Premier League Preview – Southampton vs. Manchester City

Leave a comment
  • Southampton are on a run of three consecutive defeats, their worst run under Mauricio Pochettino
  • City are the PL’s top scorer with 40 goals, however only 11 of those have come away
  • Saints have the second best defense in the PL… despite letting in 8 goals in last three games

For most of the early knockings this season, Southampton have been the surprise package and have taken the Premier League by storm.

But three defeats on the spin has sent them back down the table and an injury-crisis is the last thing Mauricio Pochettino needs as Manchester City (watch live on NBCSN, Saturday 10am ET and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) roll into town.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are enjoying their best run of form since he took over and have won three straight games in the league to put them into the top four after a shaky spell, especially away from the Etihad Stadium, as they’ve lost four times already this season.

WATCH LIVE ON NBCSN AND ONLINE NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA, 10AM ET, SATURDAY

For Saturday’s game Saints are without eight first-team regulars as goalkeepers Artur Boruc and Kelvin Davis are missing, right back Nathaniel Clyne and central defender Jose Fonte are injured, midfielder Victor Wanyama has broken a bone in his leg, Morgan Schneiderlin is out plus Guly Do Prado is missing and Gaston Ramirez could be sidlined by illness.

Pochettino could have as many as seven teenagers in his squad as he prepares to take on City’s lethal attacking unit. Sergio Aguero has been on fire this season, scoring 16 times in his last 14 games and has formed a superb partnership with Alvaro Negredo up front.

It will be a big ask for Southampton’s makeshift squad to win anything more than pride on Saturday afternoon at St. Mary’s.

Then again, Pochettino’s first win in charge of the Saints came at home vs. City in a 3-1 win last February.

Can they repeat that against all the odds?

What they’re saying

Mauricio Pochettino on Southampton’s injury-crisis: “Of course, injuries always change your plans and your outlook. They will have a negative impact on you, but we need to keep on working and believing in the way we have done. I enjoy everything in football. Obviously, I’d prefer to enjoy the positive moments because no-one wants to go through negative times, but I need to be fully-focused and to relish these moments when they come around.”

source: AP
Red-hot striker Aguero is likely to be the difference between the two sides on Saturday.
Manuel Pellegrini on facing the Saints: “Pochettino is a great manager and someone who I know very well. I’m sure he is going to play with a strong team. It’s not good for any team to lose and I don’t know what happened them recently, they have a young team and a young manager. But they have a lot of good players; it’s a very good side.”

Prediction

The Saints will have to be at their best to pull this one off and without their two central midfielder, first choice goalkeeper, right back and center back, their lack of squad depth is going to be horribly exposed. I don’t think they can handle Aguero, Yaya Toure and the rest oc City’s attacking talents on Saturday and it could be a fourth loss on the spin for the Saints. Pellegrini’s men are on a roll and I don’t expect that to stop at St. Mary’s. Away win.

USL granted 2018 2nd-division sanctioning by U.S. Soccer

Photo credit: USL / Twitter: @USL
Leave a comment

U.S. Soccer has officially granted the United Soccer League second-division sanctioning, behind first-division Major League Soccer, for the upcoming 2018 season, as well as first-division status for the National Women’s Soccer League.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan unveiled by Liga MX side Club Leon ]

USL, which will feature 33 teams in 2018, had been granted temporary second-division sanctioning, alongside the North American Soccer League, in 2017. As NASL’s demise continued and accelerated — the league will not begin play this spring, opting instead for a late-summer kickoff, after a number of its teams either folded or jumped ship to USL — USL, with the help of MLS, quickly pounced to capitalize — from U.S. Soccer’s statement:

Sanctioning allows NWSL and USL to operate a Division I and II league, respectively, during the 2018 season and includes a two-year pathway to full compliance with the Professional League Standards. USL has demonstrated substantial progress toward reaching full compliance since being granted provisional Division II sanctioning in 2017.

Conspiracy theorist’s take: USL supplanted NASL as the U.S.’s second-most viable professional men’s league — and more importantly, being granted official second-division status — paves the way for MLS to, at some point well down the line — say, 2030 or so — implement its own multi-tiered system of promotion and relegation, featuring anywhere between 60 and 80 teams, while still remaining a single-entity structure closed to the lower reaches of the sport in America, as the lines separating MLS and USL have only become more and more blurred in recent years.

