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Man City crowned 2020-21 Premier League champions

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Pep Guardiola’s side have had to wait to rubberstamp their latest triumph, following changes to the fixture schedule and their own slip-up.

A late defeat to Chelsea last weekend as closest rivals United won at Aston Villa kept City’s champagne on ice but they finally reclaimed the Premier League title from Liverpool before kicking a ball again as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were beaten 2-1 on Tuesday after making 10 changes to their starting line-up.

City have now won three Premier League titles and eight major trophies under Guardiola, who last year signed a new two-year contract to remain at the club until 2023.

City boss Guardiola described this season’s title win as the “hardest one” and dedicated the triumph to the fans who have had to stay away from the matches and the late, great club icon Colin Bell, who passed away earlier this year.

“This has been a season and a Premier League title like no other. This was the hardest one. We will always remember this season for the way that we won. I am so proud to be the manager here and of this group of players,” Guardiola said in a statement.

“They are so special. To come through this season – with all the restrictions and difficulties we’ve faced – and show the consistency we have is remarkable. It is relentless. Every single day, they are there, fighting for success, trying always to be better. They have been so, so resilient.

“That is equally true of each and every member of our backroom staff, who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that our players are fully equipped to take on the unexpected challenges and new routines throughout such a turbulent year.

“Not forgetting, of course, all of the staff across our organisation who work to make this club the success it is. Whether that’s been from the offices at the City Football Academy or working from home, the efforts of every employee in such trying circumstances have contributed to this achievement.

“At the start of every season, the Premier League is the most important title for us. This is the one where you have to be there every three days, playing all your rivals home and away. Only by being the very best, week in week out, can you win this competition. It is a huge success.

“It is so important to say a huge thank you to all our fans. In our toughest moments, we couldn’t hear the crowd get behind us as usual, but we know they are with us everywhere we go and that has lifted us. I promise them we sense their love, we appreciate it and we could not have done what we have done without it.

“I hope we can all celebrate together one day not too far away. It has been such a hard year for so many people. This one is really for our fans and for Colin Bell and all his family.”

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Chelsea pair Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner out for some matches

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Lukaku twisted his ankle in a tackle which led to a penalty and Werner hurt his hamstring while running – both in the first half.

“It will take a while for both of them, and we will need more examinations to be precise,” said Tuchel.

“They will be out for some matches.”

Chelsea have a relatively straightforward run of games against Norwich, Southampton in the Carabao Cup, Newcastle, Malmo and Burnley.

Record signing Lukaku, 28, has not scored for Chelsea in seven games after four goals in his first four matches.

“If I knew what would happen beforehand I would not have done it (started the pair), but how can you know it before?” said Tuchel.

“It was necessary that Romelu was on the pitch. He started strong, I spoke to him about it, about mental fatigue carried around with him.

“But he’s our number nine and our reference up front. And the best thing for mental fatigue is a goal.

“He took the foul to win the first penalty so maybe without him it’s not 2-0.”

Andreas Christensen put Chelsea ahead and Jorginho scored two penalties – either side of a Kai Havertz goal.

German Werner, 25, has only scored twice in 10 games this season.

Tuchel said: “The race is on, the guys who start against Norwich have our trust and we will try to find new solutions.

“We have won games before without Werner and Lukaku, we don’t want these problems too often but it happens during a season.”

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No room for niceties as Suarez and Liverpool reunite again

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Luis Suarez reunites with Liverpool in the Champions League on Tuesday and for another 90 minutes, a fans’ favourite and cherished former club will have to be enemies again.

He flicked the ball away as Liverpool tried to take a throw. He confronted Fabinho, hoping to stir a reaction. Fabinho was booked for the challenge that followed, Suarez rolling on the floor, hands clasped around his leg.

“I just can’t get enough,” the Liverpool fans once sang. Now it was: “Cheat, cheat, cheat”.

Liverpool triumphed, a historic comeback turning a 3-0 first-leg defeat into a 4-3 win on aggregate, Suarez’s anguish only adding to the satisfaction. They adored Suarez playing for them but despised him playing against them and at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday, they will expect nothing different.

In an interview with the BBC last year, Steven Gerrard talked about Suarez agitating even his teammates in training.

“He went against them, he struggled with them, he raised his elbows and I thought, ‘This is not what you normally see in training’,” Gerrard said. “Normally, you see a lot of respect, but Luis would crush anyone.”

It was that same drive and defiance that made Suarez join Atletico Madrid after being cast off by Barcelona.

Suarez told Diario Sport this month he was “treated like he was 15” by Ronald Koeman and the club president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, “leaked that he was damaging the dressing room”.

Suarez had not enjoyed his best season for Barca and there was an argument to say his style was depriving the team of a more mobile, free-flowing attack. But he wanted to show he still belonged to the elite and wanted to show Barcelona close up. He scored 21 goals in 38 games for Atletico last term and the one goal that won them the title.

Diego Simeone called it “the Suarez Zone”, a tendency to deliver when it matters most, and before the international break, there he was again, scoring in 2-0 win over Barcelona.

He celebrated by making a phone gesture in the direction of Koeman, seemingly in reference to their 40-second goodbye call.

He spoke of his close relationship with Liverpool’s staff and how his children learned the excitement of football in the city. He posed for a photo, giving a thumbs up next to the club’s crest on a wall.

None of that was insincere. Liverpool was the club that raised Suarez from a precocious talent at Ajax to one of the most feared strikers in the world.

With them, he had shared joy and despair. When Liverpool missed out on winning the Premier League in 2014, a pivotal defeat by Crystal Palace left him crying under his shirt. But now Suarez was celebrating their disappointment and the Liverpool fans remembered. In the second leg they booed and heckled as Suarez got to work again.

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Man City hope to have Ederson, Jesus ready for Brugge clash

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The British government said this month that fully vaccinated Premier League players could travel to red-list countries during the international break and train or play when they quarantine for 10 days in “bespoke facilities” on their return.

The duo were in World Cup qualifying action against Uruguay in Manaus last Friday and missed Saturday’s 2-0 Premier League victory over Burnley having been asked to travel directly to Belgium for the European game.

“They’re in Belgium right now. I think they told me they can play, but we’ll see in which condition we have time to prepare a training session,” Guardiola said.

“Because we have to train here. They’ll not be here, so I have to think about it. We sent them there because the day after Brugge they can come back and make a normal life.

“If they had come back directly to Manchester, they would have been isolated for 10 days in one hotel. We didn’t want that and that’s why they traveled to Belgium. Maybe they’re able to play, that’s the good news.”

City won their Group A opener against RB Leipzig 6-3 before losing 2-0 to Paris St Germain to sit third in the standings.

“I love the pressure. I know what we have to do. We have to win. We know that,” Guardiola added. “We live all the time on the edge. Now we rest. We don’t have much time.”

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