Huge blow for Manchester City, pivotal playmaker David Silva ruled out for 4 weeks

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Just when things looked to be back on track at the Etihad Stadium, wham, they’ve been dealt quite a blow.

Diminutive Spanish playmaker David Silva could miss up to a month after injuring his calf in the 5-2 UEFA Champions League win over CSKA Moscow and will definitely miss City’s trip to Sunderland on Sunday (watch live 9:05am ET on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra).

Silva, 27, has been in sensational form for the Citizens so far this season as he seamlessly links midfield with attack and has been the main reason behind City’s incredible offensive breakout as the league’s top scorers.

The Spanish international has scored three goals in seven league games and has also added three assists as his mesmeric dribbling and faint drops of the shoulder have torn opposition defenses apart. In their 10 PL games so far this season City have scored 28 goals, Silva has been quarterbacking that dominance.

Again, Silva’s been the pivotal cog in that well-oiled attacking machine but as Manuel Pellegrini revealed in his pregame press conference on Friday the Spanish star won’t be the only player missing for City on Sunday against Sunderland.

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David Silva, arguably Man City’s player of the season so far, has been ruled out for a pivotal stretch of games

“Obviously we have another day before we make any decisions but David Silva, Richard Wright, Stevan Jovetic and Vincent Kompany will miss the Sunderland game,” Pellegrini said. “Fernandinho and Matija Nastasic have slight problems but he could possibly be fit for Sunday.”

With Silva out, City’s Chilean boss is eager to assess how long Silva will be out for. Almost a month seems to be the general consensus.

“As I say we have some more time but we will have to wait and see. Silva has a problem with his calf so he could miss three or four weeks,” Pellegrini said.

However quickly the injury heals up, it’s bad new for City’s fans.

They adore their tiny playmaker and the nickname “Merlin the Magician” has adorned Silve ever since he played a major role in Man City lifting their first-ever Premier League title in 2011-12.

Over the next month City have some big games coming up starting with the away trip to Sunderland, home league games against Tottenham and Swansea, a Champions League clash with Viktoria Plzen a trip to West Brom.

It is though Silva could earmark the away trip to Southampton on December 7 for a potential return, but I guess the only positive for City right now is that the Spaniard will now have at least 10-12 days of complete rest as the upcoming international break arrives after this weekend.

They certainly have plenty of other talented attackers who can help plug Silva’s absence, but do they have anyone who can unlock an opposition defense with a quick flick or give-and-go like Silva can? I think not.

Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri can offer plenty of creativity, but they’re better served wide in City’s attack. Silva’s has been wrecking havoc in a more central area and his presence will definitely be missed over the next month or so.

It’s a massive blow for Man City, let’s see how Pellegrini’s men cope without their magician.

Spartak and Zenit fined in latest Russia fan racism cases

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MOSCOW (AP) Spartak Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg have both been fined for racist chants by their fans, the latest such incident in World Cup host nation Russia.

Spartak’s fans were accused of aiming monkey chants at FC Tosno player Nuno Rocha, who is black, while some Zenit supporters allegedly chanted a Nazi slogan during a league game.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

The clubs must each pay a 100,000-ruble ($1,600) fine, and Spartak has been hit with a partial stadium closure for its next cup game, state news agency RIA Novosti quotes Russian Football Union disciplinary committee head Artur Grigoryants as saying.

The verdict comes after FIFA charged Russia with racist abuse of France players during last month’s friendly.

Zenit has also faced two racism charges from UEFA this season.

Europa League: Arsenal, Marseille host semifinal 1st legs

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Arsenal’s Champions League dreams could be in for a rude awakening against tournament-tested Atletico Madrid.

The Premier League vs. La Liga match-up is one of two Europa League semifinal first legs set to be served up Sunday, with Marseille and Red Bull Salzburg meeting in the other.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

There’s something romantic about Arsene Wenger closing out his time at Arsenal against French opposition in Lyon, but Atleti and Salzburg won’t step aside for poetics.

