Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs Manchester City

3 Comments
  • Manchester City has not conceded a goal in 508 minutes.
  • Of the eight times City has scored 5 or more goals in a game this season, only one came on the road.
  • A win would put the Gunners three points from the top; a loss gives Everton a chance to pull within three of Arsenal.

It’s a pivotal match for both clubs in the top-four picture as red-hot Manchester City travels to the Emirates for a date with Arsene Wenger’s Gunners at 1:30pm ET on NBCSN or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

For Manchester City, who have not conceded a goal in over five straight Premier League matches, the title is theirs to lose – and so are the record books.  Another clean sheet would put their streak at a club record 598 minutes.  Already, their streak is City’s best in the top flight since 1915.

WATCH LIVE VIA NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA

Add the fact that Manuel Pellegrini and company have bagged 11 goals in that span (eight in their last two) and Arsenal will have plenty to think about on both ends of the pitch.

The same can’t be said for the Gunners.

Wenger’s bunch have been up to their usual late-season slide recently, picking up just four points thus far through March and seeing themselves outscored 9-3 largely thanks to a 6-0 spanking by Chelsea.

(MORE: Arsene Wenger deeply regrets not signing Yaya Toure)

With an away win, Arsenal are all but mathematically eliminated from the title contention, while Manchester City would kick off their three-match gauntlet in a positive fashion.

Following this weekend’s fixture, City will host Southampton at the Etihad before traveling to Anfield for a potential title-decider against Liverpool. Following that, City could be in the clear with just Sunderland, West Brom, Crystal Palace, Everton, Aston Villa, and West Ham left on the docket, making this stretch even more important.

Not too much has changed on the injury front for either side.  Arsenal will still be without Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere, while Laurent Koscielny misses out thanks to a calf injury. Pellegrini misses Sergio Aguero and Matija Nastasic while welcoming back David Silva.

What they’re saying:

Pellegrini on Arsenal: “I think Arsenal have a chance of winning the title. Maybe they didn’t play well or have the results they needed in the last two matches. But I think that all the teams will drop points also from now until the end of the season, so I continue thinking that Arsenal have a lot of chances to fight for the title.”

Wenger on their current position: “We want to finish first in the league and everything else, the other priorities are still there. You want to be in the Champions League of course, but it is never good enough to be anything other than first and you hope always you are the best. If you ask any team, and they have to be in the top four (so) you cannot say as well it is a shame, but you want to be first – you do not work day and night to be second.”

David Silva on City’s position: “I think another win would make us favorites. There will still be a long way to go but we’ll be in a great position going into the final few weeks. If we win them all, there is nothing anyone can do to stop us.”

Prediction:

With two teams coming into the match in almost completely opposite form, there’s an easy route.  Arsenal will have to fight hard to win the match, and Wenger will have them looking for revenge after the Chelsea defeat led to many counting them out. It’s hard to see a club like the Gunners laying down and dying like they did at Stamford Bridge twice in such a short span, and for that reason I like a 2-2 draw in this match, much to the delight of Chelsea and Liverpool fans.

LVG would only return to club football to get at Man Utd

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Leave it to The Daily Mirror to find that last bit of juice when it comes to Manchester United and former manager Louis Van Gaal.

Well, probably the last bit.

The Dutch manager said he does not expect to return to club football, unless one of the big boys in the Premier League offered him the chance to take a run at United. The Red Devils, of course, fired him shortly after an FA Cup title in order to hire Jose Mourinho.

[ MORE: WBA 1-2 Man Utd | Bournemouth 0-4 Liverpool ]

From The Mirror, quoting LVG at a Sunday night function in Rotterdam.

“I will probably not manage a club anymore,” Van Gaal said. “I would make one exception: If a big English club comes for me, than I would do it. Because then I can get the chance to get one over on Manchester United.’’

Could you see him getting a run at any of the Top Four contenders, even on a caretaker basis? Could Liverpool come calling if they tired of Jurgen Klopp one season, or might Arsenal or even Everton need a stopgap (should the Toffees spending come good)?

Suspended Villar says Spain in danger of missing World Cup

AP Photo/Paul White
1 Comment

The suspended president of the Spanish soccer federation, who is under investigation for corruption, tried Monday to stoke up fears that the country could be kicked out of the World Cup because of government interference.

