Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs. Manchester City

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  • City have won three of last four in derby
  • United have dropped last two derbies at Old Trafford
  • United leads all-time series 68W-50D-47L

Resurgent Manchester United faces its stiffest test yet as Manchester City comes into town with a five-goal swagger and a title to chase (Watch live Tuesday on NBCSN, 3:45p.m. ET and online via Live Extra).

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The Red Devils have struggled against top level competition in 2014 before an impressive come-from-behind win over Olympiakos in the UEFA Champions League last week, but City is obviously a different animal altogether.

United sit 12 points behind City despite having played two more matches, and they’ve struggled against their “noisy neighbors” in recent years. United is 3-5 against City dating back to an FA Cup match in April 2011.

The Red Devils are in Top Five form, but City has won three-straight since a relatively-dry two-game spell against Chelsea and Norwich. They haven’t allowed a Premier League goal since that 1-0 loss to Chelsea, a match time span of 418 minutes.

Sergio Aguero and Matija Nastasic are out for City.

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What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini on the derby being another cog in the run to the PL title: “That is why for our team all the games have the same importance because they have three points, but a derby has a special importance because we know the fans enjoy winning against Manchester United. The players are very motivated to try and win the title. It has been a very close Premier League from the beginning of the season and until the last match it will be the same way. One of the positive things of being eliminated from other competitions is that we are just focusing on the Premier League. We don’t have problem physically or mentally, we are just trying to fight for the title.”

David Moyes on Manchester United finding its big game form: “We we want to try and perform better in the bigger games than what we have done. It will be important for us to show the level of what we have got. I think we have got the level and we are not as far away as many people would have us and I have no doubt it will improve. We want to show we are still in there fighting. We will do everything we can to win. We go out to win every game, not just the derby game. Obviously it means a lot more to the supporters and the city if you win a derby game.”

Prediction

The cliche says that all bets are off when it comes to derby days, and I suspect this one will hold true to that. Old Trafford hasn’t been a fortress this season and that weakening has stood true even longer for City’s visits to United. No one likes to predict a draw, so if I’m going to wager a winner it’ll have to be City. Call it 4-3 to the blue as the defenses battle to contain decent attacks. Goal scorers: Rooney, Valencia, Mata, Dzeko (2), Toure, Silva.

Wasteful Poland snatches late 2-1 win at Montenegro

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Poland was in control for much of the game, but failed to finish in front of net until Borussia Dortmund full-back Lukasz Piszczek found the winner with eight minutes to go as the visitors increased their lead at the top of World Cup qualification Group E.

Robert Lewandowski put Poland in front five minutes before halftime with a brilliant free-kick that left Montenegran goalkeeper Mladen Blozovic completely baffled, but Montenegro looked sturdy at the back for much of the game and dangerous on the counter. They’d hit just past the hour mark as Stefan Mugosa headed in to level the score.

Lewandowski had a pair of massive chances in the second half, but couldn’t get either to go down as Blozovic was there to turn him away, and Montenegran defenders cleared off the line as well. Luckily for Poland, they had Piszczek who burst down the right to beat Aleksandar Sofranac, and he produced a stunning finish looped over the closing Blozovic from a tight angle, dinked off the far post, and into the back of the net.

That would do it for Montenegro who had little attacking ability outside of their countering abilities, and with Poland happy to ease out the clock, the hosts didn’t have enough.

The win pushes Poland six points clear at the top of Group E, a sizeable lead with five matches remaining. The battle for the second-place spot is tight, with Montenegro still in command on seven points, level with Denmark but ahead on goal differential. Armenia and Romania are even with six points each.

Netherlands manager Danny Blind fired after Bulgaria loss

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The Netherlands are in real trouble, and the manager has paid the price.

The Dutch national team has parted ways with Danny Blind the day after a 2-0 loss to Bulgaria left the Dutch fourth in their World Cup qualification group halfway through.

The move garnering all the headlines from Saturday’s loss was Blind’s decision to start 17-year-old defender Matthijs de Ligt. The Ajax youth product, who has just two Eredivisie starts to his credit, made two crucial errors and yanked at halftime, but the damage had been done. Spas Delev scored twice in the opening 20 minutes for Bulgaria, and that was all the home side needed as the Dutch offered little in front of goal.

Blind was also criticized for not getting Memphis Depay on the field as they chased the game. The Netherlands held 74% possession, but could only manage 3 shots on target. Depay has been in good form since his January move to Lyon, with five goals in his 10 Ligue 1 appearances.

This decision was something Blind saw coming. He told national broadcaster NOS immediately after the Bulgaria loss, “I blame myself. It can’t go on like this. Things have to change.”

“I need to think about [my future]. I do not throw the towel in here. I’m incredibly disappointed, especially since I had a good feeling about this match. It makes sense that I put myself in front of the mirror.”

However, the problems for the Dutch go far deeper than Danny Blind. They missed out on Euro 2016 largely thanks to the failed 2nd tenure for Guus Hiddink. His assistant Blind took over, but the results have been equally as poor. The Netherlands sit fourth in UEFA World Cup qualification Group A, with losses to Bulgaria and France plus a draw with Sweden. It’s not over for them though, as they sit three points back of a second place spot with five matches to go, and three of those five at home.

With the Netherlands still yet to play their friendly against Italy this coming week, former goalkeeper Fred Grim takes over on an interim basis. Grim collected 101 caps for the Netherlands, and has served as the Netherlands U-21 manager for the last two years. Before that, he took charge of his first full managerial job as head man of Dutch 2nd-tier club Almere City.

Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery, scores in England win

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has been special to watch unfold, and the Sunderland striker brought his little buddy to Wembley today.

Then he notched a match-winner.

Lowery walked Defoe out onto the field in a replica England kit before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, and then Defoe scored his 20th goal for country.

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It was his first since 2013, the last year Defoe was called up for the Three Lions.

Here’s the goal, which was followed by a second-half Jamie Vardy tally as England stayed atop Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

Two Russian soccer fans stabbed in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Two Russian fans have been hospitalized with serious injuries after being stabbed following a friendly soccer match between Red Star Belgrade and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday police were looking for the knife-wielding perpetrators who attacked a group of Lokomotiv fans in downtown Belgrade late Saturday.

Serbian media reports said the Russian fans were attacked by supporters of Red Star’s rival Partizan Belgrade.

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The match, which Red Star won 2-1, was meant to promote Serbia’s traditional friendship with Russia.

Stefanovic says “nobody should think they could hurt the Serbian-Russian friendship” with such attacks.

Serbia has seen a surge of fan violence inside and outside stadiums. In 2009, a French football fan was fatally beaten in Belgrade.