Premier League Preview: Manchester City vs. Everton

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  • Manchester City have won just two of their last 12 Premier League meetings with Everton, losing nine
  • Everton have the same record (W3, D3) after six games as they did in 1986-87, their last title winning season 
  • Manchester City have scored eight goals from crosses in the Premier League this season; twice as many as the next best side

Everton makes its way to the Etihad Stadium to take on Manchester City this Saturday (7:45 am ET on NBCSN, watch live via NBC Sports Live Extra) with the Toffees aiming to extend their strong recent Premier League record against City and Manuel Pellegrini’s side looking to stop a two match skid.

For Everton, they enter the match on the heels of an impressive 3-2 victory over Newcastle. The Monday night match saw the Blues jump out to a 3-0 lead at halftime behind a Romelu Lukaku brace and Ross Barkley’s second goal of the season.

Roberto Martinez’ men took their foot off the gas in the second half of play and were punished for their arrogance, as Newcastle made it a match by finding the net twice in the second half. It was the third league victory in a row for Everton, having also defeated West Ham United and Chelsea after beginning the season with three straight draws (Norwich City, West Bromwich Albion, Cardiff City).

source: Reuters
David Silva’s return from injury will be a major boost to City.

For Manchester City, Saturday’s match represents the opportunity to change the tides after dropping all three points at Aston Villa last weekend and losing 3-1 to Bayern Munich in Tuesday night’s Champions League action. Lapses in defense continue to plague the Citizens, with the center-back combination of Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic no longer looking as impressive as it did last year.

The Villa and Munich loses came on the heels of an impressive Manchester Derby victory, where Pellegrini’s men had the look of champions. They pounded their rivals with four goals, bringing their league unbeaten streak to three games after drawing 0-0 with Stoke City and beating Hull City 2-0 . That streak followed a shock 3-2 defeat at Cardiff City after an impressive 4-0 victory over Newcastle in the season opener.

Coming into the season many Evertonians worried the club would suffer under the possession-based attacking style of play of Martinez. The general consensus was that the Toffees would need 6-12 months to adjust from the conservative, defensive style David Moyes implemented at the club during his 11 year tenure. But the recent unbeaten streak has removed the fear and made believers out of the Everton faithful, who are all too happy to see their side keep the lion’s share of the ball.

The new recruits into Goodison Park are impressing as well. With James McCarthy and Gareth Barry in the holding role Everton are confident defensively and creative on the bounce. Bringing in Romelu Lukaku to lead the line was a stroke of genius and his connection with fellow countryman and winger Kevin Mirallas is one that opponents would do well to not take lightly. With Ross Barkley in the holding role and Leon Osman or Steven Pienaar on the wing, the Blues’ attack is one with pace, creativity and bite.

Manchester City is undergoing a similar metamorphosis under Pellegrini. Some matches (against Newcastle and Manchester United) they’ve looked like world beaters and others (Cardiff City, Stoke City and Aston Villa) they’ve struggled. Having dropped points in all three road matches, it’s easy to say that City struggle on the road but one can’t discount the impact of a new manager trying to excel both domestically and in Europe.

For City, it’s about shoring up a leaky defense. Kompany needs to continue asserting himself on the pitch and a second center-back, whether Nastasic or Joleon Lescott, needs to step up and prove himself. Improvements also have to be made between the sticks where the blunders of Joe Hart continue to plague the side, leading some to believe Costel Pantilimon deserves a shot.

City will welcome the league return of David Silva after being sidelined with injury while Martin Demichelis (knee) and former Everton man Jack Rodwell (muscle problem) remain out. The loan deal between Everton and City will prevent Barry from featuring and the Toffees will hope Darron Gibson (knee) can replace him. Everton will await to see whether Kevin Mirallas (ankle) can go while Pienaar (hamstring) is likely out.

The match, guaranteed to be an entertaining affair, kicks-off this Saturday, at 7:45 am ET live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra.

