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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.

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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.

UCL wrap: Vardy gives Leicester lifeline; Juve wins

Leicester's Jamie Vardy, left, celebrates after he scores a goal during the Champions League round of 16 soccer match between Sevilla and Leicester City at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium in Seville, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti)
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Jamie Vardy‘s late goal helped dominated Leicester City make amends for a rough hour in Sevilla, as the Foxes took an away goal from Spain in one of two UEFA Champions League Round of 16 legs on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Man Utd onto Europa Round of 16 ]

Elsewhere, Porto nearly handled an early red card all the way to 0-0. Alas, Juventus.


Sevilla 2-1 Leicester City

Jamie Vardy’s late goal gives Leicester City hope after Joaquin Correa and Pablo Sarabia helped the hosts to a two-goal lead on Wednesday at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium.

Wes Morgan gave away a penalty with an out-of-position challenge, but Correa’s take was poor and Kasper Schmeichel guessed correctly to snare the low shot.

Schmeichel then robbed Sergio Escudero, only to be burnt by Sevilla’s No. 17. Escudero swept a cross over the Leicester back line and a leaping Christian Fuchs, and Sarabia headed home for a deserved 1-0.

Fuchs’ dicey day continued in the 56th minute, as Sarabia had plenty of time for a strong attempt only to miss near post.

Substitute Demarai Gray injected some life into Leicester, and Danny Drinkwater forced Sevilla into conceding a corner in the 60th minute. The Foxes played it short to no success.

Moments later, Sevilla were up a pair through Correa. Ex-Man City striker Stevan Jovetic, on loan from Inter Milan, teed up Correa for the shot.

Vardy pulled back what could be a huge away goal for the Foxes, belting a Drinkwater square ball home in the 74th minute.


Porto 0-2 Juventus

Alex Telles’ 27th minute yellow card was his second for Porto in 74 seconds, giving the impression that Juventus would waltz back to Italy with the tie well in-hand.

Instead, Iker Casillas and Porto closed up shop to great success, and Juventus didn’t break through until the final 20 minutes. Marko Pjaca and Dani Alves netted two minutes apart to give Juve a solid foothold in the quarterfinals.

VIDEO: Manchester United dispatches Saint-Etienne, Mkhi injured

SAINT-ETIENNE, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 22:  Florentin Pogba of Saint-Etienne walks on the pitch next to his brother Paul Pogba of Manchester United during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 second leg match between AS Saint-Etienne and Manchester United at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on February 22, 2017 in Saint-Etienne, France.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
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Juan Mata‘s 16th minute service found Henrikh Mkhitaryan score the only goal of Manchester United’s 1-0 second leg Europa League Round of 32 win at Saint-Etienne, but the win came at a price.

Mkhitaryan left the match with a leg injury, casting him in doubt for Sunday’s EFL Cup final against Southampton at Wembley Stadium. Michael Carrick also left the game with an injury.

[ MORE: Two year bans for penalty protest ]

Krasnodar and Schalke also clinched berths in the Round of 16, which will be played March 9 and 16.

UCL AT HALF: Leicester trails in Spain, Porto down a man (video)

Sevilla players celebrate the goal of Sevilla's Pablo Sarabia, second left, during the Champions League round of 16 soccer match between Sevilla and Leicester City at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium in Seville, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti)
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Leicester City will be happy to get to halftime down by a mere goal, while Porto will be simply hoping to be alive after 90 minutes at home to Juventus.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

That’s because Porto will play more than an hour down a man against The Old Lady.

Sevilla 1-0 Leicester City

Wes Morgan gave away a penalty with an out-of-position challenge, but Joaquin Correa’s take was poor and Kasper Schmeichel guessed correctly to snare the low shot.

Schmeichel then robbed Sergio Escudero, only to be burnt by Sevilla’s No. 17. Escudero swept a cross over the Leicester back line and a leaping Christian Fuchs, and Pablo Sarabia headed home for a deserved 1-0.

Porto 0-0 Juventus

It didn’t take long for Juventus fans to feel rightly confident, as Porto’s Alex Telles took a pair of yellow cards in 74 seconds.

LIVE: UCL last 16 – Leicester face Sevilla; Juve head to Porto

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 05:  Jamie Vardy of Leicester City applauds the crowd in defeat after the Premier League match between Leicester City and Manchester United at The King Power Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first legs take place on Wednesday.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Leicester City of the Premier League head to Spain to face Sevilla in the UCL last 16 despite Claudio Ranieri‘s men battling for survival in the Premier League. The Foxes, as always, are the big underdogs in Spain as Sevilla have won the UEFA Europa League in each of the past three seasons and Jorge Sampaoli’s side are battling for the title in La Liga.

As for Leicester, they’re just two points off the bottom of the PL as they haven’t scored in their last six outings and have lost five on the spin as well as being dumped out of the FA Cup by third-tier Millwall at the weekend. So yeah, Sevilla head into this game as the heavy favorites and will hope to take a healthy lead to the King Power Stadium with them in two weeks time.

In the other UCL clash on Wednesday FC Porto host Juventus as the Portuguese and Italian giants collide at the Estadio do Dragao. Porto finished behind Leicester in the group stage, while Juv battled it out with Sevilla and clinched top spot. Massimiliano Allegri’s men remain top of Serie A and will look to Gonzalo Higuain to deliver the goals away from home. It promises to be an intriguing tactical battle in northern Portugal.

Click on the link above to follow live commentary on both games, while we will have reaction and analysis on all of the UCL knockout games here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Wednesday’s UCL Round of 16, first legs

Sevilla vs. Leicester City – 2:45 p.m. ET
FC Porto vs. Juventus – 2:45 p.m. ET