrible” and “painful” as he faced a growing chorus of calls from Democrats and Jewish leaders urging him to speak out.

Trump made the remarks following a tour of the National Museum of African American Museum and Culture, hours after Hillary Clinton tweeted that “everyone must speak out, starting (with) @POTUS,” using Trump’s official White House Twitter handle.

“This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms. The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said.

Trump also told MSNBC in an interview at the museum that “anti-Semitism is horrible and it’s going to stop and it has to stop.”

The remarks came a day after the JCC Association of North America reported that 54 Jewish community centers have faced 69 threats, including three waves of bomb threats, since January.

Trump previously failed to clearly address the rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the US last week when he was pressed on the issue during two news conferences. He instead focused on defending himself against personal charges of anti-Semitism and berated a Jewish reporter for asking him how his administration would work to combat anti-Semitism.

Earlier on Tuesday, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-New York, questioned why Trump had not spoken out against anti-Semitic incidents in the US despite being pressed on the issue multiple times during recent news conferences.

“The question isn’t why hasn’t he spoken out more vociferously, the question is why hasn’t he spoken out period? And why has he evaded two questions in his last two press conferences on this question?” Nadler said Tuesday on CNN’s “New Day.” “Maybe he doesn’t want to denounce his own supporters because some of his own supporters are responsible for this.”

Prominent white nationalists and neo-Nazi groups supported Trump during the election, and Trump’s slow pace to refute that support had raised questions.

The White House issued a statement Monday denouncing recent anti-Semitic threats, saying “hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom.”

“The President has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in the statement.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, who converted to Judaism, also tweeted Monday evening that “we must protect our houses of worship and religious centers.”

But pressed during two news conferences last week to address the rise in anti-Semitic incidents, Trump chose to focus on defending himself against personal charges of anti-Semitism, declaring himself the “least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life,” rather than addressing threats against the Jewish community in the US.

Trump also berated a Jewish reporter for asking about how the government planned to address the rise in anti-Semitic incidents, telling him repeatedly to “sit down” and be “quiet,” even though the reporter made clear he did not believe Trump himself was anti-Semitic.

The Anti-Defamation League has since called on Trump to speak out against the anti-Semitic incidents and explain how his administration will address the rise in threats.

Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice-chairman of the Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Sunday in Jerusalem that “the president helps set the tone for a country.”

“I’m hopeful that what he said about … addressing hate and racism of all kinds in American society will be translated into clear action,” Hoenlein said.

Source: http://edition.cnn.com

THISTLECRACK JOINS CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL ABSENTEES WITH SEASON-ENDING INJURY

Thistlecrack has been ruled out of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the rest of the jumps season, having been found to have injured a tendon. The news broke at lunchtime on Tuesday after appearing to leak out in the betting markets on the Cheltenham race, for which he had been favourite for months.

“Thistlecrack is out,” said the horse’s trainer, Colin Tizzard, in quotes first reported by the Racing Post. “He had heat in his leg last night. The vet scanned him this morning and it’s a slight tendon tear.”

The news is the first serious bump in the road in an amazing season for Tizzard, whose big-race wins included the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day with Thistlecrack. Even after the bad news, the Dorset trainer still has the top two in the Gold Cup betting with Native River at 11-4 and Cue Card at 7-2 in revised prices hastily issued by Ladbrokes.

But Thistlecrack had been just 15-8 for the race and his absence will be a blow not just to Tizzard but to fans of jump racing in general, as the nine-year-old had become perhaps the most exciting jumps horse in training.

While his run of nine consecutive wins was brought to an end by Many Clouds at Cheltenham last month, Thistlecrack’s reputation was arguably enhanced by that effort against a rival of extraordinary toughness, who died moments after crossing the line.

The trainer and jockey combination of Tizzard and Tom Scudamore would also have helped to make Thistlecrack a popular winner at next month’s Festival. Scudamore may now be left without a ride in the Gold Cup.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com

PEP GUARDIOLA A BIG FAN OF MONACO AND WARY OF THEIR CHAMPIONS LEAGUE THREAT

As a measure of why Pep Guardiola spoke so effusively about Manchester City’s latest opponents in the Champions League, it is worth bearing in mind Monaco’s achievements this season eclipse those of the Paris Saint-Germain side who just had the temerity to win 4-0 against Barcelona and knock the throne off football royalty.

