Premier League Preview: Manchester City vs. Everton

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  • Manchester City have won just two of their last 12 Premier League meetings with Everton, losing nine
  • Everton have the same record (W3, D3) after six games as they did in 1986-87, their last title winning season 
  • Manchester City have scored eight goals from crosses in the Premier League this season; twice as many as the next best side

Everton makes its way to the Etihad Stadium to take on Manchester City this Saturday (7:45 am ET on NBCSN, watch live via NBC Sports Live Extra) with the Toffees aiming to extend their strong recent Premier League record against City and Manuel Pellegrini’s side looking to stop a two match skid.

For Everton, they enter the match on the heels of an impressive 3-2 victory over Newcastle. The Monday night match saw the Blues jump out to a 3-0 lead at halftime behind a Romelu Lukaku brace and Ross Barkley’s second goal of the season.

Roberto Martinez’ men took their foot off the gas in the second half of play and were punished for their arrogance, as Newcastle made it a match by finding the net twice in the second half. It was the third league victory in a row for Everton, having also defeated West Ham United and Chelsea after beginning the season with three straight draws (Norwich City, West Bromwich Albion, Cardiff City).

source: Reuters
David Silva’s return from injury will be a major boost to City.

For Manchester City, Saturday’s match represents the opportunity to change the tides after dropping all three points at Aston Villa last weekend and losing 3-1 to Bayern Munich in Tuesday night’s Champions League action. Lapses in defense continue to plague the Citizens, with the center-back combination of Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic no longer looking as impressive as it did last year.

The Villa and Munich loses came on the heels of an impressive Manchester Derby victory, where Pellegrini’s men had the look of champions. They pounded their rivals with four goals, bringing their league unbeaten streak to three games after drawing 0-0 with Stoke City and beating Hull City 2-0 . That streak followed a shock 3-2 defeat at Cardiff City after an impressive 4-0 victory over Newcastle in the season opener.

Coming into the season many Evertonians worried the club would suffer under the possession-based attacking style of play of Martinez. The general consensus was that the Toffees would need 6-12 months to adjust from the conservative, defensive style David Moyes implemented at the club during his 11 year tenure. But the recent unbeaten streak has removed the fear and made believers out of the Everton faithful, who are all too happy to see their side keep the lion’s share of the ball.

The new recruits into Goodison Park are impressing as well. With James McCarthy and Gareth Barry in the holding role Everton are confident defensively and creative on the bounce. Bringing in Romelu Lukaku to lead the line was a stroke of genius and his connection with fellow countryman and winger Kevin Mirallas is one that opponents would do well to not take lightly. With Ross Barkley in the holding role and Leon Osman or Steven Pienaar on the wing, the Blues’ attack is one with pace, creativity and bite.

Manchester City is undergoing a similar metamorphosis under Pellegrini. Some matches (against Newcastle and Manchester United) they’ve looked like world beaters and others (Cardiff City, Stoke City and Aston Villa) they’ve struggled. Having dropped points in all three road matches, it’s easy to say that City struggle on the road but one can’t discount the impact of a new manager trying to excel both domestically and in Europe.

For City, it’s about shoring up a leaky defense. Kompany needs to continue asserting himself on the pitch and a second center-back, whether Nastasic or Joleon Lescott, needs to step up and prove himself. Improvements also have to be made between the sticks where the blunders of Joe Hart continue to plague the side, leading some to believe Costel Pantilimon deserves a shot.

City will welcome the league return of David Silva after being sidelined with injury while Martin Demichelis (knee) and former Everton man Jack Rodwell (muscle problem) remain out. The loan deal between Everton and City will prevent Barry from featuring and the Toffees will hope Darron Gibson (knee) can replace him. Everton will await to see whether Kevin Mirallas (ankle) can go while Pienaar (hamstring) is likely out.

The match, guaranteed to be an entertaining affair, kicks-off this Saturday, at 7:45 am ET live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra.

