Premier League Preview: Manchester City vs Fulham

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  • Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero have combined (24) for more goals than all of Fulham (22)
  • Fulham hasn’t won consecutive league games since October
  • Only Norwich has conceded more away goals than Fulham this season

On Saturday, Manchester City welcome relegation threatened Fulham to the Etihad (watch live on NBC Sports Live Extra at 11am ET) as Manuel Pellegrini’s squad hopes to secure maximum points ahead of a grueling away schedule.

With the Citizens facing trips to Manchester United, Arsenal, and Liverpool in their next four fixtures, it is of vital importance that they send Fulham back empty-handed.

Fulham remain mired in last place, but a win last weekend against Newcastle has temporarily given the Cottagers hope.

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Giving the visitors an even brighter glimmer of hope will be key absences on either end of the Manchester City teamsheet.

Captain Vincent Kompany will not be available along the back line due to suspension, likely forcing reserve defender Jolean Lescott into duty alongside Martin Demichelis.  In addition, leading scorer Sergio Aguero will miss out thanks to a hamstring injury.

Aguero won’t be back until after next weekend’s Manchester derby, leaving Alvaro Negredo to lead the City attack this weekend and in the near future.

(MORE: Fulham’s Premier League hopes rest on history repeating itself)

With Fulham sitting bottom of the table, they need points wherever they can find them, but will be without key players as well. The club confirmed that due to injury, the trio of Kostas Mitroglou, Ashkan Dejagah, and Dan Burn will not play a part this weekend. Dejagah scored the winner against Newcastle last weekend.

Whites fans will take solace in memories, recalling the club’s miraculous win in 2008 over Manchester City that began a three-game winning streak to save their Premier League status in what is known as the Great Escape.

What they’re saying:

Manuel Pellegrini on missing captain Vincent Kompany: “He is a very important player but we have had so many injuries during the whole year from different players and always we have managed to play well. I am sure the players who will play tomorrow instead of Vincent will play well.”

Fulham manager Felix Magath on former player Edin Dzeko: “Edin has a different situation here (than in Germany). He is not the only striker at Manchester City and there are a lot of very good players. Perhaps he should come to Fulham and he could score a lot more goals than he does at City.”

Fulham midfielder William Kvist on life at the bottom: “A victory just changes everything; the mood, and in training, it lifts you a notch higher so it was really important for us. I get this feeling that it’s still in our hands – we have a lot of games left and we need to play really well, that’s the way I see it.”

Prediction:

The Newcastle win will give the struggling visitors a boost, and they may prove stubborn for the first half, but the legs will get tired and the pace of Negredo up the middle and the stacked Manchester City wings will be too much for the Whites. While an away win would once again prove to be a season-saver for the bottom side, there’s a reason City are 1/7 favorites to win. This fixture has 2-0 Manchester City written all over it, with both goals coming in the second half.

Errors down, penalty kicks up after introduction of VAR in Italy

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The implementation of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in Italy has been controversial, but according to a look at the statistics, it has for the most part done its job to fix clear and obvious errors.

Italian sports paper Gazzetta Dello Sport compiled all the times VAR has been used through 346 matches, 330 in Serie A and 16 in the Coppa Italia. There were 1,736 checks (916 goals, 464 penalties and 356 red cards) with 105 corrections and just 17 errors where the referee and assistant made the wrong decision. Eight of those errors did affect the result, which is an issue that will surely be addressed by the Italian officiating organization.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

But overall, Gazzetta found that in the VAR era, referee errors only amounted to 0.98 percent during a match, as opposed to 6.03 percent in the past. In addition, fouls are down 8.8 percent, red cards are down 6.4 percent, and yellow cards are down 14.7 percent. On the flip side, penalty kicks are called 4.3 more percent of the time.

The Premier League voted recently not to add VAR to its league matches next season, while top leagues in Germany, Italy and in Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League continue to use it.

Report: New Arsenal manager will have small budget to re-shape squad

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Whoever takes the helm as Arsenal’s next manager will have to do some math gymnastics this summer to stretch every penny available.

According to a report from The Telegraph, Arsenal is giving Arsene Wenger‘s successor a little less than $70 million to work with in this summer’s transfer market, citing back-to-back transfer windows with club-record signings (Alexandre Lacazette last summer and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January) and three raises given to players. Arsenal paid around $78 million alone to sign Aubameyang and around $65 million for Lacazette.

[READ: UCL Preview: Liverpool vs. Roma]

That means whoever comes in next to lead Arsenal will likely have to sell one or two players this summer to raise additional money for world-class signings.

For the last decade, Arsenal has been crying out for a new pair of centerbacks and a holding midfielder in the mould of Patrick Vieira. In addition, with Petr Cech getting older, the prospect of needing a new goalkeeper is also on the horizon.

Luckily for Arsenal, they seem to be just fine up front. From Aubameyang and Lacazette to Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey, the club has the talent to challenge for a title next season in that department.

A dozen different names have been bandied about as to who will be Arsenal’s next manager, with out-of-contract and former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique reportedly on the shortlist. Vieira, former Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta, Germany National Team coach Joachim Low, Juventus boss Max Allegri and Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsman have all also been linked with the job.

Tunisian player who collapsed in Spain regains consciousness

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MADRID (AP) Spanish third-division club Toledo says a Tunisian player who collapsed from heart failure during practice 10 days ago has regained consciousness.

The club says doctors removed sedative medication and Lassad Nouioui was responding well to treatment on Monday.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

They will consider removing the 32-year-old Nouioui from the intensive care unit if his condition keeps improving. Nouioui has played for a number of clubs during his 14-year professional career, notably a four-year stay at Deportivo La Coruna and a one-year spell with Celtic.

Nouioui collapsed on April 14.

The game against Real Madrid B the following day was postponed because of the problem with Nouioui.

FIFA force pace on $25B Club World Cup, global league plan

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GENEVA (AP) FIFA is forcing the pace on talks over a $25 billion offer to revamp the Club World Cup and create a global national team competition.

FIFA says President Gianni Infantino hosted a meeting last Friday with invited officials from some top European clubs.

[ MORE: Everton gets past Newcastle behind Walcott strike ]

The European Club Association has strongly opposed FIFA’s hope for a four-yearly club tournament starting in 2021, which could rival the UEFA-organized Champions League.

UEFA has also proposed a Global Nations League. A similar project is tied to the FIFA-controlled $25 billion, 12-year offer from a consortium including investors from Saudi Arabia and China.

FIFA says it’s holding “informal ongoing discussions with different stakeholders on the topic of the future Club World Cups.”

Infantino is set to meet confederation presidents and general secretaries “in the near future,” FIFA says.