Premier League Preview: Manchester City vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea winless in 4 PL matches vs City
  • Includes 3-0 loss in this fixture last year
  • Chelsea leads all-time 62W-39D-52L

The Premier League’s December slate kicks off with a massive tilt at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday morning, when Man City hosts Chelsea at 7:30 a.m. EDT (Watch on NBCSN, or on NBCSports.com).

It’s going to be the first Premier League showdown between Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte, and another significant test for the stingy 3-4-3 of Conte’s Chelsea.

[ MORE: Barca could’ve had Ronaldo ]

Chelsea enters the game with a 4-1-1 record away from Stamford Bridge, and Man City’s record at the Etihad Stadium is the reason it isn’t atop the Premier League. Winning six of seven on the road, City has just three wins and three draws at home.

A home win would assure City heads back to the Champions League atop the Premier League on points (Chelsea currently leads by a point, and Liverpool is level with City). But a loss could see City four back of Chelsea and as low in the table as fourth.

As for the individual stuff, Chelsea’s Diego Costa is joint-top with Man City’s Sergio Aguero on a Premier League-high 10 goals. Only City’s Kevin De Bruyne (7 assists) has more helpers than Nemanja Matic of Chelsea.

What they’re saying

Man City’s Fernandinho on this critical period“December is a time that can determine whether or not you’re going to be in the title race or not as you can gain or lose ground very quickly so if you can rotate the squad and keep the players as fresh as possible it’s obviously much better. Chelsea are a good side and they have shown that this season, but so are we. Both sides have great players and a great manager and it’s all about who is raises their levels the highest on Saturday and we intend that to be us.”

Eden Hazard on Belgium teammate Kevin De Bruyne of MCFC“He didn’t get his chance here at Chelsea but did very well in Germany and, since he went to City, he’s been on fire. Sometimes you don’t get the chance to play, or the system the manager uses isn’t right for you, but now he’s full of confidence. I hope [on Saturday] he’ll have less confidence.”

Prediction

We could see a long feeling-out period between these master tacticians, and road dogs Chelsea will be very difficult to break down. An early goal could put this projection on its ear, but we peg both to score in a 1-1 draw that opens the door for Liverpool to go top.

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Landon Donovan unveiled by Club Leon

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Landon Donovan was unveiled to Club Leon fans at Estadio Leon on Monday night.

The former USMNT star and longtime LA Galaxy forward came out of retirement for the second time to sign with the Liga MX side this past weekend. Leon finished 7th in the Apertura table, losing to Tigres in the first round of the playoffs. They currently have a perfect six points through the first two Clausura matches, sitting second in the table with a +3 goal differential.

Fans were allowed into the stadium for free, and they packed the lower stand on one end, waving USA flags and holding large “L” and “D” cutouts, and the fans faced a massive board on the field that read “I DON’T BELIEVE IN WALLS.” Chants of “U-S-A” rang out through the stadium before the unveiling.

ESPN reporter Tom Marshall pointed out that the last time the club had such a large event to welcome a player, it was in January of 2013 when the club brought Mexico captain Rafa Marquez in from the New York Red Bulls.

Donovan will don the number 20 for Club Leon.

Report: Rimando to return to RSL

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USMNT veteran and current MLS free agent Nick Rimando will reportedly return to Real Salt Lake for a 12th season with the club, according to a report by Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep.

The report states he received interest on the free agent market from both Los Angeles clubs, but the 38-year-old will return to the club he has made 350 appearances for.

Rimando came to Real Salt Lake from D.C. United in 2006, and has made at least 24 league appearances in every single season since. He has also made 22 playoff appearances for the club across eight playoff campaigns.

He last received a USMNT cap in January of 2017 in a friendly against Serbia, but was part of the 2018 World Cup qualification squad throughout 2017 backing up Tim Howard. Overall, Rimando has played 22 times for the US national team, with 14 goals conceded and nine clean sheets.

The report also states that Kyle Beckerman will return to Rio Tinto Stadium, with the veteran also testing the free agent waters but deciding to re-sign. The pair will be two of just four players left on the roster from the 2009 MLS Cup winning team.

Report: Aubameyang hands in transfer request at Dortmund

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According to German publication Bild, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has handed a transfer request to the Borussia Dortmund hierarchy.

Arsenal is the latest club linked with the Gabonese striker, with reports earlier this month of a deal to send Aubameyang to China. He has reportedly asked to leave Dortmund multiple times this January, and has been turned down thus far, and it’s causing problems. Aubameyang was suspended by the club for one match for missing a meeting last week, a match that ended in a goalless draw with Wolfsburg.

[ MORE: Man United, Chelsea battle for Alexis Sanchez ]

“We had a very heated discussion,” said Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc after the suspension was announced. “He hasn’t behaved like this for years, he’s always been very professional. What has happened is very tolerable, there will be some fines, too. It’s not necessary to talk about a transfer, but it’s clear that things can’t continue like this because some important things are in jeopardy, and that there is tension inside the squad.”

The price tag, according to recent reports, would be around $76 million, and he would be purchased with money from the likely outgoing transfer of Alexis Sanchez.

Arsenal transfer guru Sven Mislintat is reportedly driving the deal, having signed Aubameyang at Dortmund during his days as a scout from Westfalinstadion. However, there is buzz among the British media that Arsene Wenger is unimpressed by Aubameyang’s recent insubordination and has expressed his concerns.

Emre Can says new Liverpool contract still a possibility

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Liverpool midfielder Emre Can is out of contract this summer, but says he could still sign back on at Anfield despite heavy rumors of his departure.

Still just 24 years old, the German came over from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2014 and has improved in each of his four years at Liverpool, flourishing under Jurgen Klopp as a strong passer and versatile player who can be used in midfield or defense. With that, he has reportedly turned down a number of new contract offers, and Juventus is reportedly in the lead to sign him to a free transfer.

[ MORE: Arsenal should follow Liverpool’s rebuilding example ]

Can is eligible to sign a pre-contract agreement with anyone from now until the end of the season, but he says that doesn’t mean he will leave.

“My agent is looking after everything but I am here until the summer,” Can said. “I haven’t signed anything with anyone. I am talking with everyone. Of course I am talking with Liverpool. Why not? I still have a contract here. It is an amazing club. What can I say? My agent does the rest. I just concentrate on the scene, on my performance and the football. I will give everything for this team.”

The loss of Philippe Coutinho this winter is an obvious blow to the Reds, but an argument could be made that the loss of Can would hurt just as much if not more, as stout defensive midfielders are hard to come by. However, the arrival of Naby Kieta this summer could ease the blow of the German’s potential departure. Should Can stay, partnering with Keita in midfield could prove masterful as Liverpool looks to continue building towards a title challenge. Currently, Can has paired with Giorgino Wijnaldum in Liverpool’s midfield in recent weeks, and the club is on a five-match win streak that has seen them shoot into third place in the Premier League table.