[ MORE: Donovan ready to “win championships” after ending retirement ]

MLS realizes that public demand for promotion and relegation in the U.S. has grown significantly louder in recent years — particularly given the climate of the sport after the men’s national team failed to qualify for the World Cup, and subsequent ongoing presidential-election campaign — thus an open-but-not-really-open system which satisfies neither side will eventually be the end result.

Wenger called ref Dean “not honest,” “a disgrace” to earn ban

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
1 Comment

LONDON (AP) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accused a referee of being “not honest” and called him “a disgrace” in a rant inside the match officials’ changing room that led to a three-match touchline ban for one of English soccer’s most experienced coaches.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

The English Football Association published Tuesday the written reasons behind its decision to ban Wenger for being abusive toward referee Mike Dean after Arsenal’s 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Dec. 31.

In his match report given to the FA, Dean said Wenger “was pointing aggressively at me saying, ‘You’re not honest’ on numerous occasions.” Dean then said Wenger said “you’ve done this to us many times before, you’re supposed to be professional, you’re a disgrace.”

[ MORE: Newcastle sale talks collapse — Staveley, not Ashley, out ]

Wenger had been incensed at Calum Chambers being penalized for a handball and West Brom converting the resulting penalty to equalize late in the game.

The FA said “there is simply no justification for this behavior” and considered a stadium ban for Wenger.

Wenger was also fined $54,200 for his conduct.

FA Cup: Leicester, West Ham survive replays to reach 4th round

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Two more Premier League sides reached the fourth round of the 2017-18 FA Cup on Tuesday, winning their respective replays and joining 10 other top-flight clubs already through to the next round…

[ MORE: Tuesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Leicester City 2-0 Fleetwood Town

Kelechi Iheanacho moved to Leicester from Manchester City for $33 million this summer and has, through his first half-season in the East Midlands, failed to live up to that price tag. In nine PL appearances, he is yet to score his first league goal. Tuesday, however, saw the 21-year-old Nigerian international put forth a bit production and performance more befitting a player of his promise and pedigree.

Manager Claude Puel picked a side consisting of first-team regulars and lesser-used squad players for the Foxes FA Cup third-round replay against League One side Fleetwood Town. It was Iheanacho, who started alongside/just behind target man Islam Slimani, who shown brightest with a pair of goals, in the 43rd and 77th minutes, to send Leicester into the fourth round. Iheanacho’s second, the one that put the game away for Leicester, was originally ruled out for offside, but was eventually after consultation of the video-assistant referee.

Leicester will travel to League One side Peterborough in the fourth round, on Sat. Jan. 27.

[ MORE: Newcastle sale talks collapse — Staveley, not Ashley, out ]

West Ham United 1-0 (AET) Shrewsbury Town

It took far longer than Hammers fans would have liked — or expected — but West Ham, over the course of 120 minutes, survived the Cupset bid of third-division Shrewsbury Town. With eight minutes remaining before Tuesday’s replay went to penalty kicks at the London Stadium, 21-year-old defender Reece Burke fired home from inside the box to break the scoreless deadlock.

West Ham will be away to the winner of the replay between Bournemouth and Wigan Athletic (Wednesday), on Sat. Jan. 27.

Elsewhere in FA Cup replay action

Mansfield Town 1-4 Cardiff City
Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Carlisle United
Reading 3-0 Stevenage

Wednesday’s FA Cup replay schedule

Chelsea vs. Norwich City — 2:45 p.m. ET
Swansea City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 2:45 p.m. ET
Wigan Athletic vs. Bournemouth — 2:45 p.m. ET

Report: Newcastle sale talks between Ashley, Staveley collapse

Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images
1 Comment

Talks between Mike Ashley and Amanda Staveley over the much-desired and -rumored sale of Newcastle United are off, according to a report from Sky Sports and various other UK news outlets.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Sky has quoted a source close to Ashley as having said: “Attempts to reach a deal (with Staveley) have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time.” (Full quote below)

Ashley, the club’s current and long-beleaguered owner, has been seeking a potential buyer since putting the club up for sale back in October. Staveley emerged as the front-runner (the only runner, perhaps) in the days following Ashley’s announcement, and reportedly tabled an offer of $335 million in early December before reportedly offering something closer to $400 million a couple weeks later.

Ashley selling the club — and doing so before the end of the January transfer window, which now appears nigh impossible — appeared to be one the few scenarios in which Rafa Benitez would remain the Magpies’ manager beyond the end of the current Premier League season (Newcastle currently sit 15th, just three points clear of relegation) after constant rumors of his discontent and lack of financial backing last summer.