Manchester City 4-2 Cardiff City: Goals galore, once again, for the Citizens (video)

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Make that 103 goals and counting for Manchester City in all competitions this season, as they swept aside Cardiff 4-2 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday with yet another ruthless display of attacking panache.

Goals from Edin Dzeko, Jesus Navas, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero blew the Bluebirds away, as Cardiff were level at one point after Craig Noone equalized in the first half. Despite a brave fight from Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s side, the former Manchester United hero saw his team outclassed late on as City’s powerful offensive unit clicked into place once again and Frazier Campbell’s late goal was nothing but a consolation.

With their 11-straight home win Manuel Pellegrini’s side sit in second place, one point behind leaders Arsenal, while Cardiff are still heavily entrenched in a relegation battle as the Welsh side are now bottom on 18 points.

Early on Cardiff City almost shot themselves in the foot as as Dzeko was brought down in the box by Kyle McNaughton, but penalty calls were waved away.

City’s relentless attack kept coming at Cardiff early on, as Navas was a constant threat down the right with Ben Turner forced into making a great sliding block to deny City taking the lead. Dzeko also saw an effort stopped by David Marshall as the Citizens began to pile on more pressure.

(MORE: Latest Premier League Standings)

In the 14th minute City finally broke the deadlock as Dzeko scuffed an effort over the line after Silva found him with a great pass. City’s 100th goal of the season in all competitions. After the opener it was all City, as Cardiff struggled to get to grips with the home sides sublime movement. In the 23rd minute Pablo Zabaleta found Alvaro Negredo with a tremendous ball but the Spaniard pulled his shot just wide of the far post as City searched for a second.

After absorbing all that pressure and riding their luck, Cardiff broke down the right and Noone drove into the box before smashing home an effort in the 28th minute to make it 1-1. But less than five minutes later City were back in front as Dzeko raced away from the Cardiff defense before the ball broke to Navas to sweep home and make it 2-1.

For the rest of the first half Cardiff had a real go, but City lead at the break.

Cardiff looked extremely dangerous after the break as Jordon Mutch forced Joe Hart into a fine stop at his near post, before numerous set-pieces saw Cardiff go close to making it 2-2 as bodies piled into the six-yard box. Sergio Aguero arrived off the bench in the 60th minute as Pellegrini tried to finish Cardiff off but the Welsh side held firm under intense pressure.

And it was the little Argentine who was involved in the third goal, as Toure stormed forward from within his own half and played a one-two with Aguero on the box before the Ivorian slotted hammered home City’s third. In the 79th minute Aguero made it 4-1 as he jinxed in and out of Cardiff’s defense and rifled an effort past a despondent Marshall in goal for the Bluebirds. That strike marked Aguero 21st goal of the season and he now has 20 in his last 18 games.

Former Manchester United striker Campbell, who scored twice against City in a Cardiff win earlier this season, bagged a late goal from close range as City rolled on to keep their 100 percent record at home.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov, Navas (Clichy, 82), Yaya Toure, Javi Garcia, Silva (Milner, 80), Negredo (Aguero, 62), Dzeko

Goals: Dzeko (14), Navas (33), Toure (76), Aguero (79)

Cardiff City: Marshall; McNaughton (John, 68), Caulker, Turner, Theophile-Catherine; Whittingham (Bellamy, 68), Medel, Gunnarsson (Wolff Eikrem, 78), Mutch, Noone; Campbell

Goals: Noone (29), Campbell (90)

Reports: Barcelona holding talks with Verratti’s agent

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Barcelona has their eyes set on a new Andres Iniesta.

Sure, projecting anyone to meet Ballon d’Or finalist standards is silly, but news that Barca has had multiple meetings with Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti does inspire comparison hunting.

[ MORE: Klopp explains Lovren extension ]

An influential and creative central midfielder, the 24-year-old Verratti is 8.5 years younger than Iniesta and wowed Barca in the first leg of PSG’s ill-fated UEFA Champions League tie with the Catalans.

Mundo Deportivo, amongst others, reports that Verratti feels life at PSG has gotten stale and that Barca is one of the few clubs that represents a significant jump up in class. He’s also been linked with Real Madrid and Manchester United in the past few transfer windows.

