Premier League Preview: Hull City vs. Manchester City

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Manchester City hope to pick themselves back up with a win over Hull at the KC Stadium in the Premier League’s early Saturday game (Watch live on NBCSN, 8:45 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra).

City currently sit nine points back of Chelsea in the Premier League table, but they also have three games in hand – meaning the Citizens must win them all if they hope to add another trophy to sit alongside their freshly-collected League Cup. That means there will be no room for error at Hull. Even for a side still licking their wounds after being knocked out of the Champions League after a 4-1 aggregate defeat to Barcelona – and, of course, getting booted from the FA Cup after losing to Wigan. Again.

Taking on the Tigers isn’t as easy a prospect as it might sound. Hull are just coming off their own Cup victory, a resounding 3-0 win over Sunderland that takes them on to the semi-finals at Wembley. The hosts are currently 13th in the table, but they too have a game in hand, and a win could take them back into 10th. Plus, their last outing at the KC Stadium saw them lose 4-1 to Newcastle, so the Tigers are anxious to restore their pride, if nothing else.

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The visitors come to Hull for their first Premier League match in 21 days, distracted as they’ve been with their cup ties. Manuel Pellegrini’s side picked up just one victory in February, a 1-0 win over Stoke, while drawing Norwich and losing to Chelsea. Now they’ve got to get back on track – but Manchester City will almost certainly have to do it without star striker Sergio Agüero. The Argentine, only recently back from a month-long layoff, picked up a hamstring injury in the midweek loss to Barcelona. That leaves Edin Džeko and Álvaro Negredo to lead the line, with Stevan Jovetić also hurt once again.

Hull City, on the other hand, have two fresh forwards in Nikica Jelavić and Shane Long, both of whom were cup-tied last weekend. Steve Bruce, hoping to avoid a third straight defeat at home, is likely to revert back to a three-man defense, with Maynor Figueroa and James Chester flanking Curtis Davies, who’s been in excellent form this season.

What they’re saying

Manuel Pellegrini on Man City’s need for three points: We need to work hard now. We must try to fight for the title. There isn’t only Chelsea. Arsenal and Liverpool are also fighting. We need to win every game from now until the end of the season. We have had less than 72 hours to recover after a difficult week. The game against Hull is a moment to see our mentality.

Steve Bruce on facing the Citizens: “People are saying that it’s a good time to play them, but I’m not so sure. They’ll be disappointed and hurt after losing in two cup competitions and what makes the great teams is that they come out and show their teeth after something like that. I expect them to be fully at it on Saturday.”

Prediction

City win.
What, I can’t get away with sitting on the fence like that? Ok, a win for Manchester City. Their egos are just too bruised after recent matches. Plus, the visitors know that they absolutely must win if they want to keep pace with Chelsea.

Liverpool fans warned, as Roma pledges support

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There was a terrible incident in Liverpool on Tuesday when a Reds supporter was set upon by Roma fans and left in critical condition.

Sean Cox, 53, was attacked outside a pub before Liverpool’s 5-2 UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg win over AS Roma.

[ MORE: LFC 5-2 Roma | Klopp reacts ]

Liverpool has released its plans to keep supporters safe should they be among the 5,000 with tickets in Rome on Wednesday (via LiverpoolFC.com), pledging the “most comprehensive safety and security advice.”

The club has taken the exceptional measure of requesting an extraordinary meeting in the Italian capital, which will take place on Friday April 27. … At the behest of Liverpool, club officials will join AS Roma, UEFA and the relevant Italian police and security services to discuss specific ongoing concerns.

Merseyside Police chief superintendent Dave Charnock backed up Roma’s police demand that Liverpool fans without tickets skip the trip to Italy. According to the BBC, Liverpool was asked to put fans names on their tickets to the game.

“While we understand and appreciate that many Liverpool fans will want to travel to Rome, I would encourage fans who do not have tickets to not travel,” he said.

AS Roma, for its part, posted a photo of Cox with the statement, “His recovery and the safety of all fans attending football matches, is the only thing that matters now.”

Report: Gerrard on Rangers shortlist ahead of Old Firm Derby

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Could Steven Gerrard‘s first foray into management come against his old manager and in one of the most heated derbies in the world?

The BBC is reporting that the Liverpool legend is on the shortlist for Rangers as the Glaswegian side prepares to hire a new manager in its bid to reverse Celtic domination of the Scottish Premiership and the Old Firm Derby.

[ MORE: Fulham, NFL owner to buy Wembley? ]

Brendan Rodgers has engineered a marvelous run of form for Celtic, who went unbeaten in the league last season. Rodgers is also a sought-after managerial candidate for bigger jobs in Europe, and may not be at Celtic if and when Gerrard is hired by its rivals.

Either Celtic or Rangers have won the Scottish top flight title dating back to 1984-85, when champions Aberdeen were led by some guy named Alex Ferguson.

Rangers are facing a Manchester United moment this weekend, traveling to Celtic Park for a Sunday derby against Celtic which would see their rivals clinch the Premiership with a win.

Celtic has a 10-point lead on Rangers and Aberdeen, and is extremely likely to win its seventh-straight Premiership title. The record for most consecutive Scottish titles is nine, shared by Celtic (1966-74) and Rangers (1989-97).

Sweden announces Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not return for World Cup

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s public flirtation and seeming committal to returning to the Swedish national team for the World Cup was a big tease.

Whether it’s his call or not is up for debate.

The Swedish Football Association reports that it’s spoken with Ibrahimovic and the 35-year-old LA Galaxy striker has declined the chance to return to the fold.

[ MORE: Fulham, NFL owner to buy Wembley? ]

Sweden’s sporting director Lars Richt says Ibrahimovic has not changed his mind on international retirement despite his own words.

Sweden’s current team may have a role in that.

We imagine Richt and Sweden may be cushioning the blow for Ibrahimovic, especially if national team goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson is speaking on behalf of a team vibe when he speaks of Zlatan being “an individualist” who could ruin Sweden’s team-first concept.

Report: Fulham, NFL owner Khan agrees $700m price for Wembley

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Fulham owner Shad Khan also owns a National Football League team, and could have two top-flight teams from different nations playing in England soon.

For Fulham, the Cottagers are currently very much in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League and at the least will have a chance at qualifying through the playoffs.

[ MORE: TFC loses CCL Final in PKs ]

For the Jaguars, who have rarely needed all the seats in their stadium, it could mean a move to London if Khan goes through with what’s being reported as an accepted $700 million bid to buy Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium was also built with the design to host NFL games.

Here’s how ProFootballTalk’s Michael David Smith puts a bow on it (on one of the biggest days of the NFL calendar, nonetheless):

So it’s possible that there could soon be two iconic soccer stadiums in London with strong NFL ties, one which was built with NFL games in mind, and another that is owned by an NFL owner. The league is pouring serious resources into London.

It seems unlikely Khan would move Fulham from Craven Cottage, but there are other repercussions of this move for soccer in England.

There’s the potential for the England national team to no longer utlizie a permanent home, and the FA Cup and League Cup both potentially requiring new or rotating venues for their final rounds.

A lot to monitor here, and we’ll surely have all the details as they emerge from Khan’s crew.