Champions League

Champions League: High-flying Manchester City set sights on unprecedented quadruple sweep

Pep Guardiola's men kick off a run of four matches in as many competitions on Tuesday against Basel in their round of 16 clash.

The club record £57 million capture of French centre-back Aymeric Laporte took Manchester City’s spending on defence in the past year beyond the budgets of many nations. But the Frenchman could be the final piece of a more than £200 million defensive overhaul to provide the foundations in City’s quest for a historic quadruple.

Pep Guardiola’s men kick off a run of four matches in four different competitions on Tuesday with a return to Champions League action at Basel in the first leg of their last 16 tie. An FA Cup 5th round tie at Wigan follows before Arsenal await in the League Cup final and then another meeting with the Gunners in the Premier League – where City boast a 16-point lead at the top of the table.

However, it is for the Champions League stage that Guardiola was lured by City’s Abu-Dhabi owners and given enormous resources with which to mould an all-conquering squad.

“I have always dreamed of big things and one of them being the Champions League,” said Laporte on his arrival from Athletic Bilbao on last month’s transfer deadline day. “That is the number one objective.”

Virgil Van Dijk’s £75 million January move to Liverpool means Laporte is only the second most expensive defender ever. But City now boast four of the top six in that category with Benjamin Mendy, Kyle Walker and John Stones also costing a combined £150 million over the past 18 months.

Goalkeeper Ederson’s performances have justified his £35 million purchase from Benfica in the summer, whilst Danilo has largely been used as a back-up in both full-back roles despite also setting City back £27 million from Real Madrid in the summer. It is therefore little surprise that Guardiola’s complaints that he “had no players” with which to fill his bench in a recent 1-1 draw at Burnley were met with little sympathy.

‘Same style’

However, it does raise questions over whether another strengthening at centre-back was what needed from a January window in which they missed out on more forward thinking targets in Alexis Sanchez and Riyad Mahrez. Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus will miss both legs against Basel due to long term ankle and knee injuries respectively, whilst David Silva’s role in 2018 has been limited due to the premature birth of his son and injury.

“We have had a lot of injuries – Gabriel Jesus, David Silva, Benjamin Mendy – but hopefully we can fight for every game in all competitions,” said Guardiola, who has changed his tune since describing the prospect of a quadruple as “unreal” earlier in the season.

“We can try and do absolutely everything.”

Sergio Aguero’s four-goal haul in disposing of Leicester 5-1 on Saturday suggests City will have the firepower in the Argentine to see of the Swiss champions whilst they hope to have Sane and Jesus fit in time for the quarter-finals.

At the other end of the field, Laporte fits in perfectly with Guardiola’s ideals with his left-foot bringing added balance alongside Stones or Nicolas Otamendi. “My build up play is important and also my ability in the air,” said Laporte on his biggest strengths.

“I have always followed Pep’s teams at other clubs too and I have always loved the way they play...we have the same style of play.”

Yet, despite his huge price tag the 23-year-old’s deficiencies were also exposed when he was outpaced by Jamie Vardy for Leicester’s equaliser at the Etihad on Saturday to offer some hope to those aiming to derail City’s path on all four fronts.

(With Inputs from AFP)

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.