Will a stagnant summer cost Manchester City home and abroad this season?

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It’s been a busy summer in the transfer market around the top of the Premier League table.

Chelsea, hoping to fix their dire need at the striker position, splashed for Diego Costa while also splurging for Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas to replace the legendary Frank Lampard.

[RELATED: PL season previews]

Liverpool added eight players hoping to replace last year’s Player of the Season Luis Suarez.

Manchester United looks poised for a rebound under new manager Louis van Gaal after snatching up Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera and are still in play for a number of big name players look like good fits for the new boss’s rare formation.

Everton bagged Romelu Lukaku for a club-record fee after years of relative penny-pinching for a top-quarter club.

Even Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger bucked his reputation and splashed cash early in the transfer window by throwing heaps of money at Alexis Sanchez and Callum Chambers along with a few others.

But one team is sorely missing from this list.

The defending champions Manchester City, owned by Shiekh Mansour and all his money and grandeur, had spent a grand total of $33 million on three players until the club snatched 23-year-old central defender Eliaquim Mangala on Monday for an appalling $53 million fee.

source: AP
Can Kompany and Pellegrini lead City to glory once again this season?

Again, we repeat that they are the defending champions, and it’s well known how studded with talent that roster is. However, there’s the common phrase that resonates around every professional sport’s offseason:

“If you aren’t getting better, you’re getting worse.”

With the purchase of Mangala, City finally spent some money, that much can’t be denied. The club, remember, is shackled (not really) by Financial Fair Play rules indicating they can not spend more than $80 million net loss in the transfer market.

However, with the surprise improvement of Martin Demichelis and the prior existence of one of the Premier League’s best defenders in Vincent Kompany, where will Mangala fit? The club is already looking to sell promising young central defender Matija Nastasic, who was a key component of their 2nd-place season two years ago and is still just 21 years old, because he’s not finding time. Why not just keep him instead?

So despite the club’s unquestionable ability to open the books, fans are undeniably pondering still: will Manchester City’s inability to purchase key players this season suddenly make them underdogs?

A wider lens must be used to capture the answer to that question. Despite City’s success the past three seasons in the domestic competition, they’ve struggled mightily abroad. The club has never fallen to lesser competition in the Champions League over the last few years, but they’ve never been able to make the leap to elite status, finding themselves eliminated far too early by clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and Sporting CP.

If the Citizens wish to get over the European hump, they haven’t shown it this offseason, sitting around watching clubs scoop up top talents before making an inflated purchase for a player the club doesn’t really need. In fact, more players are still rumored to be on their way out (Javi Garcia, Nastasic) than on their way in (???).

It must be said that their business to capture Bacary Sagna and Frank Lampard for little to no money is good business, but how much can they truly bring? Lampard is quality in a midfield that needs cover badly, but he’s 35 now and will struggle for a full season.

It goes without saying that Manchester City is loaded with talent, and they could still easily win the Premier League with this team.

However, their relative failures in the transfer market this summer will no doubt leave them scratching and clawing for even a modest Champions League finish, and could also doom them domestically should the clubs around them hit with all their big-money gambles. In fact, the most exciting news to come from the Etihad this summer is the signing of David Silva and Vincent Kompany to long-term contracts.

Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri, David Silva, Yaya Toure, and the rest of the star-studded cast will still likely lead a Premier League campaign worthy of a title challenge. But this club has aspirations bigger than that, and without smart buys in the transfer market, those lofty goals will continue fall on deaf ears.

Remember, this is the club that fired Roberto Mancini the year after winning the Premier League title for finishing second. Good luck, Manuel Pellegrini.

Dempsey, Sounders steal a point on wild night in Portland

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The game in 100 words (or less): An entire game can change in the blink of an eye. For the Seattle Sounders, that blink came in the 44th minute of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers. Up 1-0 by way of Joevin Jones’ opener in the 27th minute, the defending MLS Cup champs were poised to head into halftime with a one-goal advantage and every belief imaginable that they’d been the better team for the entire first half. Blink. Brad Evans wrapped his legs around Darlington Nagbe, giving away a penalty and earning himself a red card, just like that, in the blink of an eye. Fanendo Adi stepped up to convert from the spot, but it still was to be a hard-fought 1-1 scoreline from Seattle’s perspective. Then, Dairon Asprilla got loose, completely unmarked atop the six-yard box, on a corner kick, and it was 2-1 after four minutes of first-half stoppage time. 45 more minutes pass, and the Timbers… blink. Clint Dempsey, 34 years old but fresh off the bench 40 minutes earlier, out-leaps everyone in the box and heads past Jake Gleeson to steal a point for Seattle.

[ MORE: San Jose fire Kinnear after 2.5 seasons ]

Three Four moments that mattered

27′ — Jones gets two chances, puts the second away — It’s a classic case of “I dropped my controller” from Alvas Powell, who just stops as Jones cuts across the penalty area. There’s no reason Jones should get a second look on this one.

