Three things we learned in Manchester City’s derby demolition of Manchester United

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Following Manchester City’s comfortable 3-0 win over Manchester United pointed out plenty of things on Tuesday night.

Most notably, the balance of power in Manchester has shifted seismically towards the Blue half of the city.

From start to finish Manuel Pellegrini’s Man City took the game to United, and their relentless high-pressing and clinical finishing paid off. With this crucial win, City are now second in the league and just three points behind leaders Chelsea with two games in hand.

(MORE: Man United 0-3 Man City: Dzeko’s double hands City derby delight)

City are in the driving seat to win the PL crown, as United’s fans look on longingly from way down seventh as their ‘noisy neighbors’ are making quite the racket once again.

Let’s see exactly what we learned from yet another derby day demolition from City.

  • David Silva’s superb form will give Man City an extra edge in the run-in
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Silva’s pass map n the first half of City’s win over United. The playmaker just kept popping up everywhere. Source: Squawka.

Less than a minute. That’s how long it took for City to take the lead and deflate the electric atmosphere United’s home fans created. David Silva was at the center of Edin Dzeko’s opener as the diminutive Spaniard surged from the edge of the box toward the goal and created havoc. Rafael blocked Silva’s shot but Dzeko followed up to slot it home, as all game long Silva’s first-touch was sensational. United just couldn’t mark him, and the little man kept popping up in spaces behind Dzeko to devastating effect. Away at Hull last weekend just after City had gone down to 10-men, Silva curled in a world-class strike from 30-yards out to help grab a vital three points. He was the fulcrum of the Citizens attack and the heartbeat of their creativity once again on Tuesday. In recent weeks Silva has stepped it up when its really mattered, that’s the sign of a stellar player, and often a season curtailed by niggling injuries the Spanish sensation has regained the form which catapulted City to the PL title back in 2012.

If Silva keeps this form up, City will win the title at a canter this time.

(MORE: David Moyes takes responsibility for ‘disappointing’ derby before walking out of press conference)

  • City’s defensive nous key in next two huge away games

With plenty written about City’s marvelous attacking talents this season — and rightly so after they’ve smashed in 79 goals in 29 games — but City kept their fifth clean sheet in a row in the English top-flight. They haven’t done that since 1915. With the defensive unity looking incredible solid, shielded by the excellent Fernandinho, two big away games against Arsenal this Saturday, and then Liverpool on April 13 will likely determine if the Citizens will win their second PL title. Having Vincent Kompany back at the heart of their defense is key, plus Martin Demichelis has shaken off his nightmare in the FC Barcelona defeat and is now showing his fine pedigree as a defender.

Both full backs are reliable and add impetus going forward, but with trips to Arsenal and Liverpool coming up they have to be content with not having the lions share of possession and defending patiently throughout both matches. If they can shut out those two title challengers, they’ll give themselves one hand on the title.

  • Manchester United’s backbone needs rebuilding
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City ran rings around United all night long, as new signings Fellaini and Mata continue to underwhelm at Old Trafford.

All season long, when things look to be heading back on track for United they’ve faltered. Once again that was the case, as they’ve now lost 10 times in a single Premier League season for the first-time in club history. Six of those games have been at home, losing all three against their North West rivals Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City without scoring. There’s no way we can dig deep into United’s plethora of problems here, quite frankly I could write a thesis on it. But it’s clear the spine of the side needs rebuilding. Two quality central defenders, a strong holding midfielder and a lively forward who can tear up opposition defenses with pace, something neither Wayne Rooney or RVP possess. With Nemanja Vidic gone and Rio Ferdinand on the way out, we’ve seen time and time again that Phil Jones and Chris Smalling aren’t good enough. In midfield the holding players are aging, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher, while Tom Cleverley can’t quite cut it when it matters.