What They’re Saying 

City manager Manuel Pellgrini on players over tactics: “It is important to have players with a high level of technical qualities if you want to win titles. But added to this high level of technical qualities you need to put together a tactical system, so everything functions well within the team on the pitch. You need to defend and attack as a team and not defend or attack with individual players.”

Everton manager Roberto Martinez on City’s loss to Bayern: “I don’t think it was one of those games [versus Bayern Munich] which you can feel hurt by because the quality of the opposition was clear to see. That’s why they are European champions. I don’t think there is any shame to lose against a side like Bayern Munich. . . . You feel like they [Manchester City] will want to respond and get back to winning ways so that’s why we will need to be perfect in many ways. We need to be prepared for a real reaction from Manchester City.”

Everton midfielder Gareth Barry on strategy against his parent club: “The lads will know enough about the team [Manchester City] without my input but if anybody needs advice they can ask me…. They [Everton] have always been tough to beat when I was on the other end of it. If the manager [Martinez] sets the team up as hard to play against but try and create problems for them at the other end then I’m sure we are capable of getting a result there. The manager won’t be too defensive – he will go there and want the lads to play their normal game and create problems [for Manchester City].”

Prediction

Beaten at home by Bayern Munich following a shocking loss to Aston Villa will have City revved to go. But the Toffees have long been City’s bogey club and if Mirallas is healthy to play, his connection with Lukaku could give Pellegrini’s side major headaches. City is heavily favored (20/33) but I think this one ends in a share of the points.

Orlando City trades defender Jose Aja to Whitecaps for allocation money

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The Vancouver Whitecaps have struck a deal with an Eastern Conference side to help solidify their back line.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Johannsson leads Werder Bremen to win ]

On Saturday, the Cascadia club finalized a deal to acquire Orlando City defender Jose Aja in exchange for $125,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) for 2019.

Additionally, Orlando could receive another $100,000 in TAM if Aja remains on the Whitecaps roster next season and a 2021 second-round MLS SuperDraft pick if Aja is in Canada for the 2020 campaign.

Aja has made 25 appearances for Orlando since coming to MLS in 2016 from his native Uruguay.

The timing of the deal is intriguing, given Tim Parker’s willingness to exit the Whitecaps ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

PST reported on Thursday that Parker is seeking a move back to the East Coast, and the New York-native is being tracked by several Eastern Conference sides, including the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United and the Montreal Impact.

Parker is considered one of the top American defenders in MLS, and is actively seeking a massive pay raise ahead of the new season, after making just under $100,000 in 2017.

PL Sunday preview: Red Devils battle Chelsea at Old Trafford

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It will surely be one of the biggest fixtures of the season when Manchester United and Chelsea get together on Sunday, and for both clubs a victory could be vital in projecting their form for the rest of the 2017/18 campaign.

Meanwhile, a crucial meeting at Selhurst Park pits teams on opposite ends of the table against one another. Crystal Palace enters the weekend levels on points with 18th-place Swansea, while Tottenham could leap Chelsea for fourth if results go in favor of Spurs.

[ MORE: Liverpool continues to score at lightning pace against West Ham ]

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The injury bug has hit Palace hard as of late, with a total of 12 senior team players being left out of Roy Hodgson‘s squad. The list includes Wilfried Zaha, Yohan Cabaye and Mamadou Sakho, which won’t make things easy against a talented Spurs side.

Tottenham have had a ton of success in this fixture recently, winning the last five encounters and only allowing one goal in the process.

Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have hit the ground running in the second half of the season thus far, picking up a league-high 15 points in the Premier League since the start of 2018.

If there is a saving grace for the Eagles though, it is that Palace has been solid at home this season, and gone unbeaten in nine of its last 10 fixtures at Selhurst.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN

After a pair of draws from the PL sides kicked off their Champions League Round of 16 campaigns midweek, United and Chelsea can now focus their attention back to England; at least for the time being.

