Manchester City's manager Mancini listens to questions during a news conference at the club's Carrington training complex in Manchester

What’s at stake on UEFA Champions League Wednesday

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Porto head coach Vitor Pereira may believe “[t]here are no such things as favorites in [Champions League],” but there are certainly teams more likely to win games than others. Some might even call that a favorite. Pereira’s is team one, hence his dismissive, containing attitude ahead of the Dragons’ match with Dinamo Zagreb, even if Pereira’s right to be skeptical of frontrunners. Milan, Zenit St. Petersburg, and Manchester City — all in action on Wednesday — have failed to find results commensurate with their talent.

Those teams may still be hoping for a turnaround, but time’s running out. Wednesday marks the end of group stage’s fifth of six rounds. Up to seven teams could be eliminated after the day’s matches, and unless Luciano Spalletti and Roberto Mancini (right) can find solutions to their teams’ Champions League travails, Zenit and City will be among them.

Group A

Porto (Portugal) vs. Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia), Estadio Dragão, 2:45 p.m. Eastern
Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine) vs. Paris Saint-Germain (France), Olympic Stadium, 2:45 p.m. Eastern
Standings: Porto 10 pts, PSG 9, Dynamo Kyiv 4, Dinamo Zagreb 0

Calling a side’s last performance “weak-willed and unfocused” while claiming there could be “major changes during the winter break” might seem like a dangerous, potentially mutiny-inspiring way to approach an important match, but Dynamo Kyiv’s poor run of form leaves Oleh Blokhin little choice. Instead of gloss over his team’s woes ahead of Ukraine’s winter break, Blokhin’s made it clear. Sitting third place in league and staring at a probable relegation to Europa League, the team could be in for a major shakeup.

If Dynamo beat PSG, they stay alive ahead of a matchday six meeting with Dinamo Zagreb, against whom a win could put them through to the knockout round. In order for that to happen, PSG would have to follow their upset in Ukraine with a home loss to Porto, a team who’d likely have a knockout round birth sewn up. Even if with the Parisians coming off an embarrassing Saturday loss, that’s a lot of planets that need to lineup for Dynamo to be playing Champions League soccer come January.

Group B

Schalke (Germany) vs. Olympiacos (Greece), Veltins-Arena, 2:45 p.m. Eastern
Arsenal (England) vs. Montpellier (France), Emirates Stadium, 2:45 p.m. Eastern
Standings: Schalke 8 pts, Arsenal 7, Olympiacos 6, Montpellier 1

After taking four points off Arsenal, Schalke’s control of this group goes beyond their one-point group lead on the Gunners. Hosting Greece’s champions before visiting struggling Montpellier (who somehow managed a point in Gelsenkirchen), Schalke’s facing the easiest run-in possible. If form holds, they’ll earn first place and the benefit of an easier Round of 16 matchup.

Coming off a weekend loss in the Bundesliga (where they’ve dropped two of three), Schalke may be vulnerable, though it’s unclear how much of a threat Olympiacos will pose. The Greek champions haven’t lost since Oct. 3, but that’s against a kind Champions League schedule (back-to-back with Montepellier) and a weakened Greek league.

Schalke wins this game if they play to their potential, but what happens if they have an off day, like they did this weekend at Leverkusen? Can they still get three from Olympiacos?

Group C

Zenit (Russia) vs. Málaga (Spain), Petrovsky Stadium, 12:00 p.m. Eastern
Anderlecht (Belgium) vs. Milan (Italy), Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, 2:45 p.m. Eastern
Standings: Málaga 10 pts, Milan 5, Anderlecht 4, Zenit 3

Anderlecht “could be Alexandre Pato’s game,” insists Milan coach Max Allegri, who also talked up the improved form of Kevin-Prince Boateng and Robinho during his Tuesday press conference. Anybody who’s followed Milan’s season might be quick to accuse the embattled Rossoneri boss of burying the lead. These days, Milan is all about Stephan El-Shaarawy.

