Vincent Kompany, Lionel Messi

FC Barcelona seizes control of Champions League series with 2-0 win over Manchester City


Manchester City’s hopes of a seminal four-trophy season took a big blow Tuesday, as a bid for the biggest title among them, the UEFA Champions League crown, now looks like one tough, uphill slog.

Leo Messi scored from the penalty spot early in the second half, having created the opportunity himself and put the home team a man down for 35 minutes in a match-turning (most likely even a series turning moment) moment that was quintessential Messi, an arresting dribbling burst.

Dani Alves’ 90th minute goal from a tough angle was certainly significant, too, putting this battle of giants further out of reach for the English club.

Barca’s 2-0 win Tuesday at the Etihad Stadium leaves the La Liga giants well in control of the teams’ Round-of-16 two-leg series.

In fact, this was the match of a Round-of-16 bunch, one that does come stocking stuffed with some other dandies.  Barcelona controlled possession in a match with a “finals” feel, although the Citizens’ tactics were proving prescient for 50 or so minutes, as Manuel Pellegrini’s men made excellent use of the time on the ball they could wrestle from Tuesday’s visitors.

For Gerardo Martino’s Barcelona, criticized recently as the worst side from the Nou Camp in years, this win meant more than seizing control ahead of the return leg back in Spain. Barcelona had just one win in six Champions League matches on the road. Further, Martino’s club was winless in five away matches against English clubs.

Pellegrini raised eyebrows with the choice to deploy Aleksander Kolarov, usually a defender, in the midfield in front of Gael Clichy. Samir Nasri would surely have been the most attack-minded choice, although there are concerns that the French international is not fully fit. Also, the team was in more of a 4-4-1-1 rather than the more standard 4-4-2.

(MORE: What we learned in Barca’s win Tuesday at Manchester City)

Most will excuse Pellegrini if those selections looked slightly on the conservative side – because his tactics did prove correct. While Barca generally held a big edge in possession, real scoring chances were quite few and City goalkeeper Joe Hart was mostly a spectator before the break.

Meanwhile, City refused to be stretched, perhaps occasionally frustrated by the inability to get the ball (or even get close to it, sometimes) but breaking with real authority when gaining control. David Silva found Alvaro Negredo with an early ball right down the middle for City’s first chance, following 18 minutes of almost all Barca possession.

When the home side wasn’t going direct, they aimed crosses for Negredo, generally looking to exploit one of their big edges in this compelling series: in size.

That’s not to say things were all that rotten for Barca, whose ability to keep the ball was a confidence builder and a tactically sound bit of its own, even if it did all look a bit punchless at times.

Messi’s moment broke open the stalemate in the 53rd minute as Barcelona won a ball along its let side. More accurately, City winger Jesus Nevas lost the ball and may have been fouled, although it looked more likely he was attempting to cover for a poor dribbling choice by throwing himself to the ground.

Either way, Andres Iniesta spotted Messi, who had quickly worked himself into the gap between City’s center backs. Iniesta zipped a ball into Messi’s path and the trailing (and slightly out of position) Martin Demichelis, probably the weak link along the Citizens back line, was in big trouble.

When Demichelis lunged in a desperate bid to stop Messi just outside the penalty area, he instead fouled the wily Argentine. The initial contact appeared to take place just inches outside the penalty area, but the result wasn’t just a spot shot – his sending off as the last man on a scoring opportunity left City a man down for more than half an hour.

(MORE: Cesc Fabregas tells world Barca isn’t finished)

Messi’s left-footer from the 12-yard spot went right down the middle, as Hart dove to his left. It was his 66th Champions League goal.

City did offer a reasonable account with just 10 men, creating some bother here and there; Silva’s stinger at the end of a swell City sequence was the best chance, forcing a fine 76th minute save from Victor Valdes. Still, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez and the other Barca attackers did more to keep Hart busy at the other end.


Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Demichelis, Clichy; Toure, Fernandinho, Navas, Silva, Kolarov; Negredo

Barcelona: Víctor Valdés; Dani Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Jordi Alba; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Alexis Sánchez, Messi, Fabregas

Premier League preview: Bournemouth vs. Tottenham Hotspur (video)

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  • Spurs won both matches in 15-16
  • Cherries unbeaten in three overall
  • Spurs 2W-2D on road this season

Tottenham’s treatment of new boys Bournemouth was downright disrespectful last season, and the improved Cherries would love a measure of payback (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports).

Spurs handled Bournemouth 3-0 at home last season after belting the Cherries 5-1 at Vitality Stadium in October.

[ MORE: USWNT’s Holiday has tumor removed ]

Almost exactly one year later, Bournemouth sits 11th with 11 points and is closer to the top of the table than the bottom.

Meanwhile, Spurs are again in a title race despite the continued absence of striker Harry Kane, who is back training but won’t be available for Saturday’s contest.

What they’re saying

Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe on facing Tottenham“I think we’re better prepared for these kind of games. We’re more hardened to Premier League football and our belief and confidence levels are better than what they previously were, but we have to prove it on the pitch. It’s going to be a real test for us. They have an outstanding manager who in my opinion is up there with the very best. The intensity at which his sides play makes them difficult opponents. They are general title contenders.”