David Moyes needs to spend big, but right now after his buys in the last two windows, you have to question whether Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini were panic acquisitions or the right players to fight into United’s age-old philosophy of fast-paced attacking soccer. During the first half when United started to gather some steam, Mata was found on the edge of the box with the ball, but waited an age, then cut back inside and played the ball back to the defense. Their was no offensive urgency. That’s been a huge issue for the Red Devils. They need to find two-way players who can keep the ball and drive forward with it. For too long on Tuesday City were able to keep the ball and pass it around United’s players who were off the pace. United were nowhere near good enough, as the need for reinforcements is clear for all to see.

Deportivo wastes penalty kick, remains winless under Seedorf

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MADRID (AP) — Clarence Seedorf remained winless as Deportivo La Coruna coach after a 0-0 draw with Espanyol in the Spanish league on Friday.

Deportivo squandered chances including a second-half penalty kick taken by Lucas Perez. Its winless streak reached 10 games in all competitions.

It was the third game in a row without a victory since Seedorf took over to try to avoid relegation. Deportivo was 18th in the 20-team standings, in the relegation zone.

In addition to the missed penalty, Deportivo twice hit the posts in front of a supportive crowd at Riazor Stadium. The players left the field applauded by the local fans despite the setback.

Perez’s penalty attempt was saved by Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez in the 65th minute. Lopez, who earlier this season stopped a penalty taken by Lionel Messi, dived to his right to stop Perez’s low shot.

The match marked the Deportivo debut of veteran Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari. He played alongside Seedorf at AC Milan, and was signed this week after a trial period.

Espanyol, 15th in the standings, hasn’t won in seven matches, since it ended Barcelona’s 29-match unbeaten streak in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Espanyol’s last league win was in January, seven rounds ago.

Barcelona defends its seven-point lead in the standings when it hosts Girona on Saturday. Second-place Atletico Madrid visits Sevilla on Sunday.

Conte says he believes in his selection regarding Willian

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Antonio Conte has lashed out at anyone questioning why Brazilian winger Willian hasn’t played regularly until recently, saying

“Do you think that I am stupid when I put Willy on the bench?” Conte fired back at reporters when he was asked about Willian’s earlier lack of playing time at his pre-match press conference ahead of Chelsea’s match on Sunday against Manchester United.

[ MORE: Heynckes squashes Lewandowski to Premier League rumors ]

“I have to try and make the best decision for the team, no? Maybe last season we won the title, or did I forget something?”

The 29-year-old has made 29 Premier League appearances, but only 13 starts. He started in the midweek Champions League match against Barcelona and not only scored Chelsea’s only goal but also proved their most incisive player, prompting questions about his selection.

“Now he is playing because he deserves to play, not because there is some regret from the past,” Conte said. “For what? If a player deserves to play, and shows me during the training session that he is on top of his form, and wants to work defensively, he plays. If not, [he will] stay on the bench, stay in the stands.”

Instead of saying he wishes Willian had played more earlier in the season, he praised himself for giving the Brazilian the start at the appropriate time.

“He is playing now and I am very happy with my choice. Willian deserved to start in the previous game, and played well. I did a fantastic choice, and I want to take credit for that.”

EFL Cup Final preview: Arsenal, Manchester City fight for different types of glory

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  • These two clubs have never met in a major Cup final
  • With a win, Arsene Wenger would become the 8th PL manager to win all 3 major English trophies
  • Sergio Agüero has scored in all of his last 4 appearances against Arsenal

For Manchester City, it’s the first step of a potentially record-setting season. For Arsenal, it’s the Gunners’ best chance at securing a trophy.

The two teams are fighting for very different levels of glory as the two meet at Wembley Stadium on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET. Manchester City, despite losing to Wigan in the FA Cup just a week ago, would still be on track for a Double this season with a win against the Gunners. Meanwhile, Arsenal is outside the Premier League top four, and – as they have done each of the past two seasons in the FA Cup – could salvage an otherwise disappointing league season with a major Cup trophy.

