Man of the Match: Of course, it was Yaya Touré. While Vincent Kompany got the big goal on Monday against rival United, it’s usually the Citizens’ midfield general that comes up with the big goals. On Sunday, that goal came in the 70th minute, with Touré opening his right foot on a 20-yard shot, slotting the game-winner one foot inside Tim Krul’s left post.
Packaged for takeaway:
Though the winner came relatively late, this match took a predictable form. After an initial feeling out period, City started the slow process of breaking down a Newcastle side playing as if they knew they were second best. By the end of the first, City was consistently creating chances down their left, with a Davide Santon intervention on the line needed to keep Gareth Barry from putting City up near intermission.
“Can they get to halftime?” It’s the question that’s always asked in these scenarios. It’s clear one team is vastly better than the other, but if the underdogs can just make it to intermission, they’ll get to reset. Maybe they can extend that momentum-less, expository opening to the second half into the game’s last half hour, when they can hold on for dear life. Yeah, Newcastle was way off City’s standard, but we’ve seen this match before. Once Howard Webb blew halftime, the idea of a 0-0 draw started to take hold.
The Magpies never looked capable of more. This was a team that could have moved third? It was hard to believe, based on their performance. There was no urgency, no drive, no sense that had been given an opportunity to cease control of their Champions League destiny. Their performance gave justification to all the patronizing analyses marveling how a plucky club like theirs could venture into places that should be far, far beyond their meager reach. Today, they approached this match more like an Fulham-esque upstart than a Champions League candidate.
This was most evident with Newcastle’s Senegalese striker tandem. We know Manchester City’s central defenders (Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott) can match up with anybody in England, but Sunday’s muzzling of Papiss Demba Cisse and Demba Ba was devastating. The only thing missing was Kompany taking an ether-drenched rang from his sock, sneaking behind Cissé and whispering “there, there” as he put him to sleep. “It’s all over now. You can rest, Papiss. You can rest.”
Still, for much of the second half, it looked like Newcastle could hold out, as City left Tim Krul wanting for action throughout the first 15 minutes. Slowly you saw wide midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa and Jonas Gutierrez creep deeper and deeper. “It’s happening,” you said to yourself. “They’re about the slip the switch, bunker, and bleed this thing out.”
Minutes later, Touré happened. On the ball 28 yards from goal, he got a pass away to Sergio Agüero just as Yoann Cabaye put in a challenge. With Newcastle’s midfielder unable to recover in time to track Touré, Agüero immediately played a ball into the space Cabaye vacated. Fabricio Coloccini couldn’t close him down in time, and with his impeccably placed shot, Touré instantly extinguished every flicker of hope Magpies’ supporters had kindled over the first 69 minutes.
Touré would go on to add a late second, but it could have been worse for Newcastle. He missed another easy chance in the 84th minute, while Agüero went wide on an opportunity in the 75th after being put in alone on Krul.
Newcastle’s shortcomings aside, it was a second stifling performance from Manchester City within the span of a week. On Monday they held Manchester United to no shots on goal, while Newcastle only generated one moment of danger.
City will close (what is assumed to be) their first Premier League title campaign next week against relegation-embattled Queens Park Rangers, a team bossed by Roberto Mancini’s predecessor, Mark Hughes. Newcastle travels to Everton needing help to from West Brom (hosting Arsenal) and/or Fulham (at Tottenham) to realize their Champions League dreams.
One of the biggest unanswered questions still hanging over the 2022 World Cup — at least for fans traveling to Qatar for the tournament — has to do with the rules and regulations placed upon their consumption of alcohol.
On Monday, Hassan Al Thawadi, the head of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup committee, attempted to ease those fears when he said that not only will the consumption of alcohol be permitted during the tournament in six years’ time, but that in the event of public drunkenness, the visitors in question will be dealt with quickly and “very gently” — quotes from the Guardian:
“I know in South Africa there where specific courts established during the World Cup for this kind of thing, and that is something we were discussing with FIFA.”
“In relation to drunk fans it will be as it is anywhere else, anyone who is rowdy, anyone who breaches the law, will be very gently – depending on how they react – taken care of in a manner to make sure that people are not disrupting the public order. Everyone will be able to have fun and be exposed to Qatari culture.”
“We welcome everyone in the world. We’ve hosted many people, from many places and [drinking] was never an issue. This will be a fun World Cup. It will be one of the best cups out there.”
Chelsea fans, quickly think up a few qualities and characteristics you’d like your club’s next manager to possess. Got your list? OK, good. Massimiliano Allegri ticks just about every box you’d hope your next manager would do, which is why there are plenty of rumors flying around linking Juventus’ current boss to the Premier League’s highest profile vacancy.
For staters, he’s young (48) and massively ambitious; he’s had plenty of success at his two most recent stops as a manager (2010-11 Serie A title with AC Milan; 2014-15 Serie A title, Coppa Italia triumph and UEFA Champions League runners-up with Juventus); and he boasts a successful enough playing career to command the respect of his players.
Juve aren’t going to let Allegri walk out the door without putting up a fight to keep their in-demand leader, though. The club’s general manager, Beppe Marotta, has warned Allegri that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side — quotes from the Guardian:
“In the space of one month we have to play in every competition: the league, the Coppa Italia and the Champions League. The next month will tell us a lot about how the whole season is going to play out.
“But we talk to Allegri about footballing matters, not about other matters. Beyond the contracts you have to sign there are the relationships you must build with people, and we’re happy with Allegri.
“All the conditions are right for us to continue with him as coach. Results are what count and Allegri has delivered plenty of those. Football is a business and the role of a coach is important when it comes to breeding continuity.
“Chelsea are a top club and it’s obvious that they’ll want to look at the best coaches. All I can say is that Allegri is already at a top club, so he’d do well to think twice before leaving Juventus.”
In the end, if Allegri wants to test himself at a higher level where league titles are anything but a foregone conclusion at the beginning of the season (Juventus are currently in pursuit of their fifth straight Serie A crown), Marotta and Juve stand little chance of changing his mind. Not even Bayern Munich could withstand the pull of the PL and keep hold of Pep Guardiola, just as Diego Simeone will one day join Jurgen Klopp and many others as foreign coaches who established themselves elsewhere and eventually ended up in England.
With roughly one-third of the schedule to play, there are four clubs within three points of automatic promotion to the Premier League and five more in or within shouting distance of the promotion playoffs.
So while we’re tracking the race to avoid PL relegation between Aston Villa, Sunderland, Norwich City and others, let’s take a look at who’s making bids to take their places.
Only one of last season’s relegated teams is far removed from the race to rejoin the Premier League, and that’s Queens Park Rangers. The R’s are 11 points back of sixth place, the final PL playoff spot.
Steve Bruce has Hull City in line for an instant return to the Premier League, but it’s far from sewn up. The Tigers have the Championship’s best goal differential (26), but are tied with Middlesbrough on points and just a point ahead of Sean Dyche‘s Burnley.
Also within a win of the Top Two is Brighton and Hove Albion, led by ex-Norwich City and Newcastle United manager Chris Hughton. He guided the Magpies to promotion, and also got Birmingham City to the playoff in 2012.
Also in the running
Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday would be headed to the playoffs if the regular season ended today, but either could drop out of the six within a single game weekend.
Ipswich Town is in 7th with 48 points, while Birmingham is a point back. And remember Vincent Tan? Cardif City’s 45 points have them in the discussion for a PL return.
Of those teams, only one carries an American player. That’s USMNT defender Jonathan Spector (right), the former Manchester United and West Ham United man.