Verratti has a contract through 2020-21, so any purchase will not be cheap considering PSG’s desire to continue growing its status as a UCL contender. The Italian is 21 times capped by the Azzurri.

Klopp talks new Lovren deal, Top Four worries, Watford

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Liverpool announced a new contract for Dejan Lovren on Friday, complete with the requisite “I love my club” comments from the defender.

Then Jurgen Klopp got his hands on a microphone.

The outspoken manager explained that re-signing Lovren to a new “long-term” deal ensures that the Croatian spends the best years of his career with the Reds.

[ MORE: Top PL Storylines ]

He also spoke plainly about Lovren’s perceived struggles and successes since arriving at Anfield from Southampton in 2014.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“If Dejan played for another club you would want to sign him – and pay a lot of money. He is 27, the best time is still to come.”

“If you’d asked fans after the Dortmund game they would said give him a 20-year contract. After the Palace game fans would have said ‘can we find another team who will have him?’ Truth is somewhere in between.”

Turning to Monday’s trip to Watford, Klopp isn’t concerned about the chance that his Reds will open the day outside the Top Four if Man City and Manchester United both win at the weekend.

He also says the Reds could have Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge at Vicarge Road, though Jordan Henderson remains out.

Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Bournemouth

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  • Sunderland won 2-1 on Nov. 5
  • Fourth meeting since 1990
  • Sunderland leads all-time 5W-3D-1L

Sunderland looks to keep its faint hopes of Premier League safety alive by managing a season sweep of Bournemouth when the two sides meet at the Stadium of Light on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Black Cats are a mess, having lost to Tees-Wear Derby rivals Middlesbrough on Wednesday and living 12 points back of 17th place Swansea City.

Bournemouth battered Middlesbrough 4-0 last weekend to move seven points clear of the drop zone, and can finish the day in the top half with a win up north.

What they’re saying

Sunderland boss David Moyes on calls for him to quit“I’m here, I’m the manager, you take it on the chin. … I’m a football supporter, I know what it’s like. You don’t like seeing your team lose. There is nobody who wants to win more than me. I am used to winning, I’m not used to losing and I don’t want to get used to it either.”

Bournemouth captain Simon Francis on Sunderland’s woes“It just show how things can happen when clubs are not run properly. If we do lose Sunderland from the Premier League it will be a real shame. They are an enormous club and playing at grounds like theirs is the pinnacle of anyone’s career.”

 

Prediction

The Black Cats haven’t quit, but manage two fewer points than they need, all but heading for the Championship after a 2-2 draw.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Hull City

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  • Hull won 2-1 on Nov. 6
  • Tigers two points clear of drop zone
  • Saints lead all-time 23W-20D-15L

After back-to-back losses to Man City and Chelsea, Saints meet a different kind of desperation when Hull City arrives at St. Mary’s (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

With a win, Hull can move five points clear of the final relegation spot and heap pressure on Swansea City, who plays Sunday. With a loss, Marco Silva’s men open the 17th place door for Swans.

[ MORE: JPW on Romeu the Destroyer ]

Since the start of the 2011-12 season in the Championship, Southampton has won six of seven matches against Hull. That seventh, however, was the match at the KCOM Stadium earlier this season, one that saw now-West Ham man Robert Snodgrass spur a Tigers comeback.

Saints open the day four points back of eighth place West Brom, and also hold a match-in-hand on the Baggies.

What they’re saying

Saints boss Claude Puel on slump busting“After two losses it’s important to move forward now and take points on Saturday in front of our own fans. We have to improve in the right areas and find a good balance of play, but also a good clinical edge in both penalty areas.”

Marco Silva on Hull’s away troubles““We have conceded goals on the counter-attack away from home in games when the result has been looking good for us – we cannot make it possible for our opponents to do this to us. The second goal we conceded at Stoke is an example of this – conceded at a time when we were in control of the game. Details like this are making the difference and these are things we must look to change. This is clear to me and I pass this on to my players.”

Prediction

Saints have more quality than Hull, but may not have as much fire in the belly. Still, home field means a lot here and Southampton should reverse the score line from November’s tilt. 2-1, with Manolo Gabbiadini and Dusan Tadic leading the way.