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.

Benitez happy to stay at Newcastle if he “has the tools to compete”

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Rafa Benitez is approaching something vaguely resembling sainthood in the northeast of England — with the Newcastle United-supporting portion, at least — but his future remains in doubt as the end of the current Premier League season draws nearer and the next one approaches.

[ MORE: Salah beats De Bruyne to win PFA Player of the year award ]

Benitez and Newcastle owner Mike Ashley have endured an unhappy working relationship for much of Benitez’s 25 months at the club. The Spaniard was true to his word, though, when he stuck around another season after being relegated from the PL in 2016, then again after winning promotion on the Magpies’ first attempt, but he’ll be faced with the same dilemma again this summer, even after guiding Newcastle to a mid-table finish (they currently sit 10th with five games left to play).

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Chelsea join them ]

If he’s not given assurances that he’ll be handed the necessary funds to properly strengthen his squad during the upcoming summer transfer window, the 58-year-old could very well walk away and leave Ashley to play the part of all-too-familiar villain. Or, as Benitez put it this weekend, Ashley could fork over “the tools to be capable of competing” and make everyone, from the manager to the fans, happy — quotes form the Guardian:

“If they [Ashley’s representatives] want to talk to my people [about a new contract,] they can talk. The main thing is to be sure we share the same ambition.

“I want to win games and I want to win trophies and I want to have the tools to be capable of competing. At the same time, I like to improve players, coach players, follow a business plan, a realistic business plan in modern football. I have no problem with that because I did it in the past.

“We have to be sure to have all the tools to compete and achieve what we want to achieve because Newcastle is a massive football club and we want it to reach its potential.”

Of course, the perfect scenario for everyone involved would have been for any one of the numerous takeover bids to have gone through during the last two years, but as was most recently evidenced earlier this year, Ashley and the Toon can’t seem to quit each other just yet.

MLS: Timbers end NYCFC’s unbeaten start; Seattle get 1st win

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Sunday was a very good day for a pair of green-clad Cascadia rivals, the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders, as the former put to end the unbeaten start of the best team in MLS, while the latter picked up their first win of 2018…

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS roundupOther MLS Things — The Archive ]

Portland Timbers 3-0 New York City FC

Through their first seven games, NYCFC were almost inarguably the best team in MLS (aside: how much better is their opening-day walkover of Sporting KC looking these days?), but Patrick Vieira’s side might as well have not even shown up to Providence Park on Sunday. Chalk it up to “it’s only one game,” or “these things happen in MLS,” or “NYC to Portland is a long trip for Russian clubs,” or any other credible rationale you prefer, but they were nothing more than 11 passengers for the whole of 90 minutes.

A quick look at the defending on all three of Portland’s goals…

Vieira was right at halftime, when he said his side was lacking intensity and aggression, and that it’d be nigh impossible to get back into the game in the second half if they continued to play that way. Spoiler: it was, because they did.

Just as I’ll not be rushing to judgment over NYCFC’s no-show performance, I’m not yet buying into the idea that Portland have figured things out defensively on the back of one clean sheet (their first of the season).

Seattle Sounders 3-1 Minnesota United

Speaking of firsts, Seattle are the proud owners of points — as in, more than one point — after putting three past Minnesota but almost fatally failing to kill the game off after going 2-0 up. I’m not sure what any defender in black is doing on this sequence…

Alas, Gustav Svensson, Will Bruin and Jordy Delem were far more clinical with their chances than the Loons…

Still, though, Seattle were completely helpless when it came time to grab control of the game while in a commanding position. Osvaldo Alonso is nowhere near the player he once was, which is a massive problem against teams that set up to counter-attack, as Minnesota did on Sunday. It doesn’t help that Roman Torres and Chad Marshall are the plodding center backs behind him.

The obvious answer to the midfield problem is to play Cristian Roldan deeper, alongside Alonso as they did en route to winning MLS Cup in 2016, but injuries to a number of key attackers have forced him into a de facto no. 10 role for the time being. These things will work themselves out with a bit of time, I suppose.

Full MLS scoreboard

Sporting Kansas City 6-0 Vancouver Whitecaps (Friday) — FULL RECAP
Montreal Impact 3-5 Los Angeles FC — FULL RECAP
Houston Dynamo 5-1 Toronto FC
New York Red Bulls 1-2 Chicago Fire
Columbus Crew SC 2-2 New England Revolution
Orlando City SC 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
FC Dallas 2-0 Philadelphia Union
Real Salt Lake 3-0 Colorado Rapids
LA Galaxy 0-2 Atlanta United

Salah beats De Bruyne to win PFA Player of the Year award

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LONDON (AP) Mohamed Salah has been voted Player of the Year by his fellow professionals in English football in recognition of an incredible scoring return to the Premier League with Liverpool.

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Chelsea join them ]

The Egypt forward collected the Professional Footballers’ Association award at a ceremony in London on Sunday, two days before Liverpool’s Champions League semifinal first leg against Roma.

It is a reunion with the Italian club he left in the offseason for 42 million euros (then $47 million). The hefty fee appeared to be a gamble for Liverpool but now represents a real bargain.

The former Chelsea player has scored 41 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool – enabling him to beat Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne in second place to the PFA award.

Tottenham striker Harry Kane was third.

[ MORE: Man City thrash Swansea in pursuit of points record ]

“It’s a big honor,” Salah said. “I’ve worked hard and I’m very happy to win it.”

Salah is preparing to lead Egypt into its first World Cup in 28 years and he is the first player from the North African nation to win English football’s top individual prize.

“Hopefully I’m not the last one,” he said. “I’m very proud to win and I’ve worked very hard.”

Salah’s impact has been more remarkable given his underwhelming 2014-15 season at Chelsea before being offloaded by then-manager Jose Mourinho. He went on loan to Fiorentina in early 2015 and Roma in 2016, and then on a permanent basis to Roma in August 2016.

Scoring 15 goals and setting up 11 more for Roma convinced Liverpool to bring Salah back to a second spell in England.

[ MORE: Liverpool draw West Brom in final tune-up before UCL semis ]

His goal at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday was his 31st in the league this season, tying the scoring record in a 38-game campaign held by Cristiano Ronaldo, Alan Shearer and Luis Suarez.

Suarez was the last Liverpool player to be crowned player of the year by the PFA in 2014 before moving to Barcelona.

It’s a sign of his remarkable impact that Salah secured the award with third-place Liverpool and that none of Manchester City’s newly crowned champions won the accolade.

But City winger Leroy Sane was voted PFA Young Player of the Year.

The PFA women’s player award went to Chelsea forward Fran Kirby, while Lauren Hemp of Bristol City secured the young player prize.

CONCACAF cancels women’s U-17 tournament due to violence

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) CONCACAF has canceled the rest of its 2018 Women’s Under-17 Championship following violence in Managua, Nicaragua, where the tournament began Thursday.

The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football made the announcement Sunday. The tournament was to have determined the region’s qualifiers for the Under-17 World Cup in Uruguay, which starts Nov. 13.

More than two dozen people have been killed since Wednesday according to the independent Nicaraguan Human Rights Center, though the government had acknowledged only nine dead. Dozens of shops in Managua were looted during protests and disturbances sparked by government social security reforms.

The U.S. opened Friday with a 4-0 win over Costa Rica and had been scheduled to play Bermuda on Sunday and Canada on Tuesday.