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.

MORE: Head here for more on Championship Sunday

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.

Barcelona GM: “We’re close to signing Coutinho, Dembele”

Philippe Coutinho
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Barcelona did not post a magical comeback versus Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup second leg, instead losing 5-1 on aggregate after Wednesday’s 2-0 loss at the Bernabeu.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

But perhaps the celebrated La Liga club has worked some wizardry in the transfer market, with not one but two big targets “close” to the Camp Nou.

Barca general manager Josep “Pep” Segura was on television after the match, and noted Spanish football expert Sid Lowe relays his words: Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele are coming to Barca, “but until it’s closed I can’t say anything.”

Well, you just said something about it, so what gives.

Now before anyone freaks out at Anfield or Westfalenstadion, this is a man speaking after a relatively embarrassing performance for one of the biggest clubs in the world. Segura could simply be treading water for new manager Ernesto Valverde after his club was simply worked over in 120 minutes versus its El Clasico rivals.

VIDEO: Asensio, Real Madrid outclass out-of-sorts Barca; PSG trolls?

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This one wasn’t even close, and is going to instantly have many Barcelona fans wondering if the loss of Neymar is going to be too much for Ernesto Valverde to handle.

Real Madrid rode a stunning Marco Asensio strike to a 2-0 first half lead at the Bernabeu on Wednesday en route to a 5-1 aggregate win over Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup.

It’s Real’s 10th Spanish Super Cup, and first since 2012.

[ MORE: Bacca to Villarreal ]

Karim Benzema also scored in the opening frame, which saw Barca looking out of sorts and rudderless.

As in the first leg in Barcelona, the Blaugranas had their moments but failed to show sharpness and class against the reigning La Liga and UEFA Champions League winners.

Lionel Messi hit the crossbar, Luis Suarez headed off the post. The second half wasn’t producing a magic comeback.

Both teams kick off their La Liga seasons on Sunday, with Barca hosting Real Betis and Real off to Deportivo de la Coruna.

Meanwhile, it seems like PSG spent the afternoon trolling Barca, first posting a shot of ex-Blaugranas stars Dani Alves and Neymar training, and then an incredulous Neymar accompanied by a laughing emoji.

Carlos Bacca joins Villarreal, Boateng leaves Las Palmas

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MADRID (AP) Colombia striker Carlos Bacca joined Spanish club Villarreal on loan from AC Milan on Wednesday.

Villarreal said the one-season loan agreement includes the option to buy the player at the end of the season.

Bacca returns to a Spanish league where the 30-year-old forward flourished in two seasons at Sevilla before joining Milan in 2015.

[ MORE: UCL Wednesday wrap ]

Bacca has made 39 appearances for Colombia, scoring 13 goals. According to Villarreal, he has scored 165 career goals in 336 matches. He scored 14 goals for Milan last season.

Elsewhere in Spain, Las Palmas announced that Kevin-Prince Boateng was leaving the club after both sides agreed to end his contract two days before its season opener.

Las Palmas said that Boateng was leaving due to “personal reasons of an irreversible nature.” The club thanked the former AC Milan standout for his “professionalism” that he displayed during his single season on the Canary Islands.

Las Palmas opens the Spanish league season on Friday at Valencia.

Man City has $23 million Evans bid shot down by WBA

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Could Jonny Evans be the latest player to cross Manchester’s red and blue divide, albeit with a stop in between?

Reports Wednesday say West Bromwich Albion has rejected a $23 million Manchester City bid for the Northern Irish center back.

[ MORE: UCL Wednesday wrap ]

$23 million? That’s like 40 percent of a Kyle Walker!

Evans, 29, is the Baggies captain and a key piece of the club’s aims to continue its long stay in the Premier League.

He joined Manchester United’s academy at age 16 and stayed at Old Trafford through 2015, taking loan opportunities at Royal Antwerp and Sunderland on the way.

At United, Evans won three Premier League titles and two League Cups, and also has a Championship win from one of his two stints at Sunderland.

The 61-times capped Belfast native would give City a key component for Premier League play along with a center back corps of Nicolas Otamendi, Vincent Kompany, and John Stones. Eliaquim Mangala completes their veteran depth, and is certainly City’s weakest position.

Would West Brom sell at any reasonable price? The Baggies are not deep at center back, either — not too many clubs are — and will be in a boatload of trouble without Evans. And given the transfer market, finding a proper replacement at under $30 million is going to be difficult (Reread that sentence. What a summer).

It’s another argument for the transfer window closing before the start of the season.