Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City - Premier League

Manchester City v. Chelsea: Can Mourinho’s ‘Anti-Football’ claim City?

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  • Manchester City have won 19 and lost just one of their last 21 Barclays Premier League games at the Etihad Stadium, including winning the last 11 in a row.
  • Chelsea have kept three clean sheets in a row away from home in the Barclays Premier League.
  • Chelsea have lost their last four Premier League visits to the Etihad, but no team has won more games away at Man City in Premier League history than the west Londoners

The match of the week in the Premier League falls on Monday when Manchester City host Chelsea on Monday (live 2:00pm ET on NBCSN and Live Extra) where a win by the Citizens will see them reclaim top spot in the Premier League.

City enter the match on fire having won eight straight in the league since the 1-1 draw with Southampton on December 7th. During that stretch Manuel Pellegrini’s men have scored 27 goals, sticking to their approach to kill opponents off with offense. And the bigger the opponent, the bigger the goal scoring display as Arsenal and Tottenham have found out, having had six and five put past them, respectively.

Defensively, City tend to be a bit lax through the middle where Vincent Kompany has yet to cement a proper counterpart in Joleon Lescott, Matija Nastasic and Martin Demichelis. And therein lies the soft spot most clubs try to access when playing City – hope to press high early on and nip one through the middle. Watford managed to do it twice last weekend in the FA Cup but the two goal deficit proved nothing for City’s firepower, who banged home four in the second half to win comfortably. Chelsea, however, are another story.

Jose Mourinho’s game plan against top competition is tried and tested: sit back, defend and if it’s on, try and score off the counter. This approach, which many have labeled “anti-football” and “boring”, was best displayed in the early season 0-0 draw at United and the December 23rd 0-0 draw at Arsenal. And that’s exactly what fans should expect from his side on Monday. Staunch defense, low (to no) scoring. Praying for a point on the road.

Chelsea enter the match after a bit of a stumble last week in the 0-0 draw at West Ham. Ironically enough, Mourinho called the Hammers’ approach “19th century football.” But the Blues haven’t lost in nine matches and if they can manage to win Monday will find themselves on even terms with City in the table, with only goal differential setting them back.

City will be without Sergio Aguero (hamstring), Samir Nasri (knee) and Javi Garcia (knock) while Chelsea striker Fernando Torres (knee) is their only significant player sidelined with injury.

What They’re Saying

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho: “Chelsea try to win every game. We are not going to change our philosophy. We are going in a certain direction, and just because we are playing a certain opponent doesn’t mean we are going to change that.”

City manager Manuel Pellegrini: “It is my job to make certain the players don’t believe all that and I am absolutely sure they don’t. They know perfectly well that the only target is to beat Chelsea in the next game. We are not invincible, no team is invincible. We are in a very good moment, but the difference between a win and a loss is so slight, in every match it is possible you can lose.”

Prediction

Chelsea will do their best to take the steam out of this match but City’s firepower is just too much. They will score, Chelsea will get stretched trying to equalize and I think City will get another.  2-0 to the home side.

Dempsey returns to training after second heart procedure

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 28:  Clint Dempsey #2 of MLS All-Stars chases after the ball up field against the Arsenal FC during the second half of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium on July 28, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Many were concerned about USMNT and Seattle Sounders attacker Clint Dempsey‘s future when he underwent a pair of heart procedures in 2016.

The 33-year-old Dempsey took another step to allay those fears when he hit the pitch for Seattle’s first day of preseason camp.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

The Sounders won the 2016 MLS Cup despite the absence of Dempsey, and his return would further strengthen the side. General manager Garth Lagerwey said Dempsey won’t be rushed, but could be nearing a return.

EFL Cup second legs preview: Liverpool, Hull City aim for comebacks

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Divock Origi of Liverpool battles with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (L) and Ryan Bertrand of Southampton during the EFL Cup semi-final first leg match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on January 11, 2017 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Manchester United and Southampton are 90 minutes from Wembley Stadium.