The 20-year-old Italian international scored twice this weekend in Naples, single-handedly helping Milan recover from a terrible first 30 minutes to claim a point at Napoli. With six goals in his last nine games (plus his goal for Italy against France last Wednesday), the former Genoa attacker is up to 11 all-competition goals this season. In a Milan season that’s been defined by disappointing results and the memory of sold stars, El-Shaaraway is doing his part to make up for the summer loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

If El-Shaarawy stays hot and gets help from the rest of Milan’s talented attack, the Rossoneri may be in the knockout round by day’s end. They’ll need a result from Málaga in St. Petersburg, but given how the two teams’ have fared in this year’s competition, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Manuel Pellegrini take three points from Zenit.

Group D

Ajax (Netherlands) vs. Borussia Dortmund (Germany), Amsterdam ArenA, 2:45 p.m. Eastern
Manchester City (England) vs. Real Madrid (Spain), Etihad Stadium, 2:45 p.m. Eastern
Standings: Borussia Dortmund 8 pts, Real Madrid 7, Ajax 4, Manchester City 2

Sometimes you wonder if Prozac might help Roberto Mancini’s press conferences.

“We don’t have much chance to go through,” he conceded on Tuesday. “It was a difficult group from the start and now it’s very difficult because of the mistakes we made in the first two games.”

The last two games have been much more damaging. Against Ajax — a team that should have been a distant fourth of four in this group — Manchester City claimed a single point. Had they claimed all six, they would still be fighting for a spot in the knockout round.

Thanks to Real’s stumbles against Dortmund (taking only one point in two games), City still has a chance to advance. Unfortunately, for Mancini, that means beating Real Madrid boss José Mourinho. The two will forever be linked after Mourinho replaced Mancini at Inter Milan, taking the Nerazzurri to a European title.

“[I]t’s not Mourinho v. Mancini,” the City boss said, “it’s between the players, they are more important than we are.”

Contrast that with Mourinho’s attitude.

“I don’t think it is normal when you are out of the competition at a very early stage,” was a combative Mourinho’s blunt assessment of the job his rival’s done in Champions League. “I speak for myself, and if Real Madrid lost a final, or a semifinal, or even a quarterfinal, that’s football. But when you are out at the group stage it is more difficult to accept and to understand. Last season, they were out [at this stage] and this season I think they will be out again.”

Even if City pulls off an upset, they could still be in last place come Wednesday night. Conversely, if Dortmund gets a result in Amsterdam, the German champions clinch a spot in the next round.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Fabinho to Manchester United, Chelsea in for Alonso

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - AUGUST 17:  Fabinho (R) of Monaco scores his team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League play-off first leg match between Villarreal CF and AS Monaco at El Madrigal on August 17, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
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Manchester United has looked strong at times during its opening two matches of the Premier League season, however, Jose Mourinho is still looking to bring in help.

The Red Devils are reportedly looking to add Monaco fullback Fabinho, but the reported move won’t come cheap, according to the Sun.

[ MORE: Bravo signs for City ]

The 22-year-old will command over $32 million, but it remains to be seen how desperate United is to meet Monaco’s fee. Two seasons ago, Manchester City was reportedly in the running to sign the Brazilian defender, but the price tag scared the club off after bringing Fabinho in to watch a match.


Marcos Alonso has become the latest target for Antonio Conte and Chelsea.

According to Sky Italy, the Blues have made an offer of over $22 million for the Fiorentina left back, as the Premier League side continues to chase defensive help before the end of the transfer window.

[ MORE: Solo ban about more than comments ]

Alonso has had a great deal of experience in England prior to landing in Serie A. The 25-year-old previously spent time with Bolton before joining Sunderland on loan in 2014.

Meanwhile, Chelsea continues to monitor centerback Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli, who has been seen as one of the team’s biggest targets during the transfer window since John Stones signed with Manchester City.


Sunderland looks set to bolster its midfield as the Guardian is reporting the Black Cats are closing in on a deal for Sevilla’s Vicente Iborra.

The 28-year-old has played a key role for Sevilla during its impressive run in the UEFA Europa League over the last three seasons, all of which the Spanish side has claimed the trophy.

Additionally, David Moyes and the Black Cats are reportedly interested in bringing back Yann M'Vila from Rubin Kazan. The French midfielder spent last season on loan at the Stadium of Light, and the combination of M’Vila and Iborra would certainly provide Sunderland with much needed help in Moyes’ first season in charge.

Premier League projected lineups, stats – Week 3

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City with his players during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Sunderland at Etihad Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Week 3 of the 2016-17 Premier League season is here and below you will find projected lineups for each team, plus some quick stats on the encounter.

