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.

Rashford’s childhood hero played for USMNT (Take one guess)

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But can he grow a beard?

Manchester United attacker Marcus Rashford is known for his darting runs and clever finishes, but he grew up begging to get between the sticks with a lot of love for an American.

“Howard was my idol. I used to have a little Tim Howard shirt.”

[ MORE: Dempsey still wants USMNT role ]

Rashford said he’d ask his youth coach to allow him to play goal so he could mimic his hero, who at the time was the Manchester United backstop and now USMNT legend.

The 20-year-old was nine when Howard left Old Trafford, but it hasn’t changed his enjoyment for tending goal. Rashford joked that he’s got to be the choice to replace David De Gea in case of a post-sub emergency.

Watch Live: Watford vs. West Ham United

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David Moyes‘ first match in charge of West Ham United sees a striker change at Vicarage Road against testy Watford (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Andy Carroll will be up top, and Andre Ayew is hurt to boot.

Marco Silva leads Watford’s hosts with Adrian Mariappa, Christian Kabasele, and Miguel Britos at the back of a 3-5-2.

LINEUPS

Watford: Gomes; Mariappa, Kabasele, Britos; Femenía, Cleverley, Doucouré, Zeegelaar; Hughes, Richarlison; Gray. Subs: Karnezis, Prödl, Holebas, Capoue, Pereyra, Carrillo, Okaka.

West Ham United: Hart, Zabaleta, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Noble, Kouyate, Obiang, Arnautovic, Lanzini, Carroll. Subs: Adrian, Masuaku, Rice, Fernandes, Quina, Sakho, Martinez.

Dempsey still happy to accept USMNT role (which is good)

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Clint Dempsey is tied with Landon Donovan for the most goals in USMNT history, and seems set to continue with the side in some capacity as he threatens to stand alone in American history.

[ MLS: Steve Bruce to Miami? ]

The 34-year-old striker spoke with Steve Zakuani on the Sounders’ web site (video below) and said he’s happy to accept continued call-ups should they arrive from USSF headquarters.

From SoundersFC.com:

“We’ll see what happens,” Dempsey said.” I mean, in terms of what I’ve been able to accomplish with the national team, I’m at peace with it. It’s not really about me. It’s about a group of guys that want to be moving forward.

“If there’s an opportunity that comes where you get to play a role and try to help and I’m feeling good and I’m playing well, then yeah, you’ll never say no. But you know, if the call never comes I’m still happy, still at peace, and focused on being here and trying to make the most of the time I have left.”

There are a number of players whose national team futures should be in question, but Dempsey is in a different class. No one has debated his motor or fuel, and his engine is still there (to complete the Springsteen-esque car comparisons, he remains one of the only things that qualifiers as chrome-wheeled, fuel-injected, and steppin’ out over the line).

If anything, he plays too close to the edge. That’s not something I see as one of the Yanks’ problems right now, so perhaps Dempsey needs to be viewed like Cuauhtemoc Blanco or Carlos Ruiz as a CONCACAF guy who’s around as long as he wants to be a part of it.

I mean, shoot, if Dempsey wants to keep passing the fire to Christian Pulisic and now Weston McKennie, there are far worse ambassadors for the program. He’s the most accomplished field player in recent history, and will be able to share so much when it comes to balancing club and country.

Heck, maybe he needs to be the late era Ryan Giggs of the 2018-2022 USMNT.

Beckham reportedly wants Steve Bruce in Miami

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He’s got the same initials as South Beach, you know?

Steve Bruce is being tipped to be the first manager of David Beckham’s Miami MLS outfit, according to The Sun.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup ]

It’s going to be some time before Bruce would have the opportunity. The 56-year-old former Manchester United star has Aston Villa in a Football League Championship promotion push, and Miami does not even have a start date for life on an MLS pitch.

Of course, managerial life tends to be short, so there’s no guarantee Bruce will have a job at any point during the build-up to Miami in MLS. And several expansion clubs have named their coach very early in the team building process (Jason Kreis and Bob Bradley amongst others).

Bruce on MLS’ parity-driven playing field, if not as one of the big spenders, would be intriguing to watch. He’s a terrific man motivator and has the connections to combine with Beckham to make something special happen in terms of personnel.