What They’re Saying 

City manager Manuel Pellgrini on players over tactics: “It is important to have players with a high level of technical qualities if you want to win titles. But added to this high level of technical qualities you need to put together a tactical system, so everything functions well within the team on the pitch. You need to defend and attack as a team and not defend or attack with individual players.”

Everton manager Roberto Martinez on City’s loss to Bayern: “I don’t think it was one of those games [versus Bayern Munich] which you can feel hurt by because the quality of the opposition was clear to see. That’s why they are European champions. I don’t think there is any shame to lose against a side like Bayern Munich. . . . You feel like they [Manchester City] will want to respond and get back to winning ways so that’s why we will need to be perfect in many ways. We need to be prepared for a real reaction from Manchester City.”

Everton midfielder Gareth Barry on strategy against his parent club: “The lads will know enough about the team [Manchester City] without my input but if anybody needs advice they can ask me…. They [Everton] have always been tough to beat when I was on the other end of it. If the manager [Martinez] sets the team up as hard to play against but try and create problems for them at the other end then I’m sure we are capable of getting a result there. The manager won’t be too defensive – he will go there and want the lads to play their normal game and create problems [for Manchester City].”

Prediction

Beaten at home by Bayern Munich following a shocking loss to Aston Villa will have City revved to go. But the Toffees have long been City’s bogey club and if Mirallas is healthy to play, his connection with Lukaku could give Pellegrini’s side major headaches. City is heavily favored (20/33) but I think this one ends in a share of the points.

PL Sunday preview: Man Utd and Arsenal chase top five; Chelsea host Liverpool

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures is filled up to the brim of top-six sides in action, as Manchester United and Arsenal look to climb into the top five in the table, while Chelsea looks to send a strong message as they host leaders Liverpool.

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West Ham vs. Manchester United — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Aside from leaders Liverpool, there is no other team in the league experiencing such a positive run as West Ham. The Hammers are unbeaten in their last four bouts – wining twice and drawing twice – as they head into Sunday’s showdown against Manchester United. Equal with five other sides with eight points, Manuel Pellegrini is conscious that it’s the ideal time to make a statement and climb into the top six.

“We have a very strong team in front of us, it will be a strong test against United. It is the only way we can get into the top six, demonstrating you are able to do it,” Pellegrini said heading into Sunday.

As for the Red Devils, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side – who share the podium with West Ham – are looking to extend their current winning form to three games. Ahead of the game, however, the talk surrounding United isn’t Sunday’s game, but Paul Pogba‘s rumored move to Real Madrid this summer. What a better way to get everyone’s mind of theoretical situations and injury worries than with a win.

INJURIES: West Ham — OUT: Michail Antonio (hamstring), Arthur Masuaku (suspended) | Manchester United —OUT: Anthony Martial (thigh), Paul Pogba (back), Luke Shaw (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (knee)

Crystal Palace vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 9 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Not many expected it: Wolves winless throughout the first five games of the season. That, however, is the reality for a team that finished seventh last season. By now, Wolverhampton Wanderers have had plenty of time to pick up on the alarm bells, it’s time for them to respond.

Manager Nuno Espírito Santo, for instance, knows that it’s time for his side to get back into shape before it’s too late.

“This is important,” he said. “We face the reality and the reality says we not performing well so we have to analyse it and find solutions in the team to improve. We must react immediately. We have to take decisions and find solutions for the team because we have to come out of this situation and improve our performance so we can bounce back.”

Crystal Palace, on the other hand, are dealing with adversity of their own after falling to Tottenham Hotspur, 4-0, last week. Playing at Selhurst Park this time around should be a positive, but Palace has only managed to score a goal in three matches in front of their home crowd this season.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace — OUT: None | Wolverhampton Wanderers — OUT: None

Arsenal vs. Aston Villa — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Arsenal have had several things going for them this season: scoring at home, positive first Europa League performance, a healthy and productive Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, among others. One thing they’ve been missing, though, is an effective Nicolas Pepe, especially after shelling record-money for the 24-year-old Ivorian.

