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.

Mourinho slams critics, reveals team news; Fellaini update

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Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United are almost back to full strength but he has a few concerns.

The Red Devils host Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Mourinho now having just a handful of injury concerns.

Long-term absentees Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo have all returned to action over the past week, while Mourinho has a small defensive problem with Eric Bailly and Phil Jones out for the visit of the newly-promoted Seagulls.

“They are out. But we are okay because we have [Chris] Smalling, [Marcos] Rojo and [Victor] Lindelof,” Mourinho said.

He also said that Pogba isn’t yet able to play a full 90 minutes as he continue his recovery from a hamstring injury, while Zlatan is improving all the time after jumping off the bench in the victory over Newcastle United last weekend and the midweek defeat at Basel in the UEFA Champions League.

“I prefer him [Ibrahimovic] on the pitch than off the pitch,” Mourinho said. “On the pitch, he’s another option for us and he’s an option of quality. His physicality and his intelligence, the way he moves, the way he plays. But he needs time. We managed to give him 15/20 minutes in both matches, he needs more of that, so hopefully, tomorrow, we play him again.”

Mourinho also took exception to a question about the criticism his team receives about their defensive style of play, with the Portuguese coach pointing towards United’s superb home record this season.

“I don’t know who is more ambitious than us,” Mourinho said. “We played against Newcastle with Pogba, Rashford, Martial, Mata, Lukaku, the full backs are not full backs, everybody knows they are wingers, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young. So, I don’t know what you want.”

United have won all six PL home games this season and have scored 19 goals, conceding just once. So, yeah, he has a point but they only real test they’ve had so far at home was against Tottenham Hotspur.

Aside from an injury update and hitting back at critics, Mourinho also gave an update on Fellaini’s contract situation and revealed he is concerned the Belgian midfielder may leave.

Fellaini, 30, is out of contract at the end of the season and Mourinho has praised the lanky midfielder on numerous occasions over the past few months. Is he worried Fellaini will leave for nothing?

“Yeah,” Mourinho said. “This is a discussion between the player and the board. I’m not involved in contracts, in deals, and I respect both – I respect the player because he has the right to decide his future. So I just wait wishing they will have an understanding, but it’s out of my control.”

Bayern fans unhappy with Champions League ticket prices

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich fans were unhappy with the price of tickets for their team’s match at Anderlecht in the Champions League.

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The fans held banners during Wednesday’s game saying, “Are your necks not full? Is your greed now finally satisfied?”

A Bayern fan group, Club Nr. 12, issued a statement saying Anderlecht had made 85 percent of the tickets available to the German club’s fans priced at 100 euros ($118).

“Even by the standards of the generally high-priced Champions League, this represents a new dimension for a first-round game,” said the statement, which thanked Bayern for supplementing the tickets so fans had could pay 70 euros ($82.50).

Many Bayern fans avoided the trip to Brussels altogether, while 91 percent of more than 2,500 Club Nr. 12 members said in a survey that ticket prices were “completely unacceptable.”

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Anderlecht spokesman David Steegen told The Associated Press that Bayern fans were charged “exactly the same price” as home fans who bought single tickets to the game. He said fans who bought a three-game Champions League bundle were offered a reduction.

UEL roundup: AC Milan advances after big win; Arsenal, Everton fall

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Both Premier League sides fell in Thursday’s UEFA Europa League play, but for one side the result didn’t effect their progression into the next round.

[ MORE: Ex-Brazil forward Robinho handed nine-year prison sentence ]

Arsenal dropped a 1-0 result to Cologne, however, the Gunners still moved into the Round of 32 after their Group H counterparts, Red Star Belgrade and BATE Borisov settled for a scoreless draw.

Meanwhile, Everton’s 2017/18 woes continued on the day as the Toffees suffered a brutal 5-1 defeat at home against Serie A side Atalanta. The win secures Atalanta’s place in the knockout phase, along with fellow Group E club Lyon — who also won on Thursday.

AC Milan put up five goals of its own in a convincing win against Austria Wien, while Lazio, Nice and Red Bull Salzburg were among the other sides to move into the next round after picking up the necessary results.

Below are all of the scores from Thursday’s Europa League action.

Astana 2-3 Villareal
Konyaspor 1-1 Marseille
Rosenborg 0-1 Real Sociedad
Lazio 1-1 Vitesse
Viktoria Plzen 2-0 Steaua Bucuresti
Lokomotiv 2-1 Copenhagen
Zenit 2-1 Vardar
Red Bull Salzburg 3-0 Vitoria
Athletic Bilbao 3-2 Hertha Berlin
BATE 0-0 Red Star Belgrade
Ostersunds 2-0 Zorya
Koln 1-0 Arsenal
Nice 3-1 Zulte Waregem
Lugano 1-0 Beer-Sheva
Ludogorets 1-2 Istanbul
Braga 3-1 Hoffenheim
AEK 2-2 Rijeka
AC Milan 5-1 Austria Vienna
Lyon 4-0 Apollon
Maccabi Tel Aviv 0-2 Slavia Praha
Sheriff 1-0 Zlin
Partizan 2-1 Young Boys
Skenderbeu 3-2 Dynamo Kyiv
Everton 1-5 Atalanta

Ex-Brazil forward Robinho sentenced to nine years in prison

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Former Brazil international Robinho has been sentenced to nine years in prison after being convicted of rape on an Albanian woman back in 2013.

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At the time, Robinho was playing for Serie A side AC Milan.

The court decision came down on Thursday after the 33-year-old forward had failed to attend any court hearings in Italy, where the crime reportedly took place.

Robinho is believed to have acted in the crime with five other Brazilians, to which their whereabouts are unknown to this point.

Reuters has reported that Robinho is entitled to up to two appeals and “Italy would only launch extradition proceedings once this legal process is exhausted.”

The Brazilian is known for his club playing days at AC Milan and Manchester City, among other clubs in addition to his time with the Selecao. Robinho took part in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups with Brazil.