Hull City and Liverpool would prefer to change that.

After first legs a fortnight ago, the EFL Cup semifinals play out on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Feb. 26’s final at Wembley.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

First up is Southampton‘s trip to Liverpool, with the Saints nursing a 1-0 lead from the first leg at St. Mary’s. The Wednesday kickoff sees Saints hoping the Reds’ poor run of form will continue at Anfield. Liverpool has one win 2017, and that was an FA Cup replay victory over Plymouth Argyle.

Southampton boss Claude Puel knows the Reds will be ornery:

“We know Liverpool. They lost against Swansea at home, and I am sure they will want to react against us, but it’s important to keep all of our focus about our play.

“We know they are fantastic, a great team, with great players, but you saw in the first leg we have the ability to produce a strong game against them. It will be important to make a strong game – a perfect game – I think.”

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United got a terrific result in the first leg at Old Trafford, scoring twice and holding Hull City from scooping up a valuable road goal. Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini scored the goals in the 2-0 win, but the KC Stadium will be rocking on Thursday as the Tigers look to reverse the result.

United midfielder Michael Carrick says the Red Devils will play as if they are starting from scratch:

“It’s definitely not over, we all know that. We are telling ourselves that. I think we’ll be pretty much full strength and will approach the game like it’s a 0-0 and starting from scratch.

“It’s dangerous when you go in there defending a lead to tell yourself this result will do or that result will do, or we can afford to do this or that.”

Report: China tempting TFC’s Giovinco with big offer

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco celebrates his goal against the Philadelphia Union during the first half of an MLS soccer playoff match in Toronto, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Could Sebastian Giovinco’s chances of another MVP award be diminishing?

It wouldn’t be on account of a lack of production, rather massive money coming his way from the Chinese Soccer League.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

Great, and right when we were daydreaming about how Toronto FC’s Italian attacker could run a revenge tour on the folks who somehow left him out of the MVP finalists last year.

Giovinco turns 30 on Thursday.

From The Toronto Sun’s Kurtis Larsson:

“The Chinese club seems to be very interested, but I don’t think it’ll be easy to take him away from Toronto,” Giovinco’s agent, Andrea D’Amico, told the broadcaster.

“We received an important offer from China and we’ll talk to Toronto to decide, along with Sebastian, what to do.”

Giovinco is with Toronto FC for preseason training camp, and both the club and player have shown no interest in moving on from the diminutive winger and 2015 MVP.

But if China comes calling with crazy money, say a $25-30 million transfer fee, shouldn’t TFC think twice? Any figure above $25 million would be more than the sum of the three biggest incoming transfer fees in MLS history (Miguel Almiron, Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe).

AFCON wrap: Ivory Coast bounced, DR Congo wins Group C

Congo's soccer players celebrate after scoring a goal against Togo during the African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match between Congo and Togo at the Stade de Port-Gentil, Gabon, Tuesday Jan. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
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Down went another knockout round mainstay from the Africa Cup of Nations, as the Ivory Coast failed to capture one of the top two spots in Group C.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Morocco 1-0 Ivory Coast

Needing a win to move on, the Ivory Coast fell in its final group match. Rachid Alioui scored a 64th minute goal that meant the Ivory Coast needed two to advance to the quarterfinals. The goals didn’t come, and Morocco will face the Group D winner next.

Togo 1-3 DR Congo

Junior Kabananga, Paul-Jose M’Poku, and Ndombe Mubele scored as the Leopards finished the group stage with an unbeaten record of 2-1. DR Congo will face the runner-up of Group D in the quarterfinals.

Wednesday’s matches

Ghana is through with six points, while Uganda is out. Egypt will go through with a result against Ghana, while Mali needs a win and an Egypt loss to get to tiebreakers.

Egypt vs. Ghana — 2 p.m. ET
Uganda vs. Mali — 2 p.m. ET