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Manchester City v Stoke City - Premier League

Manchester City 1-0 Stoke City: Toure to the rescue as City stay in the hunt (video)

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Manchester City grabbed a much needed 1-0 win over Stoke City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, as the Citizens ground out a crucial three points against stubborn opposition, after a draining week saw City struggled to hit top gear.

City were frustrated for much of their match by the Potters, as the away side put in a resolute defensive display.

But title-chasing City finally broke through in the 70th minute, as marauding midfielder Yaya Toure finished superbly to seal the victory for Manuel Pellegrini’s side.

With the labored win City stay three points behind leader Chelsea on 57 points but crucially have a game in-hand. As for Stoke, they remain entrenched in a relegation battle and sit just three points above the relegation zone.

Premier League Roundup: Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal and Man United grab wins

From the get-go City went at Stoke, as Samir Nasri and Alvaro Negredo surged at the Potters defense with the Citizens eager to put their midweek defeat to Barcelona behind them.

Right back Pablo Zabaleta surged into the box early on and as the Argentine right back let fly, Stoke defender Marc Wilson crucially blocked to keep the scores level. After that Stoke pushed forward and Charlie Adam’s effort went close for the Potters who grew in confidence after weathering the early storm.

Stoke continued to pile forward and in the 20th minute Adam again went close as Joe Hart tipped his low drive wide. It was a fantastic stop from the England international, as Adam looked to the sky in disbelief as Stoke pressed forward.

Relieved Pellegrini praises City’s patience after difficult week

City tried to storm ahead but after giving away several cheap fouls, Manuel Pellegrini cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines. The teams went in level at the break, as City failed to break down Stoke with the scores locked at 0-0.

Less than 10 minutes into the second half the ineffective Alvaro Negredo was replaced by Jovetic. City kept Stoke camped into their own half for most of the second half, but Edin Dzeko lashed over the bar from inside the box as the home side prodded and probed the Potters but were struggling to break the away side down.

City seemed deflated and were failing to click, especially going forward. But with just 20 minutes to go, up popped the inspirational Toure to slot home from the edge of the six-yard box to send the Etihad Stadium wild. The opener capped off patient build up play from City as the ball was worked wide and Aleksandar Kolarov’s pinpoint cross found the onrushing Toure to finish superbly despite the ball being slightly behind him.

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After that City had the perfect chance to seal the win, but Bosnian striker Dzeko somehow missed from inside the six-yard box with the goal at his mercy. The strikers reaction? He smashed the post with his foot in frustration as the Citizens failed to add to their tally.

For the rest of the match City stroked the ball around and threatened to add to Toure’s goal, but they couldn’t and Stoke barely threatened to land a late equalizer.

Hardly a classic but City are back to winning ways after failing to score, or win, in their last two PL matches.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Har,  Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov, Fernandinho (Garcia, 63), Yaya Toure, Nasri, Silva, Dzeko, Negredo (Jovetic, 56)

Goal: Toure (70)

Stoke City: Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters, Adam, Whelan (Etherington, 82), Walters (Ireland, 78), Odemwingie, Arnautovic (Palacios, 69), Crouch

New reports claim Mourinho in talks with Manchester United

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New reports from various outlets in the UK claim that Jose Mourinho and Manchester United have held talks about him becoming the new man in charge at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Klopp missing with illness ]

Mourinho, 53, has been out of worked since being fired by Chelsea back in December, but rumors have been rife that he will land at United.

The latest gossip claims that Mourinho and his agent, Jorge Mendes, have held talks with the United hierarchy about replacing current boss Louis Van Gaal this summer.

Van Gaal, 64, has a contract through the end of the 2016-17 Premier League season, but with United currently languishing five points off the top four and knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage, the Dutchman’s time appears to be running out.

After spending $375 million on new talent over the past 18 months, LVG’s team have blown hot and cold and this season have struggled to score goals or entertain fans on a regular basis. In the recent defeat to Southampton at home Van Gaal and his players were booed and jeered throughout but they’ve won two-straight games in the league and cup since then, scoring six goals and conceding just once.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

That said, with crosstown rivals Manchester City announcing that the most sought after coach on the globe, Pep Guaridola, will be arriving as their new boss in July on an initial three-year contract, United may feel the need to hire Guardiola’s old sparring partner from their days back in Spain coaching Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Manchester United vs. Manchester City is already pretty spicy. Imagine adding the Iberian passion of Guardiola vs. Mourinho to the mix. It’s gone off in the past when these two have met and having the two most successful coaches in the game today coaching in the same city would be something to behold.

Let’s see if this latest round of rumors is just that, or if United will make their move.

It was widely expected that Mourinho would take over from Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013 when he retired but reports claimed that the directors at United didn’t want Mourinho, despite his resume as a winner wherever he has gone.

United needs to be rebuilt and Mourinho needs to rebuild his reputation after being fired by Chelsea just seven months after he delivered the Premier League title, his third in five full seasons in charge of the Blues.

Klopp to miss Liverpool vs. Sunderland through illness

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool FC
AP
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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has suffered a bout of suspected appendicitis and will not be at Anfield for the clash against Sunderland on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra).

