Six-goal win sees Manchester City embarrass West Ham in League Cup

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That Marcos Lopes got to play tells you all you need to know about today’s match in Manchester.

Lopes is an 18-year-old Manchester City academy product. He debuted last year in the FA Cup and added appearance in this year’s League Cup – the entirety of his professional playing career before he was brought on for David Silva in today. Yet up big late against West Ham, Manchester City had the exact scenario they must have envisioned when dressing the young Brazilian-born Portuguese, Lopes able to get 17 minutes in City’s 6-0 League Cup rout of the visiting Hammers.

It was City’s largest win ever over the Hammers, with Manuel Pellegrini’s team outshooting their guests 32-3 over the course of the tie’s first 90 minutes. West Ham managed one shot on goal while the Citizens tested Adrían 11 times, numbers which match the one-sided play evident at the Etihad.

And as embarrassing as Wednesday’s outcome was for Sam Allardyce’s team, they now face the ignominy of playing 90 more minutes before the tie is officially over. Two weeks from now, the teams’ will resume their semifinal at Upton Park, a perfunctory match that will do little to prevent City from appearing at Wembley in March 2’s final.

The teams’ difference in quality was apparent from the opening moments – not unexpected given the teams’ recent form, venue, and the early stages of the 180-minute battle. Still, it took only 12 minutes for City to turn their control into goals, with a long ball from inside his own half by Yaya Touré meeting Álvaro Negredo in the middle of the West Ham area. Not waiting for the ball to drop, the Spanish international nailed a left-footed volley inside Adrían’s left post, giving City an early lead.

Fourteen minutes later, another highlight-worthy goal saw a long pass from right back Pablo Zabaleta flicked on to Edin Dzeko by Negredo, who turned to sprint through the West Ham defense before running onto a through ball from his strike partner. Beating the oncoming keeper to the ball, Negredo finished into the vacated goal to double City’s lead in the 26th minute.

But halftime Touré had added a goal of his own, with Negredo affirming City’s dominance four minutes after half-time be completing his hat trick. Over the match’s final half hour, Dzeko would add two goals of his own, the second coming one minute before full time, completing an unexpectedly easy night for the competition’s favorites.

source: Reuters
West Ham goalkeeper Adriían made five same but still allowed six goals Wednesday in Manchester. (Photo: Reuters.)

It was a matchup unbecoming of a Cup semifinal, let alone one that still has 90 minutes to play. While a City team on pace to set a record for most Premier League goals placed their full talents on display, there was no resistance from a West Ham team whose form continues to regress. Having won only once since Nov. 30, the Hammers are preforming more like a fledgling Championship team than a member of the Premier League, form that will continue to prompt questions about Sam Allardyce’s future at Upton Park.

Throughout the season, West Ham’s lack of healthy strikers has been the excuse, but the problems on display at the Etihad transcend issue at any one position. The 29-shot disparity between City and their guest is something a Premier League team would post against Conference-level opposition. The complete lack of initiative — an unwillingness to fight, even for pride — hints at a squad that’s reached its end mentally. A talented Citizens’ squad certainly deserves some credit for the result, but it’s not too much to expect West Ham to produce better performance in the face of the club’s best chance to win silverware this season.

City’s early goal (and talent) may have created a momentum that cautions against reading too much into one result, but after Wednesday’s embarrassment, West Ham fans may be asking themselves the same questions Spurs fans held in the last days of André Villas-Boas: What has to happen for Allardyce to be replaced?

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”