Manchester City v Newcastle United - Premier League

Manuel Pellegrini already proving his worth at Manchester City

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Unsettled prior to taking the field at the Etihad Stadium, Newcastle proved an easier opponent than most expect. That they were already underdogs meant Manchester City, one of the Premier League’s favorites, were likely to roll over the Magpies tonight. And they did. The game proved a much easier debut than Manuel Pellegrini could have possibly expected.

Given how City played from the opening whistle, however, it’s impossible not to give the Citizens’ new manager a huge dose of credit. Each weekend we see good teams overwhelm bad ones, but it’s relatively rare that we see the sword swung from the opening moments. For every 7-0 shellacking Barcelona gives an opponent, you’ll see handful of dominant but less ruthless performances from teams like Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Chelsea. But while creating four chances in the first six minutes, City began with an intensity that spoke to their preparation.

Still, attitude is only one facet of a team’s preparedness. Another is having a plan in place, and in the way City executed, there was no doubt you were watching a Manuel Pellegrini team. The formation — a fluid 4-4-2 using two interiores above the midfield’s sitting pair — was reminiscent of what Pellegrini’s used elsewhere, most successfully at Villarreal. Possession-based, though favoring opportunism over gratuitous ball-hogging, Manchester City’s architect would have been obvious had you missed his spring arrival.

Perhaps because they’re broadly based on a 4-4-2 system, Pellegrini’s ways produce a particular kind of balance, one that can manifest as the today’s dominance or the opportunism we saw last spring from Málaga. While pushing Borussia Dortmund to the brink in Champions League, Málaga weren’t afforded the same control City had today, but while maintaining a straight forward approach that helps ensure a confidence of movement and a certainty of position, the system is proved versatile. It has all the virtues Roy Hodgson espouses of his 4-4-2’s, yet augmented with elements of flexibility and style — allowing talented players more room to read and adjust to each others’ tendencies — Pellegrini’s approach product is more attractive. It’s also more likely to work with extremely talented, more ambitious teams.

This was why so many were high on Pellegrini’s move to Manchester – why former Barcelona executives Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain were so keen to bring him from Málaga after Pep Guardiola chose Munich. His spells at Villarreal, Real Madrid, and Málaga never won leagues (as Roberto Mancini’s backers noted), but they were also never favored to do so. His accomplishments at those clubs (second place finish; second-highest all-time season points total; Champions League quarterfinal appearance), augmented by his titles in South America, are more than enough to justify Pellegrini’s support.

Ultimately, days like todays will do more to win over doubters than anything on Pellegrini’s CV. Those who didn’t want Mancini fired aren’t holding grudges, but when the inevitable down points of the season befall City, it will help to have them convinced. With a couple more performances like today’s, City fans will be soon be Pellegrini faithful.

Premier League preview: Chelsea vs. Burnley

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Eden Hazard of Chelsea is challenged by Michael Keane of Burnley during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Burnley at Stamford Bridge on February 21, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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  • Blues unbeaten in four PL matches vs. Burnley
  • Burnley have allowed just one goal in last five PL fixtures
  • Diego Costa averaging goal every 137 minutes with Blues

Chelsea host Burnley on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports) as the two sides meet for the first time since the 2014/15 campaign.

The Blues haven’t looked convincing for an entire match to open the new season, but Antonio Conte’s boys have gotten the results necessary to remain unbeaten through two weeks.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE 

Diego Costa remains the biggest threat for Chelsea to start the season, netting two goals in as many matches. Meanwhile, offseason signing Michy Batshuayi has already shown promise of his own, netting his first Premier League goal against Watford before scoring twice to help the Blues advance against Bristol Rovers in the EFL Cup on Tuesday.

Despite bailing out of the EFL Cup midweek, Burnley is still riding a major high after last weekend’s 2-0 victory against Liverpool.

Sean Dyche’s men don’t have the flashiest team, but the Clarets already look better equipped to stay up next season than they did back in 2014/15. Sam Vokes offers Burnley with an experienced striker, but he’ll need to continue to fire if the Clarets are to find sustained success.

What they’re saying

Conte on Burnley’s return to the Premier League: “I watched their performance against Liverpool and also against Swansea. It was a fantastic performance against Liverpool from a physical and tactical aspect.

“They put great pressure on Liverpool for the whole 90 minutes. It’s incredible because only one year ago many people paid attention to ball possession. This game was 25 percent ball possession for Burnley, and 75 for Liverpool, and the final result was 2-0 to Burnley.”

Dyche on Burnley’s attempt to stay in PL this season:  “We’re differently equipped and we still need players, we’re working hard on that, but it’s a different group,” he said of the 2014-15 team that last played in the top flight. We had to change the group from losing players at the beginning of last season and the team’s morphed slightly differently.

“We keep doing that and trying to get a team. What everyone would deem the impossible challenge for a club like us, we want to make it possible. We said that two years ago and didn’t quite get there. We want to do that again this year. It’s obvious we’re not leading the market with finance, depth of squad, but what will become apparent, and it already has, is we are willing for the challenge and we’ll give every inch of ourselves to achieve what we want.”

Prediction

The Blues boast the talent, but as they showed against Liverpool, Burnley possesses enough quality to absorb pressure and grind out results. That said, Conte’s group should only get better as the season progresses, and Diego Costa is already firing on all cylinders. Chelsea 2-0 Burnley.

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]