City squad bond with hopes of a top-4 ending

LONDON • The Manchester City squad enjoyed a team bonding session at the cinema on Wednesday as part of Pep Guardiola's 46th birthday celebrations.

The City manager took in an afternoon screening of romantic musical La La Land at the Printworks Odeon in Manchester city centre.

After completing an early training session, he invited his players and staff to watch the film.

They accepted, which is being viewed from inside as a show of togetherness between the Spaniard and his players.

Guardiola will need the backing of his players for the rest of the season if he is to breathe life into a stuttering title charge.

Inconsistent form has cost his team deeply and they face the prospect of failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in six years.

City slumped to their fifth league defeat of the season on Sunday when they were hammered 4-0 away to Everton.

They are 10 points behind leaders Chelsea with 17 matches left and if they remain in fifth and fail to win the Champions League then they will drop into the Europa League next season.

Yet Wednesday's show of solidarity may encourage City fans who are worried about their team being on the end of another defeat tomorrow evening when Tottenham Hotspur visit the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola was handed a boost before the match after Brazilian starlet Gabriel Jesus yesterday formally completed his move from Palmeiras.

The club agreed to sign Jesus on a five-year contract in August, but the 19-year-old was immediately loaned back to Palmeiras until the end of the Brazilian season in December.

With City having now completed his registration, he could make his City debut tomorrow.

"I want to win titles and Manchester City is a club that is used to winning," he said in comments published on the City website.

"City is a club that always competes for the title in the competitions it enters, so that was an important factor, and because of the manager, Guardiola, and the squad."

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2017, with the headline 'City squad bond with hopes of a top-4 ending'. Print Edition | Subscribe