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Manuel Pellegrini talks title ambitions, Manchester City vs. AC Milan, US tour

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Going into his second season as a manger in the Premier League, Manchester City’s boss Manuel Pellegrini is preparing his squad for back-to-back titles by spending preseason in the USA. In his debut campaign in England, the 60-year-old Chilean delivered a League Cup and a PL title as he stamped his mark on English soccer in style.

[RELATED: Full U.S. tour schedule]

This summer City are Stateside, as they continue to promote their new team in Major League Soccer, New York City FC, plus get themselves ready for the new PL season which begins on August 16. On Wednesday City hammered Sporting Kansas City 4-1 at Sporting Park, as a mixture of stars and youngsters beat the reigning MLS Cup champions to lift the “Champions Shield.”

Pellegrini and his squad have been training in New Jersey before traveling to Pittsburgh to face Italian giants AC Milan in the Steel City on Sunday. City’s preseason preparations will then continue to be cranked up a notch as they face Liverpool at Yankee Stadium on July 30, then Olympiakos in Minneapolis on August 2 before potentially playing in the final of the International Champions Cup in Miami on August 4.

Speaking to reporters via a conference call on Saturday, Pellegrini had the following to say on the Citizens’ U.S. tour so far, how he plans to approach Sunday’s match, title ambitions and much more.

On how the tour has been so far…

I am very happy. We are working very well here, first in Kansas and now in New Jersey. The game against Sporting Kansas was very useful and tomorrow against AC Milan we hope to continue the same way we have so far.

On the importance of playing a top quality opponent like AC Milan…

Both teams are in preseason but it is an important match because we are in the International Champions Cup. I think it is most important to continue what we are doing. In this program we have a friendly match against AC Milan. We know they have a new manager and they are perhaps starting a new way of playing. I hope the game tomorrow will be a good game for both teams.

source: Getty Images
Pellegrini believes his side have a great chance of winning the PL title once again.

On the importance of winning vs. giving players minutes and chance to impress…

It is always important to win. When we start the game tomorrow our minds will be focused on winning that game. I think the preparation around the game is important but it is important for us to win.

On how huge this preseason is for Stevan Jovetic…

Stevan is a very important player for our team. There have been a lot of rumors about him leaving our team but nothing is there.

On the young players coming through at Man City…

We have a lot of young players here and the likes of Scott Sinclair and Kelechi Iheanacho played well against Kansas City. It is a very important chance for them to show what they can do in our squad. This moment is their moment because we just had five players arrive back from the World Cup yesterday, we have another five or six players who have not arrived yet. The young players are working very hard and they must take their chance when it arrives.

On the likes of Man United, Chelsea strengthening over the summer…

I think every year you have five or six teams in the Premier League who are very strong. This year Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United are bringing in new players but I think we have a strong squad and we are having a good preseason. We also need three or four players to improve our squad so we will see throughout the year which teams are better but I continue to think we have a very strong squad and have a great opportunity to win the title again.

VIDEO: 70-yard volley from Chile is nearly impossible to believe

Alejandro Camargo, Universidad de Concepcion
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His name is Alejandro Camargo, and he scored what might just go down as the best goal of 2016 on Sunday: an impossibly perfect volley from well beyond the halfway line.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

Miguel Pinto is the opposing goalkeeper whose long-range clearance, which covered about 50 yards during the final seconds of Universidad de Concepcion’s clash with O’Higgins in the Chilean first division, was taken off the fly, first-time, by the Argentine midfielder to seal a 3-1 victory for the home side.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

“The coach told us Pinto was always playing in advance of his goal, so I closed my eyes and hit it,” Camargo said after the game.

“Hit it and hope” has never looked so good.

Roma fans stay away from derby to protest new security barriers

A view of a huge section of empty seats as Roma fans desert derby in protest over security barriers, during a Serie A soccer match between Lazio and Roma, at the Rome Olympic stadium Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia
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ROME (AP) Roma’s most ardent supporters stayed away from the derby match against Lazio in protest at barriers introduced at the start of last season in their area.

Normally filled with supporters waving huge banners, lighting flares and singing, half of the “curva sud” — southern end — of the Stadio Olimpico was left empty for Sunday’s match.

[ MORE: Serie A roundup — Roma, AC Milan win, still tied for 2nd ]

Three of Roma’s locally born standouts held a meeting with the “ultra” fans during the week. Captain Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi asked the supporters to return, and the club itself has also tried to resolve the matter.

But the appeals had no effect.

In contrast, Lazio fans filled the northern end of the stadium as usual.

The plexiglass barriers were put in place by city officials for security reasons.

VIDEO: “Behind The Badge: Watford FC” — Episode 2

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In Episode 2 of Behind the Badge: Watford FC, watch the players’ recovery after a win against Leicester, a look at the club’s one-of-a-kind internship program and a flashback to a memorable moment in Watford’s history.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

To watch past episodes of Behind The Badge, including last season’s edition featuring a look inside Crystal Palace, head over to the full archive by clicking here.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

First episode: Watch full episode, here
Second episode: Above video
Third episode: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Fourth episode: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN

Pardew saves his job, says Palace owners “don’t know a lot about football”

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03: Alan Pardew, Manager of Crystal Palace thumbs up prior to the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Southampton at Selhurst Park on December 3, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
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While some may advise that keeping a low profile would best suit Alan Pardew right now, Crystal Palace’s embattled manager is of a totally different mindset.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Following Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Southampton, in which Pardew’s side saved his job (for the time being), the 55-year-old Eagles boss and former player chose the first bright moment, Palace’s first Premier League win since Sept. 24, to hit out at the club’s new American owners with a scathing assessment of the footballing prowess, or perhaps lack thereof — quotes from the Guardian:

“The chairman got a bit edgy this week, as you’d expect. We have a lot of serious investors at the club who perhaps don’t know a lot about football so the chairman has been defending me.

“I always think as a manager at any level, particularly in the modern era, expect the sack. Just expect it; it’s coming at some stage, so just do your job as best you can. Every week, that’s what I try to do.

“Sometimes it’s hard to dress up six defeats when you’re the owner of the club and you have investors. Obviously there are things he’s got no control over but he’s tried to offer me all the assistance that he could. He’s been brilliant for me and I just want to say thank you to him really.”

With various reports linking Sam Allardyce and Roberto Mancini to a job which he still holds, it’s understandable that Pardew would be slightly on edge, quick to thump his chest and restake his claim as the right man for the job, but perhaps alienating and borderline embarrassing the new investors, who are now responsible for signing your paychecks, wouldn’t have been my go-to move.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Chelsea top Man City; Arsenal, Spurs win big ]

On the other hand, as Pardew rightly stated in the above quotes, his day of reckoning will eventually arrive, so what’s he really got to lose?