Championship Sunday focus: Manchester City

Leave a comment

Story so far… Go back and look at preseason picks (like ours, here) and two teams dominated pundits’ top spot: Chelsea, and Manchester City. After a slow start, a spell of midseason omnipotence, and some late slips, City’s right where we thought that’d end up. Claim a result on the final day, and the Citizens raise their second Premier League trophy in three years,  winning one of the most exciting title races in the league’s 22-year history.

Among the various new faces at the Etihad, Manuel Pellegrini and Fernandinho played major parts, but the driving forces behind this team are the same as they were two years ago. Yaya Toure remains the best midfielder in England after a 20-goal campaign. David Silva is one of the league’s most exciting playmakers, while the danger Sergio Aguero offers up top is second only to Liverpool’s Luis Suarez.

Had Aguero been healthier (limited to 22 games), City’s title may have been confirmed by now, but all teams have their challenges. Two points (and 13 goals, difference) up on Liverpool, the Citizens are a result away from a league-League Cup double.

RELATED: Head here for all things Championship Sunday

Who do they play and where can I watch it: Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United, visiting the Etihad on Sunday, is the main obstacle. Watch the game at 10am ET on NBC or live online via NBC Sports Live Extra.

Form guide: After slipping against Sunderland three weeks ago, City has won four in a row:

April 13 – at Liverpool, L 3-2
April 16 – vs. Sunderland, D 2-2
April 21 – vs. West Bromwich Albion, W 3-1
April 27 – at Crystal Palace, W 0-2
May 3 – at Everton, W 2-3
May 7 – vs. Aston Villa, W 4-0

What’s at stake: First place is the obvious answer, but given the title is in Manchester City’s hands, a different, more ignominious distinction is also at stake. Does this team want to be known for losing the title at home on the last day of the season? They came close two years ago, dramatics holdovers from that title-winning squad will want to avoid.

With a win, draw or a Liverpool slip against Newcastle, City wins its fourth first division title. Even with a loss, City can claim the title, provided the Reds do the same at Anfield.

When the final whistle blows: Triumph or tragedy, ecstasy or agony – there are only two, extreme ways this game can go. With City supporters will celebrate a title won at home for the second time in three years, or they’ll be left shocked as West Ham United costs them the crown.

WATCH: Pair of inspiring Academy videos from Men In Blazers

@MenInBlazers
Leave a comment

Men In Blazers produced a pair of videos on two teens from rival academies that should give all young players a sense of gratitude and inspiration for their chances in American soccer.

New York City FC Academy center back Prince Amponsah and New York Red Bulls Academy destroyer Amadeo Chapru-Tate get the mini-doc treatment from Roger Bennett.

Amponsah comes from Ghana, and his family moved to the United States where their son found his way to the youth national team.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Chapru-Tate comes from Haiti, adopted by his parents after a three-year process. His first game saw him score an own goal, but that was not a sign of what’s to come for the 15-year-old.

Confederations Cup: Scenarios before final group matches

Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Seven of eight nations remain alive for the knockout rounds after two-thirds of the group stage at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.

Only New Zealand has been eliminated, though the underdogs aren’t the sort of nations who will quit ahead of its group finale against Portugal.

That’s one of two Saturday matches, along with Russia versus Mexico, with two more on the docket for Sunday when Germany meets Cameroon and Chile duels with Australia.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

We’ve seen zany finishes at the Confederations Cup before, as the U.S. beat Egypt 3-0 and Brazil topped Italy 3-0 on the final day of group play in 2009 to send the Americans past Italy and into the knockout rounds despite a tournament-opening 3-1 loss to the Italians.

Group A

Draws will be enough to send Mexico and Portugal into the knockout rounds, with Mexico currently leading the group by virtue of a single goal scored (The two sides drew 2-2 in the opener).

We mentioned New Zealand’s status as a wild card, but hosts Russia will be under immense pressure against Mexico. The cynic will note that the tournament’s location could help the Russians beyond simple home-field advantage, while a bigger cynic may not that Mexico has been the beneficiary of plenty of officials’ whistles and non-whistles in recent years.

The safe bet is Portugal to win and Mexico to advance via draw or win.

Group B

No one’s safe, but Chile is feeling very good about its chances coming into Sunday’s match against Australia in Moscow. The Chileans battered Australia at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and a draw would give them a place in the next round.

The Socceroos need a two-goal win to pass Chile and assure a spot in the next round. A one-goal win could also do the trick for Australia if Germany loses and Australia outscores the Germans (who currently hold a one-goal advantage).

Germany knows it’s result-and-in for them, while Cameroon faces the longest odds. Not only do the Africans need to upset the Germans, but they need a two-goal win and help. If Cameroon won by one, it would fail to pass Germany.

Southampton to hire Pellegrino: “No last minute hitches expected”

Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Southampton Daily Echo says reports of Frank De Boer’s hiring at Crystal Palace were triggered by news that Southampton favors Mauricio Pellegrino.

De Boer has not been announced by Palace, but Pellegrino’s appointment could come first. The Argentine is expected to get the Saints job.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

Pellegrino, De Boer and Patrick Vieira had been reported as options for Saints, and Pellegrino has emerged as the favorite.

The Southampton and Palace jobs are the only vacant seats in the Premier League, with Watford hiring Marco Silva and Leicester keeping Craig Shakespeare.

From The Southampton Daily Echo:

Palace are believed to have been told that Pellegrino favours joining Saints, and therefore they moved quickly to offer De Boer the job.

It removes the last remaining obstacle and gives Saints a clear run in negotiating a deal to make the 45-year-old Argentinian their new manager, with no last minute hitches expected.

Again, this is going to be a hectic time for Saints fans. That’s not because Pellegrino isn’t a promising hire; He’s a top prospect. No, we’re just worried for the amount of times Mauricio Pellegrino is going to be called by the name of former Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino.

Juve’s Kean could leave club over tractor dispute

Photo by Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images
Leave a comment

No tractors, no teenager.

Moise Kean, 17, broke into the Juventus senior team last season with a trio of Serie A appearances that concluded with a goal against Bologna on May 27.

He also made a token appearance in the UEFA Champions League against Sevilla, which all-in-all is a pretty solid debut for the century’s first birth to make an appearance in a Top Five league in Europe.

[ MORE: Fabinho has interest in Man Utd ]

About that contract, though.

Kean’s father, Biorou, says Juventus has broken a contractual promise to his family, and that could send the teenager into the transfer market. Biorou says that his son’s 18th birthday — Feb. 28, 2018 — could trigger Moise Kean leave town as “an adult.”

From Sky Sports:

“Juventus offered a contract of €700,000-a-year, which was fine, but the problem is they had also promised me some tractors for my agricultural business in the Ivory Coast, but now they say there is no budget for them.

“I own several hectares of land in the Ivory Coast which I would like to cultivate with rice and corn. I’m an agronomist. I asked for agricultural materials and they told me “no problem.”

Now, though, those tractors are not in the Ivory Coast, and Biorou claims that he never signed a contract with agent Mino Raiola. It all sets the table for further complains and a transfer, so it’s worth keeping an eye on this odd saga.