Jose Mourinho’s team came away from Seville with a crucial scoreless draw after the hosts tested goalkeeper David De Gea on numerous occasions, while Chelsea were close to pulling out a victory against Barcelona had it not been for a big-time mistake from Andreas Christensen late in the match.

Nonetheless, this is a fixture that always garners significant attention, especially from the Blues, who tend to have a better go of it. United has won just once against Chelsea in their last 14 fixtures, with the lone victory coming last season.

That said, Antonio Conte and his side have failed to exemplify consistency this year, and that includes road matches. The Blues have just two road wins in their last nine attempts across all competitions, which bodes well for the Red Devils.

The good news for Chelsea is the recent form of attacking duo Willian and Eden Hazard. The Brazilian was constantly in dangerous positions up the pitch against the Blaugrana in their recent UCL encounter, nabbing the lone goal for the Blues, while Hazard has scored six times in his last six PL matches.

The 2 Robbies: Unstoppable Liverpool, Man United-Chelsea and more

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In today’s episode, Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe discuss Liverpool’s emphatic win over West Ham (0:17), breakdown an extremely complicated relegation situation where nearly half of the league is in jeopardy of going down (10:05), before closing the show with a preview of tomorrow’s Man United v. Chelsea match (28:10).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

La Liga & Serie A: Real Madrid dominates, Messi stars

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Madrid 4-0 Alaves

Cristiano Ronaldo and Real are finding their form at the perfect time, and that should concern a lot of teams in Europe.

Although La Liga is likely out of reach given Barcelona’s brilliant play in 2017/18, the Madridistas have turned up another gear in the second half of the season.

Ronaldo’s brace on Saturday lifted Real to yet another victory in Spain’s top flight, and the club’s run in all competitions simply won’t be halted. Over their last seven matches, Real has scored an absurd 26 goals.

Barcelona 6-1 Girona

For two minutes, Girona looked like they were going to be en route to a stunning victory at the Camp Nou. That was only for two minutes though…

Lionel Messi decided to steal the show, in typical Messi fashion, sparking four unanswered goals before halftime from the Blaugrana, including two from the Argentine international.

The superstar forward picked out Luis Suarez for the equalizer in the fifth minute, before unleashing two brilliant goals of his own. Suarez found his second of the game prior to halftime, before completing his hat-trick in the second stanza.

For every piece of brilliance that Messi completed though, Philippe Coutinho did his very best to show up his teammate in the second half. The former Liverpool attacker bent a tremendous curler into the far corner in the 67th minute to extend the lead, and it was a thing of beauty.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Celta Vigo 2-0 Eibar
Leganes 0-0 Las Palmas

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Villareal vs. Getafe (6 a.m. ET)
Athletic Bilbao vs. Malaga (10 a.m. ET)
Valencia vs. Real Sociedad (12:30 a.m. ET)
Sevilla vs. Atletico Madrid (2:45 p.m. ET)


Inter Milan 2-0 Benevento

For the time being, Inter is up to third place in Serie A. The Milan side still sits a ways away from league leaders Napoli and Juventus, however, Inter managed to pass both Roma and Lazio with the victory on Saturday. The defeat for Benevento keeps the bottom dwellers firmly buried at the bottom of Italy’s top flight, 11 points behind 17th-place Crotone.

Bologna 2-0 Genoa

Second-half goals from Mattia Destro and Cesar Faletti helped Bologna move into 11th in Serie A on Saturday, while Genoa sits three points behind in the table. Faletti, who was only on the field 10 minutes prior to scoring, nabbed his first Serie A goal of the season in the outing for the hosts.

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Crotone vs. SPAL (6:30 a.m. ET)
Fiorentina vs. Chievo (9 a.m. ET)
Hellas vs. Torino (9 a.m. ET)
Sampdoria vs. Udinese (9 a.m. ET)
Sassuolo vs. Lazio (9 a.m. ET)
Juventus vs. Atalanta (12 p.m. ET)
Roma vs. AC Milan (2:45 p.m. ET)