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino on Vincent Janssen“Always we need to give time. He’s young, he’s come in from the Netherlands and always the players that come from outside need time. He’s a striker that brings to the team different characteristics but I am happy with his behavior, his professionalism and how he is playing.”


It’ll be far from easy, and Howe certainly has a motivated team in form. Spurs’ quality will be on display as well, and both managers like to see their teams play free. Call it 2-2.


WATCH, STREAM: Premier League TV schedule – Week 9

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Week 9 of the 2016-17 Premier League season is here.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

It all kicks off with Bournemouth hosting Tottenham Hotspur (7:30 a.m. ET live NBCSN andonline via NBC at the Vitality Stadium with two teams full of young English players to go head-to-head.

Then Arsenal welcome Middlesbrough (10 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC to the Emirates with Arsene Wenger‘s side searching for a seventh-straight win in the PL, while Boro have won just one of their opening eight games.

Rounding things off on Saturday, Liverpool and West Brom clash at Anfield (12:30 p.m. ET live NBC and online via NBC in a battle between two different styles. Can Tony Pulis‘ pragmatic approach shut down Jurgen Klopp‘s fluid offensive machine?

On Sunday Manchester City host Southampton at the Etihad (8:30 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC with both teams coming off the back of disappointing defeats away in European action. Then comes the big one: Chelsea vs. Manchester United at Stamford Bridge (11 a.m. ET live on NBCSN and online via NBC Jose Mourinho is returning to the Bridge for the first time since he was fired last December and he’ll likely get a very warm reception from the home fans. Will his United side again frustrate a big-name opponent away from home?

You can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC and the NBC Sports App, plus you can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at 10 a.m. ET for all the goals as they go in. Goal Rush is available via NBC and the NBC Sports App,

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here. They are available soon after the final whistle, but rights limit us to a certain number each week. Looking for game highlights? Try this. Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.



7:30 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. Tottenham – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Arsenal vs. Middlesbrough – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Hull City vs. Stoke City – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Watford  – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Everton – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: West Ham vs. Sunderland – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Liverpool vs. West Brom – NBC [STREAM]


8:30 a.m. ET: Manchester City vs. Southampton – NBCSN [STREAM]
11 a.m. ET: Chelsea vs. Manchester United – NBCSN [STREAM]

Wenger on Arsenal: “We are all in that jungle together”

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18:  Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal looks on during an Arsenal training session on the eve of their UEFA Champions League Group A match against Ludogorets Razgrad at London Colney on October 18, 2016 in St Albans, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
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Maybe he just got sick of the criticism, and of (relatively) keeping his cool.

Maybe he just doesn’t care anymore.

Regardless of the “why”, there’s a lot to love about this season’s Arsene Wenger.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines — Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge ]

Wenger has slowly built up his hope and expectations for the club. The Gunners “have a better chance” to win in the Champions League. They’re “stronger with every win“, and need humility.

And Wenger is taking it to the jungle to explain that last part.


“I believe that humility is to understand that you start again from zero and that you are in a jungle. We live in a jungle where everybody wants to eat you, and you have to survive by keeping your vigilance. That’s what competition is about. Every day you have to fight again to survive.

“The love to win and the competitiveness of the Premier League is very exciting. We are all in that [jungle] together.”


Arsenal hosts Middlesbrough on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool-West Brom (video)

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - APRIL 25: Darren Fletcher of West Brom closes down Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool at The Hawthorns on April 25, 2015 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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  • Liverpool leads all-time: 59W-37D-32L
  • Teams drew both matches last season
  • WBA last won at Anfield in 2013

West Brom has hope for a big Anfield upset when it visits Liverpool this weekend (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC and online via NBC Sports).

The Baggies are have picked up points in three of their last five trips to Anfield, and have a 4-4-4 league record against the Reds since returning to the Premier League in 2010.

[ MORE: USWNT’s Holiday has tumor removed ]

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp refused to rule anyone out for Saturday’s match, and the in-form Reds will have to break down a side that’s unbeaten in four.

What they’re saying

Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren“Every game is a ‘win’ game for us – we have the quality to beat everyone, when you look at the teams we have played already. It’s just about a winning mentality. If we can keep that, at the end of the season we can be proud.”

West Brom boss Tony Pulis“We know Liverpool is going to be a really tough game. Their front five are exceptional. Jurgen Klopp is passionate and that is important in the game and important for Liverpool. They’ve got a good chance this year. The games that are coming up are difficult but ones we should embrace. Anfield is wonderful.”


Pulis has done a fine job setting his team up to defend, and his counterattack will think well of breaking down Liverpool. But this one’s at Anfield, with the Reds in the international spotlight to end Saturday’s Premier League slate.

It doesn’t feel like an upset is in the cards, especially with the Reds still seething from last week’s scoreless draw vs. Manchester United. Call it Liverpool, 3-0.