- City aiming for fifth-straight win
- Stoke haven’t beaten any of top six this season
- Aguero has 23 goals this season
Manchester City host Stoke City at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in a game which was pushed forward from this weekend due to Man City’s involvement in the FA Cup quarterfinals.
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Pep Guardiola‘s side are on a fine run of forming, winning four-straight games in the Premier League heading into this clash as they look to cut Chelsea’s lead atop the PL to eight points and also move into second place with a win.
Stoke beat Middlesbrough 2-0 last time out to cement their spot in the top 10 of the table and Mark Hughes will be hoping to cause an upset as he heads back to one of his former clubs.
In team news City could have captain Vincent Kompany back in the starting lineup but both Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus are long-term absentees. For Stoke, they are sweating on the fitness of Marko Arnautovic, Bruno Martins Indi and Glen Johnson but Xherdan Shaqiri is fit to play some part.
What they’re saying
Guardiola on his transfer plans and expensive English players: “I would like to have English players, believe me, but they are so expensive. I would like to play with English players. When I was in Barcelona I liked to play with locals because they feel something special, but sometimes it is not possible.”
Hughes on Guardiola settling into life in England: “They had a great start, and maybe everybody thought that it was going to be plain sailing for Guardiola and he was making it look easy. But I think everybody in the game felt that maybe there were more challenges round the corner. You can’t underestimate anybody here. I’m not saying he has, but he’s probably been surprised by the challenge that every team presents, no matter where they are in the league.”
City will have too much to overpower a banged up Stoke defense. Expect Guardiola’s boys to keep the pressure up on Chelsea. 3-1.
Chelsea FC will have another Spanish international leading the front line, with Diego Costa likely on his way out of town.
The club announced that Alvaro Morata has completed a transfer from Real Madrid, signing a five-year contract at Stamford Bridge. The BBC reports the transfer fee at nearly $78 million.
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“I am so happy to be here,” Morata said in a statement. “It’s an incredible emotion to be part of this big club. I am looking to work hard, score as many goals as I can and to win as many trophies as possible.”
Morata emerged as an option to replace Costa after Romelu Lukaku decided on joining Manchester United over his former club Chelsea. Morata, who was a Manchester United target at first, then turned his sights on London after becoming disillusioned in Madrid, playing second-fiddle to Karim Benzema.
Despite not being first-choice up top, Morata scored 15 goals in 26 La Liga games and another three in the UEFA Champions League, which Real Madrid went on to win over Morata’s former club Juventus. Morata started for Juventus the last time the club had been in the Champions League final.
Despite being just 24, Morata is emerging as one of the world’s top forwards. He has nine goals in 19 games for the Spanish National Team and now is the right time for him to experience the challenge of the Premier League, where the games come thick and fast and the pace of the game is a step up from what he’s experienced in Spain and Italy.
However, the tactical knowledge he’s learned in both places should help him in England, where he can position himself between the opposing centerbacks.
Brazilian star Neymar isn’t keeping his future plans under wraps, at least when it comes to his current club teammates.
According to a report in French newspaper Le Parisien, Neymar has started telling his Barcelona teammates that he’s intends to join Paris Saint-Germain. Spanish publication Marca meanwhile is reporting that Neymar’s teammates are trying to persuade him to stay in Catalonia for the season.
The Le Parisien report adds that certain officials at Barcelona believe the transfer is imminent and are resigned to losing one of their stars this summer. The report also said that it was a “decisive step” that Neymar was on board with the deal, going along with his father and agent.
[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]
Rumors intensified over the past few days as reports emerged in Spain that Neymar had agreed on a contract with PSG, and all that was awaiting was PSG exercising Neymar’s release clause, worth nearly $260 million (€222 million). On paper, PSG’s Qatari owners can probably afford that tremendous sum but it still remains to be seen whether PSG will see this move over the line.
Should Neymar move, it would break transfer records for the price of the deal as well as shock the world, as Neymar seemed settled and happy in Barcelona playing alongside the likes of fellow South Americans Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Neymar and Barcelona are currently in New York training ahead of the club’s friendly match in the International Champions Cup against Juventus Saturday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Liverpool has added to its defensive depth with the signing of one of Scotland’s bright young stars.
The club announced the signing of left back Andy Robertson for a reported $10.4 million, which can rise to $13 million with add-on clauses.
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Robertson made 33 appearances for Hull City last season in the Premier League, scoring a goal and assisting on two others. While Robertson is joining Liverpool, midfielder Kevin Stewart is heading the opposite direction, joining the Championship club for a reported $5.2 million.
Robertson will likely compete with Alberto Moreno for the starting left back position, and with Liverpool competing in the Premier League plus three cup competitions, depth at every position will be crucial when injuries and fatigue sets in.
The more things at FIFA change, the more they stay the same.
According to a bombshell report from The Guardian, FIFA president Gianni Infantino was under investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee before the president disbanded the committee in May. The report states that Infantino spent around $1.16 million on his election campaign, despite declaring publicly he had only spent around $583,000 on flights around the world to meet with national FA presidents.
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The report claims Infantino was also being investigated by then committee chairman Cornel Borbely over whether he influenced the election of a new president in the Confederation of African Federations, or CAF.
FIFA rules state that presidential candidates must declare campaign expenditures publicly.
The latest bad press on FIFA follows the arrest of Spanish Football Federation president and UEFA vice president Angel Maria Villar and his son among other national and regional officials on charges of corruption and improper management.
Villar appeared in court on Thursday, and a judge denied he and his son bail.