When Pep Guardiola was announced as the incoming manager of Manchester City, pie-in-the-sky expectations were immediately thrust upon the Spaniard, as if he were some kind of miracle worker.
Season no. 1 in the Premier League didn’t go quite as many had hoped, but Guardiola was prepared for some early struggles — perhaps even expecting them. Season no. 2 has started at breakneck speed.
[ MORE: PL roundup — Man City win at Chelsea; Kane gets 2 more ]
There’s no two ways about it: the 2017-18 edition of Man City is already quite special, still with plenty of room to grow, and this season’s title race should be equally special, assuming Manchester United and/or Chelsea and/or Tottenham Hotspur can keep pace with Guardiola’s men.
Speaking in his post-game television interviews following City’s 1-0 win away to Chelsea which puts them back atop the league table, Guardiola held back very little in praising the performance of his entire team, while singling out one very special Belgian playmaker in particular — quotes from the BBC:
“It is important to win and especially with the way we played. In the first half we didn’t find the right position but in the second we were better. A big congratulations for the victory.
“Chelsea want to play and they are so so dangerous in attack but we kept the ball and when they had it we pressed as high as possible.
“We had control and the second half we adjusted our possession and the way we attacked. They could not play and had to do long balls.
“Kevin De Bruyne was outstanding, he makes absolutely everything. He is good in small spaces, he is humble and clever. He has speed and fight and can attack through the channel. He can play in four of five positions so we are lucky.”
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As for De Bruyne, he says the entire team is already reaping the rewards of a refocused mentality, courtesy of the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager — quotes from the BBC:
“I feel very happy. We produced a good performance. We knew it would be tactically very difficult. They are one of the best teams on the counter attack. The way we played was very positive.
“We had a little bit of a plan not to get caught by Eden and Willian because they are dangerous, that’s why we played like a 3-4-3 and we managed to do it very well.
“The spirit is very good. I think it was after a game in pre-season that Pep said we need to get the mentality to hate to lose. This year we try to do that and win the points in the big games. It can change very quickly but we ha a good spell in September and try to do the same when we come back after the international break.”
Real Madrid made things on Wednesday a bit more complicated than they would have preferred, but the two-time defending European champions are through to the final of the Club World Cup for the second straight year.
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Zinedine Zidane’s men came from behind to beat United Arab Emirates side Al Jazira (winners of the U.A.E. Pro League, the tournament’s host country), courtesy of second-half goals scored by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, 2-1 at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Al Jazira held a 1-0 halftime lead, thanks to Romarinho’s opening goal in the 41st minute. The advantage lasted just a dozen minutes, though, as Ronaldo used Madrid’s first genuine chance of the game to bring Los Blancos back onto level terms in the 53rd minute. Luka Modric slipped the Portuguese superstar through, and the recently crowned Ballon d’Or winner finished with ease to make it 1-1.
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The winner didn’t come for quite some time after that, as Madrid were made to wait — and work — for their place in Saturday’s final, where they’ll face Brazilian side and Copa Libertadores winners Gremio. Bale had only just come off the bench seconds earlier, when Lucas Vazquez cut the ball back for Bale to hit it hard and low past the goalkeeper.
The Welshman nearly made it 3-1 with four minutes to go in regular time, but his scissor from the edge of the box was saved to deny Madrid a stunning insurance goal very late on.
Madrid are aiming to become the first side to win back-to-back Club World Cup titles after beating Kashima Antlers, 4-2 after extra-time, in the 2016 final.
Seven Premier League games are coming your way from 2:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and you can watch them all live online.
[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]
Manchester City head to Swansea looking to extend their winning streak to a record-breaking 15-straight in a season, while Manchester United host Bournemouth and Tottenham welcome Brighton to Wembley. There’s a big London derby between West Ham and Arsenal, while Liverpool host West Brom, in-form Leicester head to Southampton and struggling Newcastle clash with Everton.
[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ]
You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.
[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]
For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.
The schedule for the seven games on Wednesday is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.
Wednesday’s Premier League schedule
2:45 p.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Manchester City – NBCSN [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Newcastle United vs. Everton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Southampton vs. Leicester City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Liverpool vs. West Bromwich Albion – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Bournemouth – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Brighton & Hove Albion – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: West Ham United vs. Arsenal – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.
The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.
Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.
Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.
The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.
Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.
After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.
If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.
Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.
The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.
BERLIN (AP) Germany’s players will each receive $410,000 bonus if the team defends its World Cup title next year in Russia.
The German soccer federation says it has agreed to a performance-related bonus system for the team, as it did for the successful 2014 World Cup campaign and the last two European Championships.
Bonuses will only be paid upon reaching the quarterfinals, when each player would receive $90,000. That will increase to $150,000 for reaching the semifinals, $175,000 for third place and $235,000 for reaching the final.
Only Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962) have won back-to-back World Cup titles.