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.

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”