[ MORE: “Goal Rush” to debut ]

With two weeks off after this weekend, it is time to make the most of the action.

[ MORE: Full TV schedule ]

Let’s take a look at the 10 games on Saturday on Sunday.


Hull City vs. Manchester United – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

  • 49 of Jose Mourinho’s 58 league defeats as a manager have come away from home (84%).
  • Mike Phelan was Manchester United assistant manager between September 2008 and May 2013 – during this time, United won three Premier League titles.

Projected lineups
Hull City: Jakupovic; Robertson, Davies, Livermore, Elmohamady; Snodgrass, Huddlestone, Clucas, Meyler; Diomande, Hernandez
Man United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Shaw; Pogba, Fellaini; Martial, Rooney, Mata; Ibrahimovic


Chelsea vs. Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

  • Chelsea have won the Premier League title in both of the previous seasons Burnley were in the division.
  • Burnley have picked up just two points from 11 previous visits to London in the Premier League (W0 D2 L9), scoring six times and conceding 28 goals.

Projected lineups
Chelsea: Courtois; Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta; Matic, Kante; Hazard, Costa, Oscar, Batshuayi
Burnley: Heaton; Lowton, Mee, Keane, Ward; Boyd, Defour, Arfield, Marney; Vokes, Gray


Watford vs. Arsenal – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

  • Watford have lost all six of their games against Arsenal in the Premier League, although they did beat the Gunners last season in an FA Cup quarter final match (2-1).
  • Watford have had the fewest shots on target (3), fewest total shots (11) and lowest number of touches in the opposition box (20) so far in the 2016-17 Premier League.

Projected lineups
Watford: Gomes; Britos, Prodl, Cathcart; Amrabat, Capoue, Geudioura, Behrami, Holebas; Ighalo, Deeney
Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Holding, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud


Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

  • This fixture has seen 136 goals scored in Premier League history, only three fixtures have seen more: Newcastle v Tottenham (138), Liverpool v Newcastle (138) and Tottenham v Arsenal (137).
  • Harry Kane has never scored a Premier League goal in the month of August, despite playing nine games and 545 minutes on the pitch in this month.

Projected lineups
Tottenham: Lloris; Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Dier; Lamela, Alli, Kane, Eriksen; Janssen
Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Henderson, Wijnaldum; Lallana, Mane, Firmino; Strurridge


Southampton vs. Sunderland – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

  • Sunderland have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last seven Premier League matches against Southampton (15 conceded).
  • Southampton have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last 14 Premier League matches; a run stretching back to February. Before this run, they’d kept six in a row.

Projected lineups
Southampton: Forster; Cedric, Fonte, Van Dijk, Targett; Hojbjerg, Davis, Clasie, Tadic; Long, Redmond
Sunderland: Pickford; Love, Djilobodji, McNair, Van Aanholt; Januzaj, Gooch, Rodwell, Pienaar; Defoe, Watmore


Everton vs. Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

  • Lukaku has not scored or assisted a single goal in any of his last 10 Premier League appearances for Everton, a run stretching back to March 19th.
  •  Stoke have scored just one first half goal in their last seven Premier League matches, with five of their six goals in this period coming after half-time.

Projected lineups
Everton: Stekelenburg; Holgate, Funes Mori, Williams, Baines; Barry, Gueye, Barkley, Deulofeu; Bolasie, Lukaku
Stoke City: Given; Bardsley, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters; Imbula, Allen; Shaqiri, Bojan, Arnautovic; Crouch


West Brom vs. Middlesbrough – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM ]

  • Alvaro Negredo has been involved in all three of Middlesbrough’s Premier League goals so far this season (one goal, two assists).
  • Saido Berahino has just one goal and no assists in his last 26 Premier League appearances for WBA (1420 mins played).

Projected lineups
West Brom: Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Olsson; Gardner, Yacob, Fletcher, Phillips; Rondon, Berahino
Middlesbrough: Guzan, Barragan, Friend, Gibson, Nsue; Downing, Clayton, Forshaw, Ramirez; Stuani, Negredo


Leicester City vs. Swansea City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

  • Swansea are winless in their last 12 games away to Leicester in all competitions (D3 L9), losing the last six in a row.
  • If Leicester City lose this match, they’ll be only the sixth defending top-flight champions to win just one point in their first three games of the following season (no sides have 0 points).

