Premier League Preview: Manchester City vs West Ham

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  • Manchester City has a +13 goal differential on Liverpool, meaning a point would be enough for the title.
  • The home side has lost just once all season at the Etihad – to Chelsea in February.
  • West Ham have lost four of their last five on the road, conceding nine goals.

This is it. It all comes down to this. The Premier League championship is Manchester City’s to lose.

Win, and they’re in. But if West Ham can pull out a shocker, Liverpool can pounce.

One point would do it as well, but it would be surprising if the Citizens even come close to blowing this one. Every stat, every number, and every motivation is on their side as they take on West Ham at the Etihad at 10am ET live on NBC or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

It’s been a crazy season at the top of the table, but Manchester City have timed their run of good form at the perfect time. They’ve stumbled, but not as much as Liverpool. Their loss to the Reds last month seemed like a guillotine at the time, but with the Reds falling apart at the worst time possible, City have just one more small hurdle.

Considering the facts, it doesn’t seem like that big of a hurdle at all.

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Since a soul-crushing loss at home to Chelsea in February – their only loss at home all season – City have dropped just two points at home in league play. They have scored 14 goals in the five matches since the loss to Liverpool.  They have no other competitions to focus on. And scariest of all – they have everyone fit for the first time all season.

Oh, and if that’s not enough, score four goals and the Premier League single-season scoring record is theirs. That’s some motivation.

On the other side, things aren’t so pretty either. West Ham did get a win last week at home against Spurs 2-0, an impressive win for sure, but looking at the recent body of work it’s a small gold star in an otherwise ugly picture.

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Since the beginning of March, the Hammers have just five goals away from Upton Park.  They let in a whopping six their last time at the Etihad (a cup tie in January) and have conceded 12 times to Manchester City in their three fixtures against City across the league and cup this season.

Brace yourselves, Premier League. This one could get ugly.

What they’re saying:

Sam Allardyce on who he wants to win the title: “From a neutral point of view, everybody would like to see Liverpool win it. From a personal point of view I’d like to see Steven Gerrard win it.”

Manuel Pellegrini on his squad: “When I arrived here, my target was always to play well and try to win the title. The moment I accepted the job it was because I had a lot of trust that I could win the league. I think the first thing I can say is we chose the right squad we needed for this year.”

Pundit Jamie Carragher on City’s season: “Winning the Premier League is a massive achievement for a club, so Manuel Pellegrini and his players can feel very proud of themselves if they get the job done on Sunday. Manchester City may only win what everyone expected them to, considering the money they have spent and the fact they have the best squad in the division, but they have been given big challenges by Liverpool, Chelsea and, for a long period, Arsenal. City have been playing catch-up for most of the season – they could win the title having spent just 15 days at the top of the table – and I think that shows that they have character in their ranks as well as quality.”

Prediction:

If you couldn’t tell from earlier, there’s only one way this thing ends. You see everyone’s comments on City’s character, and there’s a reason why.  We saw it last season in their barnburner with QPR on the final day of the season, getting the goals they needed to win the title in unbelievable fashion. This time around, they don’t have the same mountain to climb, but they’ll want to put on a show and prove they deserve to win in convincing fashion.

With everything presented here, a 4-1 Manchester City victory will help them earn the right to hoist the trophy in front of their home fans. The Etihad will be buzzing, and it’s possible West Ham earn a bit of a consolation early by catching City on too much of a high, but they won’t be able to hang for long. Congratulations will be in order for Manuel Pellegrini and company.

Sydney FC to face Melbourne Victory in A-League final

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SYDNEY (AP) Sydney FC will face the Melbourne Victory in next weekend’s grand final of Australian football’s A-League after the top-ranked teams won contrasting semifinals.

[ MORE: Spurs revel in North London rule, but want more ]

While Sydney was as dominant as it has been throughout a 27-match regular season in its 3-0 win over Perth on Saturday, Melbourne needed a 70th-minute goal from striker Besart Berisha to advance with a 1-0 win Sunday over Brisbane.

Josh Brillante, Jordy Buijs and Filip Holosko scored first-half goals as Sydney continued a seemingly unstoppable drive towards its third A-League title – and its first since 2010. The video referee interceded in two of the goals, making the win contentious, but Sydney still demonstrated superiority over the young, confident and ambitious Perth side.

Sydney lost only once in 27 regular-season matches and will enter the final as a considerable favorite.

Berisha sank the hopes of his former club, Brisbane, with his late strike in Sunday’s second semifinal. While the margin was small, the Victory deserved to win after playing more assertively throughout the match.

Its semifinal victory means that the teams that finished first and second at the end of the regular season will contest the final for the fifth straight year. The final repeats the 2015 showdown between Sydney and Melbourne, which the Victory won 3-0.

Hoffenheim reaches Champions League qualifiers for 1st time

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BERLIN (AP) The youngest coach in the Bundesliga, 29-year-old Julian Nagelsmann, has steered Hoffenheim to a place in the Champions League qualifiers in the club’s best ever season.

