For consistency, not flair, Manchester City deserve the title

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There has been plenty of negativity surrounding Manchester City this season.

They have been blasted for spending oodles of money.  They have been trashed for not employing enough English players. They have been knocked for having a shaky defense at times.

In a season with at least four different significant title contenders throughout different points of the year, there will be ups and downs, there will be adversity. Through the adversity, Manchester City weathered the storm…barely.

MORE: Manchester City are the 2013-14 Premier League champions

A tactical strategy built on the predication of long-term success instilled by Manuel Pellegrini has paid off, and the Citizens have rewarded him with the ultimate prize in the English top flight.

They led the league for the fewest amount of time among the top four teams – and yet they timed their moves perfectly.  Or, maybe they didn’t do it on purpose, it kind of just happened.

Manchester City spent much of the season in second place, not first, and while it may seem like they were waiting for the right moment to pounce, that image doesn’t exactly do their journey justice.

Rather than sitting to “strike” or “make their move,” City simply stayed the course while others used a more engaging but more risky brand of play.

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Yaya Toure bossed the Manchester City midfield in a performance that kept his club on a season-long charge for the title.

Liverpool relied on a surging counter-attack and predatory offense, but one too many times, when it gets bogged down by a packed box by vehicles such as Chelsea’s double-decker bus, the team grew frustrated and fell apart.

Arsenal played a possession game, and while it overwhelmed many inferiors, injuries took their toll and a shallow squad was hurt by a manager not able to adapt his game to the replacement players in the patchwork roles.

Chelsea worked their opponents to the brink using a game of attrition, and while a number of clubs – including top ones – withered to their knees in front of Jose Mourinho, one too many times they were left hung out to dry without capitalizing on an opposition not fully broken after 90 minutes.

Pellegrini, however, didn’t possess just one describable trait used week-in and week-out.  Sure, City stumbled.  They took a while to figure things out under their new manager away from the Emirates. They succumbed to Chelsea’s strangling effect twice.  They were even shellshocked by Liverpool’s blitzkrieg.

But none of the blows turned out to be fatal, and when Liverpool became the last team to fall behind City’s long-term plan, it was just Pellegrini standing, bruised but not beaten.

Yaya Toure was essential, only falling to the mesmerizing brilliance of Luis Suarez’s record-setting season.

The offense didn’t have one superstar, but a combination of Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo, David Silva, Samir Nasri, and Edin Dzeko was quality enough to outlast any significant injuries and swarming enough to keep defenders guessing as to where the next attack would come from.

The defense wasn’t as solid as it could be, but when the going got tough, an experienced cast led by Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta was determined enough to lock down just enough.

But the glue that held the squad together was their manager, the soft-spoken Pellegrini who didn’t let an ego get in the way of his ability to adapt his squad to the needs of the next match.

Oh, and the players really liked him too. That tends to help.

On the surface, it appears that Manchester City may have ended up on top due to the struggles of other “more worthy” contenders, but appearance doesn’t win the Premier League.

Points do. Congratulations to the blue half of Manchester.

Wigan player races off for son’s birth after scoring 2 goals

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WIGAN, England (AP) It was better than a hat trick.

A player for English soccer team Wigan had a night to remember when he scored his second goal before dashing off the field and to the local hospital, where his girlfriend was in labor.

[ MORE: Chelsea advances to UCL Round of 16 after win over Qarabag ]

A picture of Ryan Colclough holding his new-born baby, Harley, while still in his soccer uniform was shared on social media by Wigan chairman David Sharpe.

Colclough said his father, sitting in the stands on Tuesday for Wigan’s 3-0 win over Doncaster in the second division, “gave me the action that the waters had broken,” but he didn’t want to come off until the ball was out of play.

“My head was a little bit battered, but I went and scored, looked at the manager and he said we’ll bring you off now,” Colclough said Wednesday of his 58th-minute goal, which he celebrated by pretending to rock a baby. “I came off and was straight down the tunnel, grabbed my keys and my phone, and went to hospital.”

Colclough had visited the midwife that day, and was told the baby was unlikely to arrive for “another couple of days.”

Lille suspends coach Marcelo Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) French club Lille has provisionally suspended coach Marcelo Bielsa following a string of poor results in the top tier.

[ MORE: Basel stuns Man United late to keep UCL hopes alive ]

The northern side said in a statement that Bielsa has been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club.” Lille did not elaborate.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but has failed to make the club competitive again, with the team second to last after 13 matches.

The 2 Robbies podcast: PL sides in the UCL, Pulis sacking and more

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In today’s Euro Pod Edition, the Robbies breakdown the latest Champions League action. Man United lose at Basel, Chelsea cruise at Qarabag, Spurs impress against Dortmund, Man City continue to win, Liverpool surrender a 3-goal lead against Sevilla. Plus, the guys weigh in on the Oumar Niasse ban for diving and the Tony Pulis sacking.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Europa League preview: Arsenal looks to wrap up Group H and more

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While several teams have already booked their place in the knockout phase, the Europa League reaches its penultimate round on Thursday with many big matches in hand.

[ MORE: Yannick Bolasie finally returns to Everton training ]

Of the two Premier League sides in the competition, only one will advance to the Round of 32, as Arsenal have all but assured themselves of the top spot in Group H. The Gunners can do so tomorrow with a win over Koln or a Red Star Belgrade defeat.

The other end of the spectrum features Everton, who has already been eliminated from reaching the next round after acquiring just one point in its first four matches.

European giants AC Milan can lock up a spot in the knockout phase on Thursday despite the club’s ongoing struggles in Serie A, while fellow Italian side Atalanta can move a step closer to the Round of 32 in Group E along with Lyon.

Here’s the full rundown of Thursday’s UEL matches.

Astana vs. Villareal — 11 a.m. ET
Konyaspor vs. Marseille — 1 p.m. ET
Rosenborg vs. Real Sociedad — 1 p.m. ET
Lazio vs. Vitesse — 1 p.m. ET
Viktoria Plzen vs. Steaua Bucuresti — 1 p.m. ET
Lokomotiv vs. Copenhagen — 1 p.m. ET
Zenit vs. Vardar — 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Vitoria — 1 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao vs. Hertha Berlin — 1 p.m. ET
BATE vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m. ET
Ostersund vs. Zorya — 1 p.m. ET
Koln vs. Arsenal — 1 p.m. ET
Nice vs. Zulte Waregem — 1 p.m. ET
Lugano vs. Beer-Sheva — 1 p.m. ET
Ludogorets vs. Istanbul — 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga vs. Hoffenheim — 3:05 p.m. ET
AEK vs. Rijeka — 3:05 p.m. ET
AC Milan vs. Austria Wien — 3:05 p.m. ET
Lyon vs. Apollon — 3:05 p.m. ET
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Slavia Praha — 3:05 p.m. ET
Sheriff vs. Zlin — 3:05 p.m. ET
Partizan vs. Young Boys — 3:05 p.m. ET
Skenderbeu vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:05 p.m. ET
Everton vs. Atalanta — 3:05 p.m. ET