Monaco are not only looking down on PSG from the top of the French league but, to put it into context, they have scored 76 goals from 26 games compared with 50 for the Qatari-funded team who gave Barça one of their worst chasings for many years.

Monaco have scored four or more on 10 different occasions in their domestic league this season, including one five-week period where they won 7-0 at Metz then put six past both Montpellier and Nancy, and their previous assignments against English opposition provide a neat riposte to anyone who argues Ligue 1 should not be an accurate barometer of a team’s ability.

Leonardo Jardim’s side have already beaten Tottenham Hotspur home and away in the Champions League’s group stages this season, winning 2-1 on both occasions, and the last time they reached the knockout stages of this competition two years ago they won 3-1 at Arsenal, a victory acclaimed by L’Équipe as “one of the great Champions League performances by a French club”.

The worry for City must be that Les Monégasques are a far more formidable team now. No other side in Europe has been so prolific this season or played with such a sense of attacking adventure. “Their first goal against Tottenham was a cross from a full-back and a header from another full-back,” Guardiola noted, “that is not easy” – and it was difficult to think of another time, other than when Barcelona visited Manchester in November and he described Lionel Messi and Neymar as “almost unstoppable”, that City’s manager has sounded so fulsome about an opponent.

“As a spectator, it is so nice to see them,” Guardiola said. “I am really impressed how good they are. The full-backs play like wingers, the wingers play like attacking midfielders. The two strikers are fighters – Falcao and Germain, they are killers in the box. Both holding midfielders – Silva and Bakoyoko – are intelligent, physically strong. A complete team. It is the most successful team in Europe in terms of scoring goals and a tough draw.”

“I’m looking forward to playing against them and seeing what our level is and I just have compliments because they are a really good team. I know how tough PSG can be in the French league. Yet this season Monaco are top, four or five points ahead, and that shows how good a job Jardim has done.”

Three points actually but it is easy to understand the gist when Monaco are averaging almost three goals a game in Ligue 1, historically a defence-minded league, and needed only eight home matches, with 31 goals, to go past their total of 30 for the whole of last season.

Two years ago, Monaco won their Champions League group with four goals in six games, whereas this season they scored nine times. Rudi García, the Marseille manager, summed it up rather neatly after his side were beaten 4-0 at Stade Louis II in November. Monaco, he said, would “score even if asked to play blindfolded”. The sides played again in Marseille last month – and Monaco won 4-1.

For City, it is another occasion when they need to show they should no longer be classed as Champions League novices. Guardiola was still keen to make the point that the club were on a learning curve, pinching his finger and thumb together to sum up what he meant by their “short history” at the top end of European football, but this is their 47th Champions League tie since september 2011, and last year they reached the semi-finals. By this stage, they should have the hang of it.

What they will need is the kind of balance between attack and defence that has not always been apparent this season. Sergio Agüero, back in the team because of Gabriel Jesus’s broken metatarsal, needs to rediscover some of his old stardust – “We are going to talk with him, like with all his team-mates, to convince him in these two games,” Guardiola said – and Yaya Touré’s role as the deepest-lying midfielder could be crucial to negate Monaco’s counterattacking threat.

Touré was rested from the FA Cup tie at Huddersfield with this game in mind, while Willy Caballero is probably entitled to think he deserves to start in goal ahead of Claudio Bravo.

Guardiola, hired with the specific job of bringing the European Cup to Manchester, sounded like he wanted City to embrace this competition in a way that was seldom the case under Manuel Pellegrini or Roberto Mancini.

“The passion, how beautiful it is, how amazing it is to be here again,” he said. “We are lucky guys. Always I play these games and think: ‘Wow, I’m lucky’ because I know how difficult it is as a manager, like a player, to be here.”

“I want to convince the players to enjoy the moment because it is beautiful. All of Europe will watch us. They will kill us if we don’t win, or say how good we are if we do. That is a huge experience and it’s beautiful to live it.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com