Hoffenheim could even secure its first appearance in the Champions League group stage if it holds on to third place – where it now stands after Benjamin Huebner scored in the last minute to snatch a 1-0 home win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday. It has three more matches to play this season.

Huebner’s late goal, a powerful header to Sebastian Rudy’s corner, moved the side one point above Borussia Dortmund, which was held to a scoreless draw at home by Cologne on Saturday.

The goal was scored by the son of Frankfurt sporting director Bruno Huebner.

“A lucky win,” acknowledged Hoffenheim backer Dietmar Hopp, the software billionaire whose finances helped his hometown club progress from minor leagues to the Bundesliga.

A co-founder of the SAP software giant, Hopp became the first private owner of a Bundesliga side when he took a majority stake in Hoffenheim in 2015. By then he had already spent an estimated 350 million euros on the team.

However, Hoffenheim’s best appointment to date appears to be that of Nagelsmann, who took over in February 2016 after Huub Stevens stepped down for health reasons.

Then 28, Nagelsmann hadn’t even earned his coaching credentials from the German football federation (DFB). But he saved the side from relegation and Hoffenheim is enjoying its best ever season this year.

The win over Frankfurt extended its unbeaten run at home to 16 games and ensured it beat its previous best-mark of 55 points from the 2008-09 season.

As a player, Nagelsmann lined up for Bavarian sides Augsburg and 1860 Munich before turning his attention to coaching. He spent almost a decade coaching the youth sides of 1860 Munich and then Hoffenheim, for which he was also assistant coach in 2012-13.

Earlier this year, Nagelsmann was named the German football federation’s coach of the year for 2016.

Dortmund hosts Hoffenheim next weekend for a game that is likely to decide which side goes into the qualifiers and which secures automatic qualification for the Champions League.

AUGSBURG 4, HAMBURGER SV 0

Hamburger SV slipped closer to its first ever relegation in a humiliating defeat at fellow struggler Augsburg.

Hamburg, the last founding member of the league to have played every season since its formation in 1963, was left in the relegation playoff place with three games remaining.

“We’re all affected by the performance we showed today,” Hamburg coach Markus Gisdol said. “We were hoping for something different. But we’ve got over other setbacks before and have to deliver the best in the next game.”

Hamburg goalkeeper Tom Mickel and the left post denied Augsburg early on before Halil Altintop fired the home side ahead, midway through the first half.

Altintop scored another before the break, set up by Philipp Max, to give Augsburg some breathing space.

Michael Gregoritsch reacted with a brutal challenge on Dominik Kohr, for which the Hamburg midfielder was fortunate to escape with a yellow card.

Max sealed the result on a counterattack before setting up Raul Bobadilla to complete the scoring late on.

“We could even have scored more goals,” Augsburg coach Manuel Baum said. “But more than three points wouldn’t have been possible.”

Victory lifted Augsburg out of the relegation playoff place and two points above Hamburg, Wolfsburg and Mainz, all level on 33 points. Hamburg, which has conceded a league-worst 59 goals in 31 games, has an inferior goal difference to the other two.

Ingolstadt and Darmstadt occupied the automatic relegation spots. Ingolstadt was four points behind Hamburg, while Darmstadt was all but doomed, nine points behind.

Balotelli, Nice may have spoiled PSG’s title chances

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Monaco took care of business at the top of Ligue 1 on Saturday and now the Champions League semifinalists could be closing in on France’s crown.

[ MORE: Spurs revel in ruling North London, but want more ]

Paris Saint-Germain slipped up on Sunday with a 3-1 loss against third-place Nice, and it could spell the end for the Parisians’ hopes of winning Ligue 1 in 2016/17.

Mario Balotelli sprung Nice in front after 26 minutes with a curling left-footed effort from outside the box, before Ricardo Pereira doubled the advantage for the hosts just three minutes into the second stanza with a lovely curler of his own.

PSG managed to pull a goal back in the 64th minute as Marquinhos gave the visitors a glimmer of hope to keep their title hopes alive.

However, the final minutes of the match took a drastic turn for the worse for PSG as Thiago Motta and Angel di Maria were both shown red cards for violent tackles on Nice players.

Nice also found a third finish after PSG was dwindled down to nine men when Anastasios Donis headed home a lofted cross from the left wing.

With three matches remaining for PSG, Unai Emery’s side sits three points behind league leaders Monaco, who also have a match in hand. PSG finishes up their Ligue 1 account with matches against Bastia, St Etienne and Caen.

Video: Camilo Sanvezzo scores wonder goal for Queretaro

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Camilo Sanvezzo scored two goals on Sunday for Queretaro but many won’t even remember the score of the game after his brilliant first effort.

The Queretaro forward scored the first of two finishes in the 66th minute after winning the ball in his own half, carrying it into the Toluca end and unleashing a deadly shot from just inside midfield.

Sanvezzo eventually scored his side’s second goal in the dying minutes of the match, and his 88th minute finish proved to be the winner for Queretaro, who currently sit 13th in Liga MX.

The 28-year-old should be familiar to MLS fans after Sanvezzo’s time with the Vancouver Whitecaps from 2011 to 2013. The veteran scored 39 goals in 92 matches with the Canadian side.