44′ — Evans brings down Nagbe in the box, sees red — Goodbye, lead. Goodbye 11 versus 11. Things would unravel very quickly for Seattle.

45+4′ — Asprilla rises above to make it 2-1 — Seattle’s marking of Asprilla was nonexistent, and the Colombian showed off some serious hops to get his head to David Guzman’s corner kick.

90+4′ — Dempsey heads home deep in stoppage time — A costly turnover by Asprilla, a hit-it-and-pray cross by Roman Torres, and Dempsey snatches a point at the death.

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Man of the match: Cristian Roldan

Goalscorers: Jones (27′), Adi (45′ – PK), Asprilla (45+4′), Dempsey (90+4′)

Russia has reasons for optimism despite Confed Cup exit

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MOSCOW (AP) When the anger subsides after another group stage exit and another goalkeeping blunder, Russian fans might find they can be proud of their team at the Confederations Cup.

Russia failed to reach the knockout rounds of a fourth major tournament in a row, but there’s no shame in losing by one goal to European champion Portugal and North American champion Mexico.

“We will move on,” coach Stanislav Cherchesov said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico. “We have won (the fans’) hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month that we have been together … I think that we have given some reasons to feel optimistic about us.”

If Russia’s fans agreed with Cherchesov that Russia had done well to limit Portugal to a single Cristiano Ronaldo goal, there was frustration that Russia hadn’t done better against a poor Mexican side.

Russia wasted chances to exploit Mexico’s ragged defending and add to Alexander Samedov’s opener, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev performed an inexplicable lunge which allowed Hirving Lozano to head in the winner. Akinfeev was lucky not to be red-carded, too, after his foot caught Lozano in the chest.

Akinfeev was the immediate scapegoat for Russia’s exit, with fans and newspapers calling for his removal.

The most-capped player in the squad – the Mexico game was his 101st international appearance – Akinfeev’s bulletproof consistency in the Russian Premier League has kept him the undisputed national-team No. 1 for years.

When the world is watching, though, he gets flustered and makes mistakes.

Against South Korea at the 2014 World Cup, an innocuous long shot slipped from his grasp and went in, paving the way for another early Russian exit from the tournament. There have been more than a few blunders in the 43 games since Akinfeev last kept a clean sheet for CSKA in the Champions League, too.

But it’s hard to see who could replace him. The naturalized Brazilian reserve keeper Guilheme is agile but injury prone, while Vladimir Gabulov is a solid but unspectacular veteran. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Yuri Lodygin challenged Akinfeev for a while, but was brought low by his own tendency for embarrassing errors.

On the positive side for Russia, defender Georgy Dzhikiya was solid in all three group games after having only made his debut on June 5, and Cherchesov’s three-man back line was mostly reliable.

Less successful was Cherchesov’s attempt to bolster the midfield by starting Roman Shishkin – usually a defender – in a defensive midfield role against Portugal and Mexico, while 33-year-old ex-Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov did his World Cup hopes no favors with a red card Saturday.

Russia’s run of injuries before the tournament weakened the midfield in particular, with Alan Dzagoev and the promising Roman Zobnin both missing out. Forward Artyom Dzyuba’s absence left Cherchesov relying heavily on Fyodor Smolov, who showed touches of class but missed a good chance against Portugal.

Perhaps the biggest damage from Russia’s Confederations Cup exit will be to Russian pride.

Officials have often bragged that the home advantage for next year’s World Cup could drive Russia to new heights, perhaps a repeat of South Korea’s charge to the semifinals in 2002. Those expectations are now being reviewed.

Just one World Cup host in history – South Africa in 2010 – has failed to get out of the group stage. Avoiding a repeat may be the most Russia can hope for.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

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They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.

Mustafi: Arsenal players powerless, hope “brilliant” Sanchez will stay

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Shkodran Mustafi admits that he, along with his Arsenal teammates, feels helpless with over the ongoing transfer saga of Alexis Sanchez.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The Chilean superstar is linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer, as the Gunners fell out of the Premier League’s top-four and the 28-year-old’s contract is set to expire next summer. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez hasn’t so much as publicly stated a desire to remain at the club, which, from the outside, appears to have left his future in even greater doubt.

Mustafi admits he hasn’t a clue how things will shake out in the coming weeks, but he’s quick with a pleading sales pitch for Sanchez to stay — quotes from Goal.com:

“I have no idea. Obviously the other players cannot make that decision, he has to make that decision.

“I’m not too much involved. I hope he stays because he is a really brilliant football player but there’s nothing in my hands that I can do.”

[ MORE: De Boer set to be named new Crystal Palace boss ]

Arsenal would likely have to double (if not more) Sanchez’s current $180,000 weekly wages in order to convince him to forego a season in the UEFA Champions League and commit his long-term future to a club presently trending in the wrong direction.