Championship Sunday focus: Manchester City

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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.

Messi could face CONMEBOL suspension for verbal abusing official

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Already facing some uncertainty with a depleted roster, Argentina could face a significantly greater challenge.

[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina starting XI vs. Bolivia ]

Barcelona star Lionel Messi could face suspension after reportedly verbally abusing linesman Marcelo Van Gasse during the second half of Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile.

Messi was reported to CONMEBOL for yelling, “F*** off, your mother’s c***” at Van Gasse and refused to shake the official’s hand at the end of the match.

The officiating crew from the match didn’t initially include Messi’s rant in the post-match report, however, it was added on Monday and submitted to CONMEBOL.

The South American federation must now decide if and when it will punish Messi for his reported actions, and there is the potential that the world-class attacker could be suspended for Tuesday’s clash against Bolivia if the federation acts quickly.

There are several other scenarios though for CONMEBOL to action, including disregarding Messi’s verbal assault.

La Albiceleste currently sit third in World Cup qualifying on 22 points.

Arena speaks about USMNT turnaround, says “no secret formulas”

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It’s only been one competitive match since Bruce Arena regained control of the U.S. Men’s National Team and there’s already been a noticeable difference in form.

[ MORE: Three keys for the USMNT ahead of Panama clash ]

The former LA Galaxy manager wouldn’t have you believe that though following Friday night’s convincing 6-0 victory over Honduras in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

“It’s nothing I can write a book on,” Arena said about his team’s turnaround in form against Honduras. “You have a sense of your group, and you go about doing your business. There’s no secret formulas to this stuff. Work together, take ownership in what you’re doing, treat them like responsible professional athletes, and you get on with your business.

He added, “They want to be successful. They want to play in a World Cup. Is that a recipe for success? I don’t know. I’m sure Honduras wants to play in a World Cup too.”

Arena, who took over for Jurgen Klinsmann following the U.S.’ collapse during the first two matches of the Hexagonal, is unbeaten in his first three games in charge since getting his job back with the Stars and Stripes.

Although there has been a considerable turnaround in the way the USMNT has performed in the first three matches of 2017, Arena wouldn’t stoop to comparing his style to that of Klinsmann.

“I’m not doing anything differently,” he said. “I’m not taking a survey [of the players]. I know it’s different. We lose tomorrow, there will be articles written that, ‘This a—— is letting these guys run loose.'”

“I have spent no time on the past. There’s nothing I can do about it. I kind of have a sense about things, but there’s no point in me spending time investigating what went on in the past. The idea was to get it going the right way from the start.”

Arena’s next test with the U.S. will be on Tuesday when the Yanks travel to Panama City to take on Panama.

Report: American teenager linked with Manchester United

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The U.S. Men’s National Team is always looking for more Christian Pulisic-like players, and another star-in-the-making could be on his way to Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Three keys for USMNT ahead of Panama clash ]

American teenager Will Vint is reportedly being pursued by Premier League giants Manchester United after previously having trialed with Fulham and Everton.

Vint, the 15-year-old son Everton academy director Peter Vint, has reportedly impressed the Red Devils while on trial as of late. Additionally, the teen’s Instagram page describes him as a “Footballer at Manchester United.”

The number of Americans in England’s top flight have dwindled down over recent years, however, USMNT mainstays like Geoff Cameron and Brad Guzan (moving to Atlanta United) still reside in the PL.

Chapecoense announces match against Colombia’s Nacional

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SAO PAULO (AP) Brazilian club Chapecoense will play Colombia’s Atletico Nacional on April 4 in what will be an emotional home match.

[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina XI to face Bolivia ]

In November, 19 members of the Brazilian team died in an air crash outside Medellin as they travelled to play Nacional in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final. Out of 77 passengers, 71 died in the incident, including players, journalists, and club officials.

Chapecoense says they will play at 22,000-seat Arena Conda in southern Brazil in the first leg of the Recopa Sudamericana.

The tragedy made Atletico Nacional pronounce Chapecoense as champions, and the South American confederation agreed.

The Recopa Sudamericana is between the champions of the Copa Sudamericana and the Copa Libertadores.