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Klopp, 46, will miss his first game since joining the Reds last October and it comes on the same day supporters groups are planning a mass walkout in the 77th minute to protest against new tickets prices for the 2016-17 season which were released earlier this week.

Liverpool Football Club released the following statement confirming Klopp’s absence:

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will be absent from today’s Barclays Premier League fixture against Sunderland at Anfield, after suffering a suspected bout of appendicitis.

First-team duties will be overseen by the remaining members of the coaching staff, including Zeljko Buvac, Peter Krawietz, Pepijn Lijnders and John Achterberg.

A win against Sunderland would momentarily move Klopp’s side up to seventh place in the Premier League table and see them on 37 points for the season.

Watch Live: Manchester City vs. Leicester City (Lineups, Live Stream)

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:  Jamie Vardy of Leicester City and Joe Hart of Manchester City in discussion after the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Manchester City at The King Power Stadium on December 29, 2015 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Manchester City host Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) in a huge clash between the top two teams in the Premier League table.

Leicester, the surprise package of the season by far, lead the way and are three points ahead of Man City heading into this monster clash.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE VIA LIVE EXTRA

Both teams are in sensational form, with the home side unbeaten in seven games and Leicester without a defeat in six. Will Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez torment City’s banged up back line? Or can City’s expensively assembled squad show their class and put the Foxes in their place?

In teams news City start with Nicolas Otamendi and Martin Demichelis at center back, while Raheem Sterling starts out wide in support of lone forward Sergio Aguero. Leicester line up in a familiar 4-4-2 formation with Vardy and Shinji Okazaki leading the line.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Hart; Zabaleta, Otamendi, Demichelis, Kolarov; Delph, Fernandinho; Sterling, Toure, Silva; Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Clichy, Sagna, Fernando, Garcia, Iheanacho, Celina

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs; Drinkwater, Kante, Mahrez, Albrighton; Okazaki Vardy. Subs: Schwarzer, King, Gray, Ulloa, Dyer, Wasilewski, Chilwell

3 things we learned from the USMNT win over Canada

PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO - NOVEMBER 17: Jermaine Jones #13 keeps the ball in play during a World Cup Qualifier between Trinidad and Tobago and USA as part of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers for Russia 2018 at Hasely Crawford Stadium on November 17, 2015 in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. (Photo by Ashley Allen Getty Images)
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The United States played to a disjointed and sloppy win over Canada to wrap up January camp. It was promising at times, but mostly a cringe-worthy display by both sides. Here are the key notes from the 90 minutes at StubHub Center in California.

1) Jermaine Jones should never play CB again

Look, this probably wasn’t ever the plan, and it probably never is. It’s the “break glass in case of emergency” option. With Matt Miazga likely supposed to start one or both these games before he left for Chelsea, and the departure of Michael Orozco and Brad Evans, the U.S. was thin at the back.

Still. Yikes…

Jones was flat out awful. Just days after he played well in a midfield distribution position against Iceland, he was a total mess at the back. Jones was miserable on the ball, giving it away with ugly touches, he lunged in on challenges including one on Cyle Larin early that very well could have resulted in a Canadian penalty. And he charged forward – something a central defender can never do – leaving his teammates caught out at the back. This ended with Matt Besler getting a yellow card:

Please, Jurgen. Never again.

2) Jordan Morris is developing into a useful player

In his first cap since signing a professional contract with the Seattle Sounders, Morris gave his critics much to think on. Many said the 21-year-old would come and go without much staying power, but he partnered well with Jozy Altidore. There wasn’t much service up front during his time on the field, but when there was, Morris drew defenders off Altidore, and he provided a solid foil to his bigger partner with his speed and precision. He didn’t have many opportunities, but when he did, he made his presence known.

3) Playing players out of position very rarely bears fruit

Soccer coaches often have two choices at their disposal when building a lineup: either pick the best 11 players and position them into a formation that fits their skills best, or pick a formation and then select the 11 players that fit that formation the best. Klinsmann prefers neither. Instead, recently he’s been picking 11 players he wishes to play, choose a formation he feels will fit the opponent, and then tries to force the players he chose into the formation he selected.

It hasn’t worked, especially not today. He tried to force 3 center-backs onto the back line. He tried to force three central midfielders (and Zardes) into a flat four midfield that occasionally looked like a flat diamond. Neither worked. It’s an experimental environment, sure, but the benefits of his choices aren’t entirely clear.

We know what doesn’t work, but we still don’t really know what works, and isn’t the latter what January camp was for?

4) Jozy Altidore needs to work on his heading…oh

Bonus! So, as the game wound down, I had written that Jozy needed to work on his heading in front of net. The 26-year-old had a few headed opportunities in the box throughout the game, and he failed to capitalize. He looked to drill it into the ground on multiple occasions, but from the distance most of his efforts came from, he likely should have looked to aim his headed shots rather than use the ground pound technique.

Then, you know, he scored the late winner on a header. So, yeah. Never mind. But still. Yeah. Whatever.

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