Preview: Manchester City vs. Newcastle United

  • City are unbeaten in 13 games vs. Newcastle (11-0-2)
  • Newcastle have never won at the Etihad
  • Man City scored in every home game in 2012-13, the only team to do that

The first Monday game of the season has arrived as Manchester City host Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium (3pm ET, watch live on NBCSN or NBC Sports Live Extra) later today.

City’s new manager Manuel Pellegrini will be making his home debut in front of a packed house in Manchester, with Newcastle aiming to get off to a good start in one of the most daunting venues in the league.

Pellegrini has bought big this summer, with Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo, Stevan Jovetic and Jesus Navas all arriving for over $135 million. All four of the new men are expected to start for City, with their defense set in stone after an impressive season at the back in 2012-13 City kept more clean sheets, 18, than any other team last year and also conceded just 34 goals.

But these new signings will give them an extra impetus up front.

As for Newcastle, it has been a turbulent summer at St. James’ Park after Joe Kinnear was controversially appointed in the front office. Owner Mike Ashley has placed Kinnear above manager Alan Pardew and Newcastle’s fans aren’t happy with the situation in the North-East. Star striker Papiss Cisse is back on the pitch after threatening to walk out of the club following a money-lending company became the Magpies shirt sponsor. Cisse has put his religious dispute to one side and will now lead the line.

As for injuries, Sergio Aguero has overcome a knee complaint and should feature but Matija Nastasic is still out with an ankle injury. While Newcastle have fitness doubts over Davide Santon (hip), Steven Taylor (toe) and Jonas Gutierrez (hamstring). And Newcastle’s only new signing of the summer, Loic Remy from QPR, is unavailable after a calf injury.

Make sure you tune in to NBC Sports Network or watch online via NBC Sports Live Extra to see City clash with Newcastle in what should be an end-to-end encounter.

What they’re saying

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew: “They’ve again invested heavily, Manchester City. They’re obviously going to be one of the contenders for the title so it’s a tough game for us but we’re more than ready for it.The ideal scenario is to get a result of any kind and I think we’ve got the players to do it. We carry some fabulous players – (Yohan) Cabaye, (Fabricio) Coloccini, Papiss Cisse – so we’ve got an opportunity and hopefully we can take it.”

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini: “Of course the new players – and the manager and staff – all need to time to get to know each other and I am sure that we will improve as the season progresses but we do not have that time; we have to hit the ground running and that starts against Newcastle. Supporters of Manchester City have the reputation of being a big family and I am delighted to be part of it. My job now is to win trophies and take the team forward.


I can see this ending up as comfortable win for Man City. The new players will look to put on a show in their first home game and new manager Manuel Pellegrini will be fired up, yet composed, to get his first season in the Premier League underway. Newcastle are great going forward but not so good at the back. Expect a goal-fest and a City win.

Pique finds solidarity with criticized NBA players

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There have been a number f outstanding pieces in The Players’ Tribune since its launch, but few as colorful and entertaining as Thursday’s entry from Gerard Pique.

The Barcelona star center back spilled the beans on any number of funny stories in his post, from Roy Keane’s cell phone anger and Sir Alex Ferguson‘s guiding hand to Lionel Messi’s greatness and more.

[ MORE: Zlatan in MLS an auto success ]

But perhaps most interesting was his take on the grief he’s received for supporting the vote for Catalan independence. Pique points out that he’s been proud to represent the Spanish national team, but won’t veer from his democratic beliefs.

And guess what? Even in Spain, athletes rightly bristle at the “Stick to Sports” crowd.

It’s funny, I noticed some people in America have started telling the NBA players to “just shut up and dribble” when they express their opinions on real problems in society.

It’s ridiculous, no?

It’s the same here in Spain. They say, “Just shut up and play football. It’s all you know.”

Sorry, but I will not just shut up and play. It’s not all I know. There’s a lot more depth to footballers than most people realize, and I think it’s important that we express ourselves and our views.

Given relative health, Zlatan’s success MLS is close to automatic

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The only question is his knee at his age.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is coming to Major League Soccer. Having confirmed his departure from Manchester United, the announcement that the living Swedish legend is joining the LA Galaxy is expecting next week.

[ MORE: MLS Weekend Preview ]

Some have asked whether he’ll cut muster in the league, to which we point to the lead: Few players have arrived to MLS with as dominant a career as Ibrahimovic, and the Swede would need his knee to fall apart in order to fail in California.

The man’s game isn’t based on speed, but it does require his abnormal power and grace. He scored just once for United in very limited time this season, but don’t forget how dangerous he was against Premier League and Europa League defenses last season.

