Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger weighed in on the Premier League title race as his Gunners prepare to close out a fourth-place campaign on Championship Sunday, and the long-time boss said it would take “a miracle” for Manchester City to not take the title.
Maybe there’s a lax definition of “miracle” in England, because Gus Poyet pulled a self-described one off in rescuing Sunderland, but is it really done-and-dusted for City?
They’ll host West Ham United at the Etihad Stadium on Championship Sunday, a Hammers team they hammered 3-1 at the Boleyn Ground earlier this year. They’ve also handled West Ham over two legs in the League Cup by a resounding 9-0 score line.
And West Ham hasn’t beaten City since March 1, 2009. They haven’t done the deed at City since an FA Cup win in 2006.
West Ham has scored the seventh-least goals in the PL, with 40, though they’ve also allowed the eighth-fewest. The club features a surely-motivated trio of familiar Liverpool names in Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Joe Cole.
A draw will do the trick unless Liverpool blasts Newcastle by 14 goals (which would be historic but not as surprising as you think considering the Magpies have more or less been licking the stamps on next year’s mail for about a month).
It is worth noting that Liverpool beat Newcastle 6-0 toward the end of last season, and that there was less at stake in that battle (Liverpool was in 7th, 10 points back of 5th, while Newcastle was six points ahead of the drop). Their record win is 11-0 against Strømsgodset in the 1974 UEFA Cup-winners Cup.
So would it be a miracle for Manchester City to lose the title on Championship Sunday? Not quite, but Liverpool fans will need a decent amount of good fortune come Sunday. City has lost to only one team at home this year — Chelsea — and has allowed a grand total of 13 goals at the Etihad in PL play.
A City coronation is likely coming.
The game in 100 words (or less): The Portland Timbers are headed to their first MLS Cup in club history after defeating FC Dallas, 5-3 on aggregate, of the Western Conference finals (2-2 draw in the second leg). Fanendo Adi scored in Sunday’s second leg, giving Caleb Porter’s side a 4-1 aggregate lead before Ryan Hollingshead and Blas Perez scored inside the last 25 minutes to give Oscar Pareja’s bunch a late lifeline, but Lucas Melano’s spectacular tap-in sealed the Timbers’ trip to MLS Cup. The third seed heading into the playoffs, Portland bounced Sporting Kansas City in an epic penalty shootout in the knockout round and outlasted the Vancouver Whitecaps in the conference semifinals before knocking off the West’s top seed over two legs to advance to MLS Cup 2015. No matter who advances from the East finals later on Sunday, Portland will play away in MLS Cup, to either the New York Red Bulls or Columbus Crew SC.
[ MORE: Previewing the MLS weekend ]
Three Four moments that mattered
54′ — Adi fires past Gonzalez to make if 4-1 — Oscar Pareja elected to go with Walker Zimmerman at center back on Sunday, dropping regular starter Zach Loyd to the bench. On the game’s opening goal, it was Zimmerman who wound up on the ground as Adi received the ball, turned and fired a massive away goal past Jesse Gonzalez.
68′ — Diaz’s magical ball curled home by Hollingshead — Mauro Diaz is a wonderful magician capable of playing the kill through ball from anywhere on the field — this we’ve known for quite some time. His chipped through ball to set up Hollingshead’s goal was extraordinarily brilliant, even for him.
73′ — Perez heads home the free kick to pull within one — Would you be surprised to hear that it was Diaz who set up FCD’s second goal? His free kick was Perez-finding missile and found the head of the Panamanian striker at the top of the six-yard box, where 34-year-old headed home with ease.
90+5′ — Melano rounds Gonzalez, seals MLS Cup berth — Poor Jesse Gonzalez. Absolutely schooled and posterized by Lucas Melano. What a way to sew up a place in the championship final.
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Man of the match: Mauro Diaz
Goalscorers: Adi (54′), Hollingshead (68′), Perez (73′), Melano (90+5′)
A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights:
Eibar 0-2 Real Madrid
Real Madrid bounced back from back-to-back La Liga defeats with a 2-0 victory away to Eibar on Sunday. Gareth Bale (below video) and Cristiano Ronaldo (penalty kick) provided the goals to keep Rafa Benitez‘s bunch (27 points) third in the league, two points behind Atletico Madrid and six behind leaders Barcelona.