Both teams will be struggling with selection in certain areas. Manchester City is likely missing Raheem Sterling, who could sit out due to an unspecified muscle injury according to Pep Guardiola in his pre-match press conference, while Fabian Delph is suspended after his sending off against Wigan in the FA Cup. That means either Danilo or 21-year-old Oleksandr Zinchencko would start at wing-back. Zinchenko is the likely candidate there, having appeared in four of City’s five EFL Cup games this season so far and playing almost every minute of those four matches. Gabriel Jesus, who missed more than two months with a knee injury, could be ready to make his early return. Claudio Bravo will continue to play in goal for the domestic Cup competitions.

Arsenal, meanwhile, is without new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan who is cup-tied to his previous club Manchester United, while Alexandre Lacazette is not yet recovered from his knee injury suffered in the North London derby, and Mesut Ozil could miss out with an illness. The Gunners are likely, however, to get Aaron Ramsey back in midfield after recovering from a groin injury, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can return to the lineup after his own cup tied absence in the Europa League midweek.

What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on playing Arsenal twice in a week: “We will be happy if we win, sad if we don’t but after the game we have another match against Arsenal. We are going to try and maintain our level, but finals are different, it is not what you have done in the past.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on playing Manchester City: “Manchester City have so many players that you think you have to stop that it is better to focus on the team plan than rather than on any individual. It’s true that I always used to use this competition with a youth team. For us it’s an opportunity. We’ll play with all the regular players.” 

Prediction

Arsenal has often come up big in hotly contested Cup matches, despite poor form in the surrounding competitions, so it would not be surprising to once again see Arsene Wenger hoist a trophy on Sunday to temporarily distract the fanbase and media from larger struggles. However, picking against this Manchester City team would be selection suicide, even after their disappointment against Wigan and considering the absence of under the radar star Raheem Sterling. Manchester City wins 3-1 with a pair of late goals to sink the Gunners, with a newly healthy Gabriel Jesus providing an influential injection off the bench in the final 20 minutes. Pep Guardiola raises another trophy at the site where he won the 2011 Champions League.

Heynckes squashes Lewandowski rumors after Premier League rumors

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The English media – mainly the tabloids – has had a field day over the last 24 hours with rumors of a Robert Lewandowski move to the Premier League claiming, but the Bayern Munich manager is having none of it.

Jupp Heynckes told the German press during his pre-match press conference on Friday ahead of the club’s Saturday match against Hertha Berlin, “I can’t imagine there is a chance [the club executives] will sell Lewandowski.”

“Bayern is not a selling club,” Heynckes went on to proclaim. “They want to, and always will want to, keep their top players.”

The reports stated that Lewandowski was “flirting” with a move to the Premier League, and that while Manchester City and Chelsea were the more logical destination, Liverpool was actually the preferred landing spot as the Polish international was open to a reunification with former boss Jurgen Klopp, whom he worked with at Borussia Dortmund before his switch to Allianz Arena. Lewandowski’s contract at Bayern Munich currently runs through 2021, leaving the player with little say over his future.

While the rumors seem like a long shot, what does make sense is that, at 29 years old, Lewandowski doesn’t a ton of time left to convince a Premier League club he’s worth a heavy investment for the next couple of years. Many top teams – most notably Arsenal – are hesitant to sign players over 30 years old, and would be even less inclined to pay a hefty transfer fee for a player without a long future ahead of them. Manchester United just paid a cut-rate price for Alexis Sanchez, and while that was largely due to Arsenal’s position of weakness regarding the expiry of Sanchez’s contract, Sanchez’s age also partially contributed to that knocked down transfer rate.

Nonetheless, Bayern’s sale history is minimal, having only offloaded surplus players, such as defender Medhi Benatia this past summer, Mario Gotze back to Borussia Dortmund the summer before, and Xherdan Shaqiri to Stoke City in 2015.