He scored 28 goals with 10 assists last season, with 17 and 5 coming in league play. He was suspended for three matches and injured for seven, meaning this is a 20-goal Premier League scorer arriving in MLS within a calendar year of doing so.

Try putting his resume in perspective: Didier Drogba was extremely good for Montreal but a half-decade removed from his last double-digit goal PL season (Don’t forget that Drogba bagged 11 in 11 to start life on our shores). Robbie Keane was about the same time removed from his run of 10-plus goal seasons in the Premier League. He was good for LA.

The only risk here is that Ibrahimovic never gets healthy and LA takes a bit of a loss on his salary (one which is at least partially negated by the sheer number of Ibrahimovic Galaxy jerseys sold).

Entering this season, Ibrahimovic had failed to score 15 goals once since 2006. He’a also had a fairly religious assist output (10+ most years). With names like Alessandrini, Kamara, and dos Dos Santos, this should be a stand-up double if not a homer for LA and for MLS.

Plus the vicious looks after teammates miss him badly with a pass, let alone the press conferences and paparazzi hits: This should be a lot of fun.

MLS Weekend Preview: Friedel’s Revs get NYCFC test

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It’s an international break, and Major League Soccer is only sorta observing it.

More than half of the league’s clubs will participate on Saturday match days, with several shorthanded by national team duty.

[ MORE: Southgate on racism in football]

Columbus won’t have Zack Steffen and Wil Trapp for a visit from DC United — who is missing Zoltan Steiber, Bruno Miranda, and Oniel Fisher — while the Red Bulls will be without Tyler Adams, Kemar Lawrence, and Michael Murillo for Minnesota United’s visit.

NYCFC won’t have Alexander Ring, Ronald Matarrita, and Rodney Wallace, Portland’s without David Guzman and Andy Polo, and Sporting KC loses Daniel Salloi.

The Whitecaps won’t have center back Kendall Waston, while opponents LA Galaxt are without Ola Kamara.

New England Revolution vs. New York City FC — 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Brad Friedel‘s New England revolution, purposely lower case, is making believers out of its players. It would take a giant step if it could slow the NYCFC juggernaut. The visitors have allowed just one goal in their 3-0 start.

As for the hosts, Friedel has made his mark in a way that mostly makes you wonder what in the world Jay Heaps was doing:.

(Bunbury) pointed to a fine system in the locker room, increased accountability, how Friedel posts the starting XI on game day, and occasional two-a-day training sessions, which never occurred in the forward’s four years under Heaps.

“I think it unifies the team,” Bunbury said. “The broad sense of professionalism, it’s about having respect for each other and making sure you are held accountable in every part of this club.”

Never occurred under Heaps? Woof.

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers — 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday

FCD had an uninspiring ending to their CONCACAF Champions League dreams, but that’s little compared to the Timbers’ 0-2 start under Gio Savarese. A trip down South isn’t a surefire way to right the ship.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LA Galaxy — 10 p.m. ET Saturday

A long trip up North is only made worse by a laundry list of injuries for Sigi Schmid’s Galaxy. We’re only listing it amongst our Top Three because an LA win would be wildly impressive given the ‘Caps strong start.


Columbus Crew vs. DC United — 6 p.m. ET Saturday
New York Red Bulls vs. Minnesota United — 7 p.m. ET Saturday
Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting KC — 9 p.m. ET Saturday

Mourinho: “People with brains” understand Man Utd in transition

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Jose Mourinho’s been having a little fun on his international break, “managing” a team of superstars including Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt in a charity match.

[ MORE: Southgate talks racism in football ]

Speaking CNN as part of a publicity run, Mourinho was asked about Manchester United’s second place campaign and disappointment after dropping out of the UEFA Champions League.

Mourinho reiterated his position that United is a team in transition, and that the season is going along at an acceptable clip.

“I understand the frustration, I understand the sadness of being knocked out in the Champions League, but I don’t understand anything more than that,” Mourinho said to CNN’s Amanda Davies.

United has scored the third-most goals in the Premier League, and allowed the fourth-fewest. It’s drastically reduced its propensity to draw matches, which hurt its table position last season, and has already surpassed last season’s goal total.

Two more wins, 10 goals better differential, and the list goes on but unfortunately also includes crosstown rivals running away with the league and still alive in the UCL.

“Of course in the future we want to have 19 clubs behind us but this is the reality,” said Mourinho. “And the reality is for people with brain, with sense, with common sense, with knowledge of what sports is, we are in a moment of transition. Being in a moment of transition and still manage to do what he did last season and win trophies and to do what we are trying to do this season, which is still trying to win a trophy, and try to be second, because in this moment it’s the only top position that is possible for us to get. I think we are in a good position.”