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Today’s back pages: Pep Guardiola fears the sack if Man City lose to Real Madrid

Pep’s petrified

The lead story for most of the tabloids is Pep Guardiola’s fear that he could be fired if Manchester City fail to beat Real Madrid in the Uefa Champions League. 

Under the headline “Tough Love” (a tenuous reference to Valentine’s Day), the Daily Mirror says that the City head coach is under no illusions as to the importance of the Champions League last-16 clash with the Spanish giants. 

Similarly Metro says that should City fail to make it to the quarter-finals, Guardiola’s position will be under scrutiny given their poor form in the Premier League this season. 

The Express also covers the story with all the papers relaying Guardiola’s comments at a press conference yesterday when asked if he might be sacked before the end of the season.

He said: “It has happened many times and could maybe happen.”

City travel to the Bernabeu for the first leg on Wednesday 26 February. The second leg at the Etihad Stadium is on 17 March. 

Premier League returns: goodbye winter break, hello football

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Referee return

Stories are now so short on the sports desk because of the Premier League winter break that the Daily Star and the Daily Express both devote space to the return of disgraced whistle-blower Bobby Madley. 

Sacked two years ago by the Professional Game Match Officials Limited after sending a video to a friend mocking a disabled person, Madley will make his refereeing comeback next season as an official at League One and League Two level.

The return of the Premier League can’t come soon enough for the tabloids.

Itoje denies any wrongdoing

The Times reports on its back page that on the day Saracens’s main sponsor, Allianz, announced they were ending their eight-year association with the club, star name Majo Itoje denied all knowledge of any wrongdoing. 

England’s dominant rugby union club of the last decade have been relegated from the Premiership for breaching salary cap rules, but Itoje says he’s not to blame in any way. 

The England ace said: “When I entered into [the co-investments], they were all, to my knowledge, above board. There wasn’t even the slightest thought of it being not allowed by the salary-cap manager.”

Meanwhile, another of Saracens’s big names, England hooker Jamie George, has confirmed he is staying loyal to the club next season. 

“It will be different for each individual, but I want to stay at the club and to be part of the transition,” he told The Times. “We’ve got to make sure that we fight to keep the club afloat.”

Today’s sport headlines

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For analysis of the biggest sport stories – and a concise, balanced take on the week’s news – try The Week magazine. Start your trial today 

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