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Pep Guardiola dedicates Man City win to imprisoned pro-Catalan leaders

Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus got Manchester City off to a flying start as they held off a late surge from Napoli.
Brian McBride describes Man City's win over Napoli as a tale of two halves, calling City's first half a joy to watch.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has dedicated his team's 2-1 Champions League win over Napoli to two pro-Catalan independence leaders imprisoned since Monday in Madrid for charges of sedition.

City triumphed at the Etihad stadium on Tuesday to make it three wins out of three in the competition and move three points clear of nearest rivals Shakhtar Donetsk at the top of Group F.

Ex-Barcelona player and coach Guardiola, who has been actively involved in the political campaign for pro-Catalan independence, had words of support for Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, leaders of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Omnium Cultural respectively.

Both were leading figures in an independence referendum on Oct. 1, which was deemed illegal by the Spanish government, and since appearing in Madrid's high court on Monday have been held in a Madrid jail without bail.

When asked about Sanchez and Cuixart at his postmatch news conference, Guardiola said: "It's a good time to dedicate them this win."

Guardiola added: "We have shown in Catalonia that citizenship is bigger than any ideas. Omnium and ANC have always acted with civility, expressing their ideas of what we want. Right now the situation is as it is and we hope they can be released soon because right now it feels as if we all were there."

More than 200,000 people protested in Barcelona on Tuesday evening over the pair's detentions and other demonstrations are expected across Catalonia this week.

Pep Guardiola v Napoli 20171017
Pep Guardiola has been actively involved in the political campaign for pro-Catalan independence.

When Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde was asked if he was concerned that the political unrest in Catalonia would affect his team ahead of Wednesday's Champions League game against Olympiakos at the Camp Nou, he told a news conference: "People come here to watch the game, to have fun. Hopefully tomorrow [Wednesday] will be just the same. But if people do want to express themselves in any way, that won't affect us."

La Liga president Javier Tebas, meanwhile, has warned of the negative financial impact that an independent Catalonia would have on Spain's football leagues.

"La Liga would lose between 20 percent to 25 percent of its business volume if the Catalan clubs leave the tournament," Tebas told El Pais. "We would have to renegotiate all the TV contracts and have a [top-flight] league of 17 teams [without Barcelona, Espanyol and Girona]. I hope this will not happen. I can't imagine a league without Real Madrid and Barca [together]."

Since taking the helm of the Liga de Futbol Profesional (LFP) in 2013, Tebas has been working on strengthening the finances of the country's 42 first- and second-division teams and pushing for La Liga to catch the Premier League in order to match its economic strength.

"This crisis could throw away all the good work we have done in La Liga," said Tebas, who corrected Gerard Figueras, the sports secretary of Catalonia, that Catalan-based clubs -- Barca, Espanyol, Girona, Reus and Nastic -- could choose which league they would like to play in if Catalonia was to claim independence from Spain.

"It's not true what the sports secretary of the Generalitat Catalana said, that Catalan clubs can choose where to compete if Catalonia claims independence from Spain. The law is very clear and cannot be changed from one day to the next. It has to be respected.

"If there is an independent Catalonia and the Catalan federation leaves the Spanish federation, Catalan clubs will not be able to compete in the Spanish leagues.

"I cannot lie to people. I cannot lie to TV operators with whom we've had to suspend international courses that we had arranged for these days. We've suspended for 15 days the sale in Turkey, Singapore and India. It's not the best of times to sell (TV) rights."

Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.

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