Liverpool v Sunderland - Premier League

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Manchester City

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  • Liverpool, at the top of the Premier League, has a four-point lead on Manchester City.
  • Manchester City hold matches in hand, having played 31 games (to Liverpool’s 33).
  • Liverpool have won nine Premier League games in a row.

A month of anticipation and a slip from previously league-leading Chelsea have set the stage for what should be the most important game of the Premier League season, but whereas a typical battle of titans would see one team adjust to the other’s approach, both Liverpool and Manchester City should prove unrelenting when the teams kick off Sunday at Anfield. The Citizens will view themselves as talented enough to impose their game on Liverpool, while the Reds’ flexibility and aggressive approach has proved profitable all season long.

Coverage begins tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN, with the match also available to stream live via NBC Sports Live Extra.

The match also takes place on the weekend English soccer observes 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy, one where 96 people in the Liverpool end of Hillsborough Stadium died during an FA Cup semifinal between the Reds and Nottingham Forest. Prematch ceremonies featuring Liverpool legends Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush as well as Manchester City icon Mike Summerbee will accompany a minute of silence, with the game starting seven minutes late to commemorate the moment the 1989 semifinal was stopped in Sheffield.

In the teams’ first meeting, Manchester City took a 2-1 Boxing Day win over Liverpool, with first half goals from Vincent Kompany and Álvaro Negredo pulling back Philippe Coutinho’s 24th minute opener. Since then, Liverpool’s only lost two games, dropping 2-1 results at Stamford Bridge (Dec. 29) and the Emirates (Feb. 16, FA Cup). The team’s last loss at home, its only one this season, came Sept. 27 against Southampton when the Saints became one of two teams to hold the Reds scoreless this season.

With the quality Manchester City has in attack, the Citizens won’t have to rely on a shutout to take points from Anfield. Between Sergio Agüero, Edin Dzeko, and Negredo, City have a combined 35 goals from its forwards (though Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge have combined for 49). The midfield of David Silva, Yaya Touré, Fernandinho, and Samir Nasri have accounted for 33 goals, with Touré’s 18 tallies pacing the league’s midfielders. While Liverpool’s 90 goals in 33 games puts them on track to set a Premier League record, Manchester City are capable of keeping up.

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That’s why the teams’ defenses could prove the difference. City’s has been much derided because of the presence of Martín Demchelis, a weakness that isn’t reflected in the numbers. The Citizens’ 29 goals allowed are second fewest in the league to Chelsea’s 24. Liverpool, on the other hand, has had to overcome a more suspect defense, one that has conceded 40 times this season.

Those goals are part of the reason why a draw may hurt Liverpool more than City. With the goal difference tiebreaker currently in the Citizens’ hands, a point at Anfield will leave the Sky Blues within a manageable four with two games in hand. A loss on Merseyside, however, means the Manchester City no longer controls title fate.

What they’re saying:

Brendan Rodgers, manager, Liverpool (from The Guardian): “If you become fearful, that’s the first class ticket to fail. So for us, and for me, it’s exciting. It’s the joy of going and playing. This is why we work. It’s nothing to be frightened of. Nothing to be frightened of! We’ve an army of supporters behind us who are incredible. We’ve got a team high in confidence and belief, knowing we can beat anyone.”

Manuel Pellegrini, manager, Manchester City (via Sky Sports): “Of course if you defend with 10 players near your box, you are not going to have space for the other team. But the most important thing about these two teams is they play attractive, offensive football. Both teams are very close for this.

“Both teams have scored a lot of goals during the season but if we are with Liverpool and Chelsea at the top of the table, it is because we also know how to defend.”

Prediction: When you go player-for-player, it’s hard not to favor Manchester City, but Liverpool has transcended those expectations all season, hinting there’s something about the team’s talent, approach, or execution that we’re missing. While few still doubt the team’s rightful place in the title race, Manchester City is still favored to win the league, meaning a lot of people still aren’t convinced the Reds are as good as their record.

To a certain extent, I’m part of that group, but it’s impossible to look beyond Liverpool’s home form. It’s difficult to look at a run that’s seen them go undefeated in league since the calendar turned. It’s hard to look at that +50 goal difference and say ‘this team isn’t quite on the same level.

While ‘this one could end 4-3’ has been the type of refrain we’ve heard throughout the week, both defenses should prove slightly more resilient in the face of this challenge. I see a 2-2, with enough chances to leave each side convinced they could have won.

 

Barcelona signs striker Paco Alcacer

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has signed striker Paco Alcacer for five seasons after securing his transfer from rival Spanish club Valencia.

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Alcacer, who turns 23 on Tuesday, joins an already daunting attack of Lionel Messi, Lius Suarez, and Neymar.

Barcelona says it is paying 30 million euros ($33.5 million), plus a possible two million euros ($2.2 million) more in variables, to Valencia.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal? ]  

The Liga champions also say they are loaning forward Munir El Haddadi to Valencia, which will have the option to buy his rights next summer for 12 million euros.

Alcacer scored 43 goals in the last three seasons at Valencia.

