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.

Mendy a doubt for start of Man City’s Premier League season

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High-flying left back Benjamin Mendy‘s Manchester City takeoff has been delayed by a thigh injury.

Pep Guardiola revealed Thursday that Mendy is doubtful for City’s Aug. 12 Premier League opener at Brighton and Hove Albion despite passing a medical to push through a $68 million move from Monaco.

Saying Mendy is “a little bit injured,” Guardiola said to expect an absence of two to three weeks.

[ MORE: LAFC hires Bob Bradley ]

The depth chart behind Mendy is incomplete, though City has added two right backs this offseason in Kyle Walker and Danilo.

The latter would be the front-runner to start in Mendy’s place, as he did in a 3-5-2 as Man City beat Real Madrid 4-1 on Wednesday.

Man City follows its opener at Brighton with a visit from Everton and a trip to Bournemouth.

Roma gives new 4-year deal to Premier League target Nainggolan

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Hard-nosed midfielder Rajda Nainggolan has been linked to Manchester United and Chelsea for some time, but Thursday linked up long-term with his present club.

Nainggolan, 29, signed a new deal with AS Roma through the 2020-21 season, putting the Belgian box-to-box mid at the heart of i Lupi‘s plans to chase down Juventus.

[ MORE: Chatting with De Rossi ]

Nainggolan has been in the last two Serie A Best XIs.

The 29-times capped Belgian has six goals for his national team, and has 255 Serie A appearances between Cagliari and Roma. Nainggolan has 31 goals and 18 assists in those matches, scooping 62 yellows and two send-offs but never being handed straight red.

While it’s a perceived blow for his Premier League suitors, it’s a welcome retention for Roma. He’s arguably the reason Roma was ready to part with Michael Bradley in 2014, and you can see why: He plays right up to the line but knows right where it lies.

Too many fans: Udinese vs. Hannover friendly called off

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ST. VEIT, Austria (AP) Local authorities in southern Austria have called off Sunday’s friendly match between Udinese and Hannover as the estimated number of spectators exceeds the capacity of the stadium.

The city of St. Veit says about 4,000 fans, including 280 potential football hooligans, were expected for the game at the ground of local amateur club FC Alpe Adria, which has a capacity of 2,430.

St. Veit mayor Gerhard Mock says “it’s a shame … but security comes first.”

It’s not immediately clear whether the match between the Italian and German top-flight teams can be moved to a larger venue. Both Udinese and Hannover are having their preseason training camps in the province of Carinthia.

LIVE – Everton kick off Europa League campaign

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Wayne Rooney will play his first competitive game for Everton in 13 years.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores

That storyline will dominate Everton’s return to Europe as they kick off their 2017-18 UEFA Europa League campaign in front of a packed house at Goodison Park on Thursday.

The Toffees welcome Slovakian side MFK Ruzomberok for the first leg of the third qualifying round as they aim to make it back to the group stage for the first time since 2014-15.

Click on the link above to follow not only Everton’s game but all of the Europa League qualifiers going on across Europe this afternoon with the likes of AC Milan, Fenerbache, PSV, Marseille and Athletic Bilbao all in action.

If Ronald Koeman‘s side successfully navigate their way past Ruzomberok then they will be in the play-off round which is the final hurdle before the group stage.