Manchester City 4-0 Aston Villa: Dzeko double edges City towards title (video)

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Manchester City all but sealed the Premier League title by beating Aston Villa 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

Two second half goals from Edin Dzeko — the big Bosnian striker now has five goals in his last three games — and late goals from Stevan Jovetic and Yaya Toure sealed a dominant win for the home side who now sit two points ahead of second-placed Liverpool going into the final game of the season.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side know all they need is a draw against West Ham on Sunday, as their superior goal difference over Liverpool will see the Citizens lift their second PL crown in the last three seasons.

They dominated from start to finish against a stubborn Villa side but despite going in 0-0 at the interval, City dug in to seal a crucial win in the pouring rain. City have now racked up 100 goals in the PL and sit at the top of the standings for just the eleventh day throughout the entire season. After a supreme display, Pellegrini’s side have one hand on the 2013-14 PL trophy.

MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Early on City pushed to go ahead as Aleksandar Kolarov bombed on down the left but his cross was hacked away by Villa’s defense. Soon after Vincent Kompany rose to try and head home a corner kick but USMNT ‘keeper Brad Guzan did just enough to put him off as City’s skipper headed wide. Guzan came up big again soon after, as James Milner’s reverse ball found Pablo Zabaleta and he cut the ball back to Yaya Toure who slotted the ball goalwards but Guzan denied City’s Ivorian powerhouse with a reaction stop. City continued to prod and probe but Villa’s defense held firm and made it extremely difficult for the Citizens to engineer clear-cut opportunities early on.

As the first half came to a close City still couldn’t break down a stubborn Villa side who showed no sign of attacking intent (apart from a brief chance at the back post for Jordan Bowery and a Andreas Weimann breakaway) in the pouring rain at the Etihad Stadium. Zabaleta was getting free down the right-hand side and played in David Silva before the break but the Spaniard saw his effort blocked. In first half stoppage time City again worked the ball to the right where James Milner delivered a perfect ball into the six-yard box but Samir Nasri directed his effort wide of the near post. After 45 minutes the Citizens were on course to drop two points and let Liverpool back into the title race.

City started the second half the same way they started the first: all-out attack. A long ball over the top almost found Dzeko but the Bosnian striker couldn’t control the ball on the slippery surface. City continued to try and get in behind Villa’s five-man defense and stayed patient in the pouring rain in Manchester.

That persistent finally paid off in the 64th minute, as Silva released Zabaleta down the right and the Argentine full back squared the ball across to Dzeko who sent the home fans wild after slotting past Guzan. Relief was rife around the Etihad. The floodgates then opened for City as a near identical strike put them 2-0 up in the 71st minute. Silva was again given time on the edge of the box to thread a ball to Zabaleta who pulled it back for Nasri to slot it into the bottom corner, however Guzan saved well but the rebound found Dzeko who tapped home his and City’s second.

Toure tried his luck from a free kick which flew wide and the final 20 minutes of the match played out with City threatening to add to their tally as Villa chased shadows, with the home side stroking the ball around in a carnival atmosphere. Jovetic and Toure then scored late on to make it 4-0 as City turned on the style after scoring their 99th and 100th goals of a stellar PL campaign.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov, Garcia, Yaya Toure, Milner (Jovetic, 60′), Silva (Fernandinho, 76′), Nasri, Dzeko (Negredo, 86′)

Goals: Dzeko (64′, 71′) Jovetic (90′), Toure (90′)

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark (Robinson, 79′), Baker, Bertrand, Westwood, Delph, El Ahmadi, Weimann, Bowery (Bacuna, 59′)

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”