Both matches kickoff ay 3:05 p.m. ET

Arsenal vs. Atletico Madrid

It’s a bit stunning that this tie has no history considering both club’s statures in their leagues and Europe, but that’s what we’ll se when Arsenal welcomes Atleti for the first leg.

Arsenal boasts two of the top 10 performers in the UEL this season — it would be three had the Gunners not sold Theo Walcott — and are paced by Aaron Ramsey, who has four goals and an assist. Mesut Ozil, who’s ready to return to the pitch, has the reverse with a goal and four helpers.

The Gunners have outscored UEL opposition 29-10 this season.

It’s no surprise that Antoine Griezmann has been Atleti’s best attacker since the Madrid side dropped out of the UCL to run rampant through the UEL knockout rounds. Atleti beat Copenhagen 5-1, Lokomotiv Moscow 8-1, and Sporting Lisbon 2-1 for an aggregate score line of 15-3.

Marseille vs. Red Bull Salzburg

Don’t expect this to be a simple case of Ligue 1 bossing inferior opposition: This pair met in the group stage, with the Austrian side winning at home and drawing 0-0 in France.

Salzburg has shown its mettle in various ways during the UEL. After allowing just one goal in an unbeaten group stage, they’ve won 4-3 over Real Sociedad, 2-1 against Borussia Dortmund, and 6-5 versus Lazio. That’s no easy road, and Marseille represents another big challenge.

Marseille is bidding to make its first European final since 2004, and has been led by Dimitri Payet‘s three goals and four assists, and Lucas Ocampos’ four goals and one assist. Marseille has knocked off RB Leipzig, Athletic Bilbao, and Braga after the group stage.

Names you’ll need to know from Salzburg: defenders Stefan Lainer and Paulo Miranda have been spectacular, and Munas Dabbur and Valon Berisha have each scored five times in the tournament.

Mourinho on longtime nemesis Wenger: ‘We can be friends in future’

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Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have had a poor relationship, but the former thinks he’s soon to get along with the latter.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

Manchester United boss Mourinho, 55, heaped praise on the departing Arsenal manager ahead of the two sides’ Sunday meeting at Old Trafford (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), saying the Frenchman has earned much respect.

Branding Wenger “iconic,” Mourinho says his fiery rivalry with Wenger stemmed from Arsenal’s stature in the Premier League when the Portuguese took over Chelsea.

“If he respects me even 50 percent of what I respect him we can even be friends in the future,” Mourinho told Sky Sports News. “I have lots of respect for him. But the reality is that he was at Arsenal, he was the champion and I came to the country in 2004 and wanted to steal his title. That’s football.”

Mourinho said he’s tried to show his respect for Wenger, 68, over the past few seasons. It may become a passable relationship, but we find it hard to believe the pair will be dining together on a regular basis as the sun sets on their managerial careers (Mou has a while to go, we think).

Real’s Modric on Bayern feeling unlucky: “That’s their problem”

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Bayern Munich produced far more chances than visiting Real Madrid in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg in Germany, but lost 2-1 at the Allianz Arena.

Franck Ribery butchered an open shot at goal, Robert Lewandowski beat Keylor Navas but didn’t score late, and Thomas Mueller missed getting contact on a shot inside the six.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

It was that kind of day, and Mueller is baffled that his team did not finish more than Joshua Kimmich’s opener.

“Everybody is wondering why this game is 1-2 for Madrid,” Mueller reportedly said. “We still cannot believe it.”

The quote comes from BeIN Sport’s Tancredi Palmeri, who has a stinging rebuke from Real Madrid maestro Luka Modric.

Real wasn’t great on Wednesday, but also limited their big mistakes to one: Marcelo’s lapse of judgment which helped Kimmich to open the scoring for Bayern Munich.

The hosts had a huge giveaway from Rafinha on the match-winner, and backup backstop Sven Ulreich didn’t have a phenomenal day on either goal. Throw in Arjen Robben’s injury requiring an 8th minute substitution, and Bayern did not have much good fortune on the day.

This one, though, doesn’t seem over, even with the tie moving to the Bernabeu.