Elsewhere in La Liga
Getafe 2-0 Villarreal
Rayo Vallecano 0-3 Athletic Bilbao
Sevilla 1-0 Valencia
[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup ]
Roma 0-2 Atalanta
Losing at home to sides currently in a relegation battle — rarely a good idea, especially if you fancy yourselves title challengers, but that didn’t stop Roma from doing just that on Sunday. Alejandro Gomez and German Denis scored the goals to knock off a 10-man Roma side (Maicon – 81st minute) and keep Rudi Garcia’s bunch (27 points) from gaining ground on any of the three teams currently ahead of them — Inter Milan, Napoli and Fiorentina — all of whom play on Monday.
AC Milan 4-1 Sampdoria
M’Baye Niang scored twice, while Giacomo Bonaventura and Luiz Adriano (below video) added single tallies for AC Milan (23 points) to keep pace with the top-five pack in Serie A. After 14 rounds of games, the Rossoneri sit sixth, a point outside fifth (UEFA Europa League) and five points out of third (UEFA Champions League).
Palermo 0-3 Juventus
Don’t look now, but here come Juventus. Sunday’s 3-0 triumph over Palermo makes it four straight wins in the league for Massimiliano Allegri’s side — a run that pushes them all the way up to fifth in the league (24 points), just six points off the pace of leaders Inter, who play on Monday. Mario Mandzukic (below video), Stefano Sturaro and Simone Zaza scored the goals for the world’s most frightening fifth-place team.
Elsewhere in Serie A
Torino 2-0 Bologna
Chievo 2-3 Udinese
Frosinone 3-2 Hellas Verona
Genoa 1-2 Carpi
Empoli 1-0 Lazio
Monday’s Serie A schedule
Sassuolo vs. Fiorentina (1 p.m. ET)
Napoli vs. Inter Milan (3 p.m. ET)
From title challengers to just hoping to hold on to a top-four place while Arsene Wenger is forced to play reserves and academy players because half of his star players are currently out injured — the annual story of Arsenal.
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Oct. 27, when Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both went down with injuries in the same game, marked the unofficial start of Arsenal’s 2015-16 injury crisis, but things didn’t really get going full bore until the last seven days, when five more players — four of them full-time starters — picked up injuries that will keep them out of action for anywhere between three weeks and three months.
Added to the list last weekend: Francis Coquelin (knee – three months minimum), Mikel Arteta (calf – three weeks)
Added to the list on Sunday: Alexis Sanchez (hamstring – MORE DETAILS), Santi Cazorla (knee), Laurent Koscielny (hip)
Following Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Norwich City, Wenger said Koscielny “could not walk” due to the hip spasm that forced him out of the game after just 11 minutes. He also divulged that Cazorla, who could not be subbed off because Wenger had already used all three subs late on, played the second half “on one leg.” Sanchez came into Sunday injured after picking up a hamstring injury in Arsenal’s UEFA Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday.
[ MORE: Sunday’s PL roundup — Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs all draw ]
Arsenal fans were up in arms during the summer transfer window — let’s be honest, the following is true of every transfer window the last five years — crying out, “We must buy, we must buy.” Have a look at Arsenal’s complete injury list at the moment, and try to say, “They didn’t need to buy in the summer.”
In chronological order: Danny Welbeck (knee – early 2016 return), Tomas Rosicky (knee – Christmas time return), Jack Wilshere (leg – Christmas time return), Theo Walcott (calf – December return), Mikel Arteta (calf – three weeks), Francis Coquelin (knee – three months minimum), Laurent Koscielny (hip – to be assessed), Alexis Sanchez (hamstring – to be assessed), Santi Cazorla (knee – to be assessed)
Check out the latest episode of Premier League Download, a look inside Crystal Palace and the club’s passionate supporters.
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Win, lose or draw it’s always a party for the fans of Crystal Palace and Roger Bennett travels to Selhurst Park to learn how the beloved team went from Championship strugglers to a Premier League success story.
[ WATCH: Past episodes of PL Download ]