Man City captain Kompany hints at contract extension: I feel mobile and strong

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany is not thinking of leaving the Premier League champions, insisting that even at 32 years old, he retains the ability to keep playing at the highest level.

The Belgium international centre-back’s career has been dogged by injury problems in recent seasons, but he has shrugged those off and claims that he is still improving all the time.

With just a year left to run on his contract, he is confident of extending his association with the club, which began in 2008.

“I think what people have never really understood with me is that aside from having had some injuries I’m actually really lucky to be a really good athlete naturally so I still feel mobile, I still feel strong, that I’m improving and I’m learning so much more about the game,” he told the club’s website.

“I’m enjoying the game more than I’ve probably ever enjoyed the game. Probably my first year at City and this last year now have been the best in my career so you want to make it last as long as you can, for sure.”

Kompany, who was previously with Anderlecht and Hamburg, feels honoured to have made a successful career at the Etihad Stadium, where he has tasted Premier League success on three occasions.

“Every club you sign for they give you the same pitch: ‘We’ve got a big project, big ambitions, we want to achieve this and that, we want to kick on,’ and I just happen to be lucky that City was the one club that didn’t lie about it,” he said.

“When City came calling I researched the club, but when I first came through the door it was weird, it was a big club but at the same time a small club.

“A big club because of the history, the fanbase, the stadium, and small because of the state of the facilities where we were training, the culture a little bit towards winning, and the lack of pressure there was.”

After a record-breaking haul of 100 points in the Premier League last season, there is little doubt that Pep Guardiola’s men are the team to beat this time around, and they have already won their opening two fixtures of the campaign.

Next up for the defending champions is a trip to Wolves on Saturday, before a match against Newcastle rounds off their schedule before the September international break.

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Middlesbrough v West Bromwich Albion Betting Tips: Latest odds, team news, preview and predictions

Championship promotion contenders Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion meet at the Riverside Stadium on Friday night.

The match not only pits the team with the division’s best defensive record with the freest-scoring outfit, but it also sees Tony Pulis face his old club for the first time since his December departure.

Pulis won promotion with Stoke in his last full season at this level and is 15/8 (2.88) with bet365 to reach the Premier League again this term, while West Brom are 2/1 (3.0) to go up.

Latest odds

Middlesbrough are 13/10 (2.30) to record their fourth league victory of the campaign, which would see them go top of the table at least until Leeds kick-off at Norwich on Saturday.

The visitors are 21/10 (3.1) to win a third league game on the bounce and they will certainly not be short on confidence after last week’s 7-1 demolition of QPR.

Chris Brunt West Brom

Darren Moore though is likely to employ a more conservative strategy akin to the one we saw in the 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest earlier this month and another tie is 9/4 (3.25).

Team News

The Baggies have a clean bill of health, so the dilemma for Moore is whether to name an unchanged side to discover some tactical consistency or acknowledge the step up in opposition by making one or two defensive tweaks.

Daniel Ayala is pushing for a start after making the substitute’s bench in Boro’s 2-0 win at Bristol City, but centre-backs Dael Fry and Aden Flint are unlikely to be dropped after helping the team record three consecutive wins to nil.

Stalemate in store?

Middlesbrough West Brom graphic

Against a Pulis side, West Brom will certainly not be able to steam through as effortlessly as they did against QPR.

Equally, Boro create the bulk of their chances through route one football and set pieces, but Baggies centre-backs Ahmed Hegazi and Kyle Bartley are sufficiently strong aerially to deal with that type of approach play.

Although both teams are more than capable of threatening in scenarios that suit them, we could see a stalemate here. For those keen on exact score plays, the 17/2 (9.5) on a 0-0 draw looks appealing.

Preview and predictions

Our best bet is the 12/5 (3.40) on under 1.5 goals, which will land if the game finishes goalless as suggested above, but gives us an element of insurance should either side manage to find a winner in what could be a very tight encounter.

Odds correct at the time of writing. Please gamble responsibly.

Betting Banner - Best BetUnder 1.5 goals 12/5 (3.4) with bet365

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The French Connection: Pablo Chavarria – The Argentine journeyman who found a home at Reims

At 30 years old, success has not been quick to come to Reims striker Pablo Chavarria. 