Angel Maria Villar, who is free on bail, spoke at a news conference in Madrid and again denied any wrongdoing. He also blamed the government for meddling in the federation’s affairs by suspending him.

“This government is putting Spain’s participation in the World Cup at risk,” the 67-year-old Villar said in his first news conference since being arrested in July along with his son, Gorka Villar, and two other officials.

[ BLANC: I turned down USMNT talks ]

“The risk is serious,” Villar said. “The only party responsible for Spain not going to the World Cup will be the Spanish government.”

Villar spoke three days after FIFA said it was concerned about the independence of the Spanish soccer federation and that it would soon send a delegation to analyze the situation. FIFA made no mention of a possible suspension of the federation, which could keep Spain out of next year’s World Cup in Russia or even knock Real Madrid and Barcelona out of the Champions League.

Villar, who has spent time behind bars to impede the possible destruction of evidence, and the other three officials are being investigated for alleged improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

Villar resigned his vice presidencies of both FIFA and UEFA following his arrest. But he tried to stay on as the head of Spanish federation, a post he held for three decades.

His refusal to listen to pleas for him to step down led the Spanish government to suspend him from the post for one year pending the outcome of the investigation. Court documents allege that besides misappropriated funds, Villar is suspected of corrupting several regional federations by offering favors in exchange for votes.

Villar fired back at the government, saying his suspension had broken FIFA rules since it represented interference in the federation’s management.

“It’s easy to see that the source of concern was my arbitrary and unjustified removal from the presidency of the federation and for not respecting the presumption of innocence,” Villar said, adding that other teams are ready to take Spain’s place at the World Cup.

“Be careful. There are other powerful countries that didn’t qualify like Italy that are waiting to pounce and take our place,” Villar said.

Spain, which won the World Cup in 2010, is considered to be among the favorites for next year’s tournament.

Blanc: I turned down USMNT talks

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

U.S. Soccer has not been inactive when it comes to the USMNT coaching search, despite its uncertainty with an impending presidential election.

Le Parisien has an interview with Laurent Blanc in which the ex-Bordeaux, France, and Paris Saint-Germain boss says he was approached by the United States Soccer Federation, but was not interested in the gig.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

Blanc said an international job would have to touch his roots, and he’s most certainly not American. The tall 52-year-old had a glittering playing career with Saint-Etienne, Barcelona, Marseille, Inter Milan, and Manchester United amongst other stops.

More important, it shows that Sunil Gulati and his men have to some degree moved forward with keeping their imprint on the national team.

That’s a little worrying on any team: A hierarchy that may not be around much longer may be working to fill a position arguably more important than its own. It’d be nice to have them commit to not hiring anyone until after February’s election.

Premier League Preview: Everton vs. Swansea City

Peter Byrne/PA via AP
Leave a comment
  • Everton leads all-time 15W-9D-3L
  • BUT Swans unbeaten in 7 vs. Toffees
  • Toffees go ninth with win
  • Swans four back of safety

Everton hopes its up-turn in form can end three seasons of futility against visiting Swansea City when the two sides meet at Goodison Park on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Gylfi Sigurdsson gets a chance to face his former club for the first time, while longtime Swans man Ashley Williams may also feature for Sam Allardyce.

Swansea has no time to focus on the past, as Paul Clement‘s men sit deep in the drop zone. The last place Swans are four points shy of safety.

What they’re saying

Everton’s Ashley Williams on facing his former club (again)“The game is a little bit more important to me, I would be lying I said it wasn’t. You always want to play against your old teams and it’s a fixture you always look for.  I have been looking forward to this one and it will be nice to see old faces and old friends. It is a game we want to win and to keep a clean sheet in, especially at home, in order to keep our momentum going.”

Swansea City’s Roque Mesa on the match“This is a massive game for us. We need to pick up points because we are bottom and we need to improve our position. Everton have a new manager and their players have done very well under him – you can see their confidence has grown since he joined. But we did well against West Brom and picked up three points, which was very important. Then we faced Manchester City and they proved too good for us. They are the best team in the league, and unfortunately, we couldn’t match them on the night.”

Prediction

Swans need to move past that Man City loss and build on a 1-0 win over West Brom a few days previous. That may not be possible at Goodison, and the Welsh side would be thrilled to escape with a draw. It seems unlikely. Everton 2-1.