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.

Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty

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A horror tackle from Wales’ Neil Taylor snapped Seamus Coleman‘s leg in gruesome fashion on Friday.

Taylor was given a red card, and Coleman was stretched off the pitch in the 0-0 draw.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill confirmed what was apparent from the match replay: the Everton man has a broken ankle.

“It’s a bad break. He’s a fantastic player and character. It’s a major blow for the lad, his club and us.

“Apparently it wasn’t the best challenge in the world – I haven’t seen it. He’s gone to hospital. I saw his reaction immediately and it didn’t look good. He was holding is leg up and it didn’t look good.

This is not only awful for the player, but causes stress as Everton mounts its assault on the Top Six. The right back has also manned right mid for Ronald Koeman this season, and has four goals and four assists in 26 Premier League matches.

Mason Holgate, Muhamed Besic, and Phil Jagielka have played some right back for Everton, while Ramiro Funes Mori has deputized at left back.

Emotional McClean speaks after honoring deceased teammate (video)

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After wearing the No. 5 to honor of his recently deceased teammate, James McClean met with the media following Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Wales in World Cup qualifying on Friday.

McClean played with Ryan McBride at Derry City, and left Ireland camp to attend funeral services after McBride died following a match last weekend. McClean was also mourning the death of friend and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness.

Throw in a gruesome injury to teammate Seamus Coleman and, in McClean’s words, “I’ve had better weeks”.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

McClean, 27, spoke with evident emotion following a Man of the Match turn in Ireland’s draw (video below).

“It was a really tough week. The lads here have been great. They rallied around me. The manager was first class as well. He let me go up to Derry there on Tuesday and say my goodbyes. It’s been a tough week with Seamus injury as well. It’d been nice if we had have got a win and ended on a positive note, but it wasn’t to be.

“(McBride and McGuinness) were going through my thoughts today. I wanted to put in a performance that would make them proud. In the national anthem and the moment’s applause, holding my wee girl, it was emotional but I tried to put that in the right way into my performance. Hopefully tonight I’ve done the lads proud.”

World Cup qualifiers: Wales in trouble; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear of Ukraine and three above Iceland midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.