Yet two weeks into the Ligue 1 season, the striker has helped lift his club to the top of the table with a perfect six points alongside Paris Saint-Germain.

Although the Champagne club stormed to the Ligue 2 title last season with a record number of points and wins, they were not expected to make such a strong start to life in the top-flight.

Reims Amiens Ligue 2 190517

A trip to Nice and a home match against Lyon were fixtures that they were expected to lose – even a point would have constituted a strong return, and yet David Guion’s side can look down on teams with more illustrious recent histories.

Two-time European Cup finalists, Reims are no longer among the very best in France, let alone Europe, yet their bustling Argentine frontman is hopeful that they can re-establish themselves as a top-flight force.

“It’s an ambitious club with a great infrastructure,” the Boca Juniors fan said. “The aim is to do better than we managed last year, individually but especially collectively.”

Chavarria was one of the driving forces behind his side’s record-breaking campaign, scoring 14 times and chipping in with a further nine assists.

Pablo Chavarria Reims Ligue 2

“This year, we have to build upon what we’ve done and I think we can stay up,” he explained on the eve of the Lyon fixture.

Although born on the other side of the world, Chavarria is no stranger to France, having travelled to the country for a trial at Sochaux aged just 14. He was offered a deal but turned it down on the grounds that he did not speak the language and didn’t understand anyone, preferring to return home to play for Belgrano de Cordoba, where he would remain for six years before moving back to Europe with Anderlecht.

Although he earned Champions League minutes with the Belgians, he was ultimately shunted out on loan to Eupen and Kortrijk before hopping across the French border to Lens. 

His physical style suited the French game and a move to Reims was completed in 2016. He has thrived since, unsettling defenders in his combative manner for five years now, albeit only once in the top flight.

“We’re not scared of anyone,” he said before the beginning of the season – and the manner in which he plays backs that statement up. 

David Guion Reims Ligue 2

His goal against Lyon last weekend – the only strike of the match – typifies his strengths. With 32 minutes gone, he powered onto a cross from Ghislain Konan to send a downward header bouncing into the net. 

Grace may not be his strength, but he is an important player to the coach.

“He’s someone I can rely on,” David Guion said. “He’s old and will look after my young offensive players. He’s an example in terms of his industry and willingness to sacrifice himself. He’s demanding of himself and puts everything on his side to succeed. He’ll help us a lot this year.”

Reims will not maintain their current position alongside PSG for the duration of the season, but if the table was decided on effort and commitment, they would be champions – and their star player would be their journeyman Argentine forward.

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‘Emery benefiting me a lot more than Wenger’ – Iwobi

Alex Iwobi has confessed that since Unai Emery took charge of Arsenal he has become a sharper and better player than he was under Arsene Wenger.

Emery was handed the post vacated by Wenger in the summer, with the Frenchman stepping down after nearly 22 years in charge. 

While the former Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla coach has yet to get off the mark in terms of Premier League points – the Gunners have lost to both Manchester City and Chelsea – Iwobi believes he has already improved.

“It’s benefiting me a lot more,” he said when discussing the coach’s methods to Arsenal Player. “It’s making me feel a bit sharper, I’m doing things with a bit more intensity. It’s not just for me, though, I feel like I’m helping the team a lot more.”

Iwobi joined the club aged nine and now at 22 he had not known any other coach to lead the Gunners other than Wenger until the summer.

“It’s exciting times to be fair,” he said of Emery’s arrival. “Everybody’s enjoying and buying into the new ideas. For me personally, I’m enjoying the new sessions, the new training methods and the new ideas, so I’m enjoying my time with him.

“He demands a lot. He’s a lot more intense, a lot of high pressing and keeping the ball so that it benefits us if we have the ball. It’s good for us, especially the attackers who like to have the ball a lot.”

Last season, the Nigeria international made 39 appearances for the club across five different competitions and is hopeful that he can enjoy even more pitch time under the Spaniard. He accepts, however, that will require hard work.

“Whenever something in the system changes, you have to prove yourself again,” he said. “But wherever you go, you have to prove that you’re better than whoever else is on the team. At a team like Arsenal, that’s always going to be hard, so I always have to be on it in training and matches.

