All-out attack for Man City? As Stevan Jovetic joins Pellegrini’s revolution

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Manchester City are going for it.

They aren’t happy with coming second in the Premier League, as they did last season, giving up their crown to bitter rivals Manchester United.

And as Will Ferrell’s fictional character Ricky Bobby famously said in the film Talladega Nights, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

It seems as if Manchester City’s directors and new manager Manuel Pellegrini are steadfastly upholding Ricky Bobby’s mantra.

This morning bullish striker Alvaro Negredo joined from Sevilla for $30 million. This afternoon Montenegrin attacker Stevan Jovetic signed from Fiorentina.

Like I said, City aren’t going to leave anything to chance this season.

This summer they’ve already spent $70 million on Brazilian holding midfielder Fernandinho and Spanish winger Jesus Navas. Today they spent $63 million. They’re going for it.

But will the additions of Negredo, Fernandinho, Navas and Jovetic further clog up City’s mammoth squad?

Nope. Those four will be regulars.

The additions of Negredo and Jovetic were essential and City have waited to make sure they could grab the right men. Pellegrini previously spoke about playing attractive soccer and how they need to attack and score goals. Previously I’ve spoken about City’s poor showing in front goal last season, they scored just 66, the joint-sixth best in the Premier League.

(MORE: Manuel Pellegrini to change Man City’s style, how can “The Engineer” fix it?)

Last week Pellegrini outlined the new attacking, win at all costs, philosophy that will be prevalent at the Eithad this year.

“One of the reasons I am here is for the way we play. Man City fans will see a different way of playing than they have seen in other years. I’m sure we will play an attractive team. We will try to be an attractive team.”

Make of that what you will.

But adding Negredo is a huge coup. He’s a powerhouse forward who can score all types of goals and work the channels superbly. Jovetic is a manager’s dream. He pops up in space, right on cue to score or set up others and he’s extremely flexible, so Pellegrini can use him anywhere in City’s attack.

That’s something City didn’t have last season. A plan B. If Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero or Mario Balotelli didn’t deliver the goods, then they were out of ideas.

With Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Negredo and Jovetic spearheading their Premier League title charge this season Pellegrini, known as “The Engineer”, has the perfect mixture of power, pace and creativity to help calibrate the beautiful soccer machine he wants to create.

Can this mixture of recently assembled players from the far-flung corners of Europe do the business? Only time will tell. But it seems as though City’s fans are going to have a lot of fun, and see a lot of goals, one way or another.

Change is in the air at the Etihad. And I believe these signings could be the start of something special.

Remember, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

Khedira laughs off Swedish reporter’s offer of tickets home

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
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Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira brushed off a gesture from a Swedish reporter, trading a bit of banter ahead of Germany’s big World Cup match against Sweden on Saturday.

Germany fell 1-0 to Mexico in its opener while Sweden beat South Korea, leading a playful Swede to hand Khedira boarding passes for a flight home to Germany.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Khedira’s reply? He joked that Sweden won’t be a problem and he’ll use the tickets after the World Cup Final.

From Goal.com:

“After this bad start, we know that it’s super difficult, but we know that we are a strong team. We analysed the game, we saw Sweden play and we are sure that we are winning this game.

“I think we’ll need them [plane tickets] on the 16th of July.”

Report: Newcastle’s Clark knocked out on Spanish dance floor

Scott Heavey/PA via AP
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A wild story out of Spain says an Englishman knocked Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark unconscious at a night club.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

Clark was on vacation in Spain, where he was spending time at Crystal’s Bar in Punta Ballena, Magaluf very early Sunday morning.

Clark and a man “in his 30s” got into an argument that saw the Irish defender knocked out, according to the BBC.

Clark was left unconscious and taken to hospital after an argument between him and the suspect broke out on the dance floor.

The 28-year-old suffered cuts and bruises to his face.

Clark, 28, scored twice in 20 Premier League appearances this season, his second at St. James’ Park.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 9 — Iceland’s next step, Brazilian bounce back?

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Brazil is one of the favorites of the 2018 World Cup, while Iceland is the smallest nation to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

On Friday, both enter their second match days feeling quite different after 1-1 draws.

They won’t face each other, of course, but the contrast is striking nevertheless.

Brazil opens the day’s action when it squares off with Costa Rica, who fell to Serbia in the opener. For Serbia, a dark horse of the tournament, it will be a meeting with Switzerland.

Then there’s Iceland’s bid to climb into the Group D driver’s seat by knocking off Nigeria. A win from Iceland would make Lionel Messi and Argentina’s task of qualifying for the knockout rounds extremely unlikely.

Below is Friday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group D
Nigeria vs. Iceland: Volgograd, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group E
Brazil vs. Costa Rica: Saint Petersburg, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Serbia vs. Switzerland: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina

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Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.