Projected lineups
Leicester City: Schmeichel; Simpson, Morgan, Hernandez, Fuchs; Mahrez, King, Drinkwater, Albrighton; Vardy, Musa
Swansea: Fabianski; Kingsley, Fernandez, Amat, Naughton; Cork, Fer; Routledge, Barrow, Sigurdsson; Llorente


Crystal Palace vs. Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

  • Crystal Palace have won just two of their 21 Premier League games in 2016 (W2 D5 L14).
  • Eddie Howe’s side have won three of their six away trips to London in the Premier League (W3 D0 L3).

Projected lineups
Crystal Palace: Mandanda; Ward, Tomkins, Dann, Souare; Townsend, Cabaye, Puncheon, Ledley, Zaha; Benteke
Bournemouth: Boruc; Franics, Cook, Smith, Daniels; Ibe, Cook, Surman, Fraser; King, Wilson


Man City vs. West Ham – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

  • Manchester City have lost only one of their last 10 Premier League meetings with West Ham on home soil (W8 D1), though it did come last time out in September 2015 (1-2).
  • Aguero has scored 37 goals in 47 Premier League games against London teams and six in eight league apps against West Ham United.

Projected lineups
Man City: Caballero; Zabaleta, Stones, Otamendi, Kolarov; Fernandinho, Silva; De Bruyne, Sterling, Nolito; Aguero
West Ham United: Adrian; Byram, Reid, Collins, Masuaku; Nordtveit, Kouyate; Antonio, Noble, Payet; Valencia


Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Big boys in business

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 15:  Olivier Giroud of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium on May 15, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Week 3 of the 2016-17 Premier League season is here. Let’s keep rolling before the international break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live online ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Click play on the videos below to hear my score prediction and preview of each game.

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Hull City 1-3 Manchester United – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Chelsea 4-0 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Watford 0-3 Arsenal – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Liverpool – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Southampton 2-1 Sunderland – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Everton 2-0 Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

West Brom 1-1 Middlesbrough – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Leicester City 2-0 Swansea City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Crystal Palace 1-2 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Man City 2-2 West Ham – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

WATCH, STREAM: Premier League TV schedule for 2016-17 – Week 3

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 20: Mauricio Pochettino, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur and Victor Wanyama of Tottenham Hotspur celebrate during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace at White Hart Lane on August 20, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images)
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Week 3 of the 2016-17 Premier League season as we prepare for a two week break following this weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

It all kicks off with Tottenham Hotspur hosting Liverpool (7:30 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) at White Hart Lane in a eagerly anticipated clash between two to four contenders.

Then Chelsea welcome Burnley to Stamford Bridge (10 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) with the Blues eager to not draw with the Clarets like they did at home two years ago as Antonio Conte‘s men aim to make it three wins from three to open up the season.

Rounding things off on Saturday, Hull City and Manchester United clash at the KCOM Stadium (12:30 p.m. ET live NBC and online via NBC Sports.com) with both teams looking to maintain their perfect record so far. Jose Mourinho’s men will be the heavy favorites but can beleaguered Hull shock everyone once again?

On Sunday West Bromwich Albion host Middlesbrough at the Hawthorns (8:30 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) with newly-promoted ‘Boro aiming to stay unbeaten. Rounding off the weekend, Pep Guardiola‘s Manchester City welcome injury-hit West Ham United to the Etihad (11 a.m. ET live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) as the Citizens aim to keep their 100 percent record intact.

You can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App, plus you can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at 10 a.m. ET for all the goals as they go in. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App,

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here. They are available soon after the final whistle, but rights limit us to a certain number each week. Looking for game highlights? Try this. Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.

FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday

7:30 a.m. ET: Tottenham vs. Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Chelsea vs. Burnley – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford vs. Arsenal – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Everton vs. Stoke City – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Bournemouth  – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Swansea City – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Southampton vs. Sunderland – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Hull City vs. Manchester United – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday

8:30 a.m. ET: West Brom vs. Middlesbrough – NBCSN [STREAM]
11 a.m. ET: Manchester City vs. West Ham United – NBCSN [STREAM]