“I’ve got to be different. It’s going to be hard because we’ve got so many attackers and so many world-class players, so I’ve just got to prove that I’m on that level or as good as them so that I can be ahead of them, which is my aim.”

Before the September international break, Arsenal host West Ham then travel to Cardiff City, fixtures Iwobi will be doing his utmost to make a mark in.

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‘A great signing’ or ‘a huge mistake’ – Rebellious Rabiot the right kind of character for Barcelona?

Adrien Rabiot is Paris Saint-Germain’s problem child, a player who has long polarised opinions.

His ability has never been in doubt, though.

“He’s a player of an excellent level technically,” Barcelona legend Xavi recently told Mundo Deportivo.He could play perfectly as a central midfielder at Barca…

“If Rabiot comes, he’d be a great signing.”

Would he, though? Rabiot undeniably has the talent, but does he have the temperament to succeed at Camp Nou? Is he the right kind of character for Ernesto Valverde’s team?

His fiery attitude has been called into question on many occasions before, with his decision to remove himself from France’s reserve list prior to the 2018 World Cup having caused huge controversy.

Labelled petulant, immature and ungrateful by a stunned press, the 23-year-old then continued to hit out at coach Didier Deschamps for omitting him from the full squad. 

Adrien Rabiot Xavi PS

“If I decided to withdraw from the list of alternates, it is because I consider that the choice of the coach towards me does not answer any sporting logic because for all these years the message was clear, it is the performances in a club which open the doors of the national team,” he asserted.

Deschamps response? “I can understand the disappointment, the immense disappointment, but to take such a stance… 

“I dare to hope that through some decisions like this it will allow him to mature, to reflect.

“I am convinced that he made a huge mistake in taking such a position.”

Would Barca not be making an equally big error in paying €50 million (£44.9m) for a player who has never proven easy to manage?

Certainly, his mother and agent, Veronique, has hardly helped matters. 

Her bullish approach to handling her son’s affairs first reared its head back in 2008 when the midfielder was just 13, when, after orchestrating a move to join Manchester City, she terminated his stay in England after just six months, citing the club’s unsatisfactory treatment of her boy as an explanation for his premature departure. 

At PSG, in 2015, she even handed in a transfer request on behalf of Adrien, as she felt he wasn’t featuring enough for Laurent Blanc’s side. He had only just turned 20 and was a regular in the matchday squad.

Veronique also demanded that any team interested in signing her son have an exciting project, be in possession of or be willing to sign a quality defensive midfielder, and guarantee that they deploy Adrien in his favoured position. 

Taking all of this into account, along with the agitation caused by his refusal to extend a contract that expires next summer, one begins to fully appreciate the risks involved in getting involved with the rebellious Rabiots. The potential for facilitating future dressing-room disharmony is obvious.

Adrien Rabiot Didier Deschamps PS

In addition, seeing as he will be available on a free transfer next summer if no one else snaps him up beforehand, Barca would surely be better off adopting a more prudent approach to a player who, after all, is not even their primary midfield transfer target.

Ajax starlet Frenkie de Jong is the man the Blaugrana really want but their hopes of signing the 21-year-old, who was this week included in the Netherlands squad, hinges upon the outcome of the Dutch side’s Champions League qualifier with Dynamo Kyiv. 

The Amsterdam outfit won the first leg on Wednesday night, 3-1, meaning it seems increasingly unlikely that Barca will indeed have to resort to Plan B: Rabiot.

He is certainly attainable but given PSG are interested in acquiring the exceptional Ivan Rakitic, the perfect example of professionalism, losing the classy Croatian for the questionable character of Rabiot would represent a massive loss for Valverde’s men, both on and off the field. 

Even if Rakitic were to depart, which is by no means a certainty given how happy he is in Catalunya, the competition for places in Barca’s midfield would remain intense, with the likes Philippe Coutinho, Arthur, Rafinha, Denis Suarez, Arturo Vidal and the versatile Sergi Roberto all vying for a starting berth in Rabiot’s favoured post. 

Although there’s tangible upside to securing a gifted operator like Rabiot, the timing and conditions, plus potential ramifications on the team, just don’t seem worth the risk at the present juncture. 

Rabiot is PSG’s problem child. Barcelona don’t need to make him theirs.

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