ManchesterCity

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.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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