Done Deals: Perez to Arsenal, Remy joins Palace, Marshall to Hull

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 14:  Lucas Perez of RC Deportivo la Coruna reacts during the La Liga match between Rayo Vallecano and RC Deportivo La Coruna at Estadio Teresa Rivero on September 14, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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It has been a busy Transfer Deadline Day eve in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal? ]

Below is a look at three deals which have already been confirmed.

And don’t forget, the summer transfer window shuts at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday so stay up to date with all the latest transfer news right here.


Arsenal have completed the signing of Lucas Perez from Deportivo La Coruna.

Perez, 27, was on fire for Deportivo last season, scoring 17 goals and adding eight assists in 36 games. The Spanish striker has had a nomadic career to date but after his breakout season in La Liga, he has now sealed a move to the Gunners for a fee believed to be close to $23 million.

Able to play as a central striker or out wide, Perez will give Arsene Wenger plenty of attacking options as the Spanish international arrives at the Emirates. Not quite the wow factor Gunners fans had been hoping for but still a player who can contribute goals and push Olivier Giroud all the way for the starting spot up top.


French international striker Loic Remy has landed at Selhurst Park.

Remy, 29, has joined the Eagles on a season-long loan deal from Chelsea and is reunited with Alan Pardew who he worked with at Newcastle United.

The former QPR striker has found life pretty tough at Chelsea, making just 47 appearances over the last two seasons in all competitions but he did score 12 goals in that time. Pardew managed to get the best out of Remy at Newcastle, with the former Marseille forward scoring 14 goals in 26 Premier League appearances during the 2013-14 campaign.

Now Remy will line up alongside Christian Benteke in a completely revamped Palace attack and all of a sudden the Eagles look much more capable of scoring goals. What a partnership Benteke and Remy could be in south London.


Goalkeeper David Marshall has joined Hull City from Cardiff City for a fee believed to be in the region of $6.5 million.

Marshall, 31, is a Scottish international and has previously played in the PL with Cardiff during the 2013-14 season. Now he is returning to the top-flight with the Tigers, as caretaker boss Mike Phelan makes him Marshall his first significant signing of the summer as the club continues to finalize a takeover from Chinese investors.

He is likely to be the first-choice goalkeeper at Hull although Allan McGregor will push him all the way when he returns from injury and Eldin Jakupovic has certainly not let anyone down after Hull surprisingly won two of its first three PL games this season after securing promotion from the Championship.

Hull is expected to also add Ryan Mason from Tottenham Hotspur in the coming hours.

VIDEO: Hope Solo launches furious rant after being handed suspension

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Hope Solo did not take her six-month suspension from the U.S. women’s national team well.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal?

Solo, 35, was suspended by U.S. Soccer on Aug. 24 and also had her contract terminated with immediate effect after calling Sweden’s national team “cowards” following their quarterfinal win over the USWNT at Rio 2016.

After finding out about her suspension in person in Seattle from USWNT head coach Jill Ellis and Dan Flynn of U.S. Soccer, Solo launched an furious, expletive laden tirade which was caught on camera by a Fullscreen documentary “Keeping Score” which has been following her and other members of the U.S. women’s national team around. The full video will be released soon.

“Six month suspension no pay, terminated contract effective immediately,” Solo said. “17 f***ing years and it’s over!”

She was consoled by her husband Jerramy Stevens in the video clip.

Here is the video of Solo’s initial reaction.

Wayne Rooney to retire from England after 2018 World Cup

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Wayne Rooney will not play again for England after the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal? ]

Speaking ahead of England’s opening 2018 World Cup qualifier against Slovakia this Sunday, Rooney confirmed the next World Cup will be his last major tournament with England.

Rooney, 30, is the all-time leading goalscorer for England with 53 goals and he has once again been named captain of the English national team under new manager Sam Allardyce.

The Manchester United skipper spoke to reporters at England’s training HQ at St. George’s Park and confirmed his plans to retire from international duty in 2018.

“I know myself that Russia will be my last opportunity to do anything with England. I am going to try and enjoy these two years and then hopefully I can end my time playing for England on a high,” Rooney said. “I am not old. I am 30 years of age. Come Russia I feel like that will be the time for me to say goodbye to international football. My mind is made up. It’s down to Sam Allardyce again, in terms of the next two years, but that will be my last tournament if selected. I will have enjoyed some highs, some lows but I am an immensely proud man.”

Rooney first played for England as a 17-year-old in 2003 and over the last 13 years he has played six major tournaments for the Three Lions, captaining them since 2014 when Steven Gerrard retired from international duty.

So often criticized, especially in recent months after being dropped into a deeper midfield role by Hodgson for England and Louis Van Gaal at his club, Rooney is still the talisman for England. He will become the all-time leading appearance holder for an outfield player when he next plays for England, surpassing David Beckham’s record of 115 caps. The former Everton striker is only 11 appearances away from equaling legendary goalkeeper Peter Shilton’s record of 125 appearances.

When all is said and done, despite disappointments at major tournaments (the kick at Ronaldo at the 2006 World Cup and the rant at England’s fans at the 2010 World Cup stick out) Rooney will go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, players to ever play for England.

His legacy will remain intact no matter what happens between now and the end of the road in the summer of 2018.