Southampton is still without Steven Davis and Maya Yoshida, but the club doesn’t appear to have any new injuries to cope with.
What they’re saying
Rafa Benitez on importance of match: “Every game is important for us. This is the most important because it is the next one. But until the end we must keep going. I hope we win, but until the last one that is what we will do. Every game is a final. We have a lot of games to play. The target is 40 points. Southampton are around us in the table, sometimes you can win even making mistakes. The Manchester United game was excellent, the atmosphere was great with the fans behind the team, we want to replicate that.”
Mauricio Pellegrino on Newcastle’s strengths: “They are a very compact team, their fans always lift the team. They will be difficult to manage. Really good defensively and on the counter. But I think we are in a good moment and our players have been training very well, it will be a tough game for Newcastle too. It is interesting because both teams need to win. I can’t imagine they will be comfortable with just one point.”
The Liverpool defeat was expected for Rafa Benitez and his club, but Newcastle has managed to play well over the last month with results against Manchester United (win) and Bournemouth (draw). Newcastle 1-0 Southampton
Citizens have lost just once in previous 10 PL fixtures
Aguero has scored 10 goals in as many matches of late
Manchester City looks to keep its hopes of a top four finish alive on Saturday as Pep Guardiola‘s team hosts Southampton at St. Mary’s (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. EDT on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).
The Citizens currently sit on 61 points with seven matches to play, and while a Champions League place is very much in sight, Guardiola and co. must be wary of Manchester United and Arsenal.
Captain Vincent Kompany could make his fourth City appearance this season in PL play after an extended layoff due to injury as his side looks for back-to-back wins.
For Southampton, a top 10 finish is very much possible for Claude Puel and his side, with Saints currently in ninth place.
Manolo Gabbiadini is a possibility to participate in Saturday’s affair after suffering a groin injury, and Saints will need his production if they are to have a shot at three points. In four PL matches this season, the Italian striker has tallied four goals.
What they’re saying
Guardiola on goalkeeper decision heading into weekend: “Every weekend I will decide who is in goal. Last week I decided on Claudio and Saturday I will decide (again). It depends on the opponent, the pressing, what I see in the training sessions, so we are going to see. I like both to be involved, I have confidence in both of them, so we will see.”
Claude Puel on feelings of facing top side like Manchester City: “(City) like to have the ball, good possession, good play, have good players in attack, but we will have opportunities also. The most important thing for us is to keep the good feeling between ourselves; then we can go up against this team. The opportunity to play a great manager is very interesting. He has a good philosophy.”
Saints have done well in this fixture recently but City has been hard to beat over the last two months with just one defeat in their last 10. With United and Arsenal breathing down their necks, I think City will step it up and put more pressure on those sides as they look to breach a place in the top four. Manchester City 2-0 Southampton
With just nine matches remaining and a five-point cushion, Leicester City can really begin to think about a Premier League title with a win against Newcastle. The Foxes have the benefit of not needing to balance multiple competitions, like several other teams in contention, which means Claudio Ranieri‘s team can zone in on its first PL crown in team history.
Spurs don’t deserve title with loss against Villa
Aston Villa vs. Tottenham Hotspur — Sunday, 12 p.m. ET
With the Villans all but buried at the basement of the PL, Tottenham can use no excuses if they were to slip up against their last-place opponent. Manager Mauricio Pochettino opted to rest many of his starting players on Thursday versus Borussia Dortmund, while Dele Alli missed the Europa League clash due to suspension. There’s no question that Spurs have enough talent within their side to win the title, but catching Leicester seems more and more unrealistic as our belief of the Foxes grows.
Let’s just put this in perspective for a moment. Villa concedes two-and-a-half goals on average for every goal they bag themselves. Pressure is on, Spurs.
The battle for PL mediocrity
AFC Bournemouth vs. Swansea City — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET
Neither side really has anything to play for other than further assurance that they’ll be playing top-flight football next season. While both Bournemouth and Swansea have shown moments of surprise during the 2015-16 campaign, Saturday’s matchup is nothing more than average. A win for the Cherries would give Eddie Howe‘s side 10 wins on the year though, and that is a feat that deserve some applause after the uncertainty kicked off the PL season.
City-Norwich presents key fixture for different reasons
Norwich City vs. Manchester City — Saturday, 7:45 a.m. ET
The Citizens hold a slim chance to capture this year’s PL title, therefore a win versus Norwich will be critical. City currently sits 10 points behind Leicester. The team they’re facing though has just as much to play for on Saturday. The Canaries, 18th on the table as things stand, are firmly in the relegation battle. A win against Manuel Pellegrini‘s side would go a long way in preventing a slide to the Championship next season.
Battle of underrated sides has meaning in chase for Europe
We’ve said this a million times this year, but this PL season is unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed. Stoke City and Southampton currently occupy eighth and ninth positions in the Premier League, giving each side a shot at qualifying for Europe next season. While it’s unlikely that either team will, it simply cannot be ruled out given the craziness that has transpired over the last eight months. Wouldn’t it be something if Stoke (who holds a minus-three goal differential) makes it into the Europa League?
Despite United’s higher standing on the table, the side has often been called out for poor performances, while Koeman has been praised for his work at St. Mary’s.
Now Koeman is speaking out about his fellow Dutchman, saying Van Gaal can sometimes be too confrontational with players, and touches on the differences in their coaching styles.
Speaking to Dutch television:
When you bring in Van Gaal you bring in quality but you also bring in someone who thinks he knows everything and that will cause clashes.
When you have Van Gaal in charge, it is a fact that there is fear in his team and that is not always good.
I was his assistant at Barcelona after the World Cup in 1998 and I learned a lot of things from him, but there is a big difference between him and me as managers.
The way he handles his players is totally different. I don’t put as much pressure on the shoulders of my players.
After Van Gaal coached the Dutch national team at the World Cup, the Dutch federation had to bring in a manager who would bring in a softer touch. The players needed an arm around their shoulder, someone calmer.”
Koeman is referencing his time as Van Gaal’s assistant at Barcelona in the late 90’s, where the two helped lead the club to the La Liga title in 1999.
Although Van Gaal hasn’t caused any major clashes with players (that we know of), he has made a name for himself through his sometimes strange-yet entertaining press conferences. No matter the performance United puts in, LVG seemingly always has a witty and calculated response for the media, even if it’s not the answer people want to hear.
Koeman can criticize Van Gaal for his coaching style and overall attitude, but he can’t argue that LVG gets results wherever he manages. He just led the Netherlands to the World Cup semifinals this summer, and despite all the talk surrounding Manchester United’s season, the Red Devils are still in the top four and in position to get back into the Champions League next season.
It will be interesting to see if Van Gaal responds to Koeman’s criticism, because we all knw LVG isn’t always quick to bite his tongue.