“He needs more adaptation,” Emery said in his pre-match press conference. “He is playing good but progressively we know there is going to be more performance in him to help us and I want to do now quickly the last step in the adaptation for us, for example, against Aston Villa.”

With Alexandre Lacazette still out with an ankle injury, Pepe, again, will have the opportunity to showcase his true worth to a packed Emirates Stadium. Arsenal, too, can use his skill to get that much closer to three, vital points.

“When will Aston Villa finally break out of their shell?” is the million-dollar question for the visitors. At times, the newly promoted side has shown the flair that made it so powerful in the Championship last season, only to leave spectators on the edge of their seats, waiting for that final blow. In North London on Sunday, Dean Smith and Co. have the chance to do so with several players back in the mix, but that’s not to say the task will be a walk in the park.

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Alexandre Lacazette (ankle) | Aston Villa — OUT: James Chester (thigh), Jonathan Kodjia (cheek)

Chelsea vs. Liverpool — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Liverpool, like Chelsea, suffered opening losses in European play midweek; however, there is a different, more positive impetus fueling Jurgen Klopp‘s side. The defending Champions League winners’ immaculate record speaks volume to their current situation, one that’s biggest setback has been the aforementioned loss to Napoli and the injury to goalkeeper Allison, while regaining influential player Nabi Keita in trainings.

It begs to ask: with Manchester City already behind and several top-six sides struggling, how will Liverpool not runaway with the league title this season? That type of talk, however, is exactly what Klopp doesn’t want to hear. The season is green – very, ver green – and this season, for one reason or another, is nothing like last year’s.

“Nothing is won already,” Klopp said. “We have seen teams make big steps. There is nobody you think will go down with no points. Watford and Wolves have been at the bottom, struggling, but will end up going back up. The league is much different (to last season). So many things can happen. Five games is nothing, not even created a basis…”

Klopp’s counterpart on Sunday, Frank Lampard, as a result of his own environment, is managing a different dialogue ahead of the clash, like the possibility of fielding Mason Mount, who came off midweek against Valencia in Champions League play.

On the bright side, Chelsea are unbeaten in their last four league bouts, and have a game against Liverpool under their belts this season already – a penalty-shootout loss in the UEFA Super Cup – that should have seasoned them ahead of this season’s part two of the rivalry.

“Times have changed slightly, but it doesn’t change that feeling,” Lampard said on the Chelsea-Liverpool rivalry. “I think the fans feel it, the players feel it, it does involve a lot of passion whenever it’s played. If your levels aren’t there it’s a game that can get away from you quickly so my first thing to say to the players is to make sure they feel this game, recognise what it is, because it always does have an edge.”

INJURIES: Chelsea OUT: Antonio Rüdiger (groin), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (achilles), Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James (both fitness) | Liverpool  OUT: Alisson (calf), Nathaniel Clyne (knee)

Serie A roundup: Inter win Derby della Madonnina, Juventus edge Verona (video)

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Inter Milan’s rampant run and Juventus’ win headline Saturday’s Serie A action.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

AC Milan 0-2 Inter Milan

The stats books following this season’s first Derby della Madonnina make two things very clear: at the moment, Inter are the best team in Milan and in Serie A.

With four consecutive victories to start the season, Antonio Conte and Co. lead Italy’s top-flight by two points.

 

After nearly being up two goals in the first half, Inter broke deadlock in the 49th minute. From a orchestrated set-piece play, marcelo Brozovic’s strike skimmed the heels of Rafael Leão, deflecting the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma, and into the back of the net. An offside call was reviewed through VAR, but the goal stood.

In the 78th minute, a short, lofted cross from Nicolò Barella found Romelu Lukaku, who headed the ball into the far post. The Belgian, who arrived from Manchester United during the summer, has scored three goals in four league games.

Dominating time with the ball didn’t do much for AC Milan, whose clearest chance came late in the second half when Theo Hernández’s strike inside the box hit the bar.

Yet to taste a draw or defeat, Inter marches on as they host Lazio next, while AC Milan travel to Turin to take on Torino.

Juventus 2-1 Hellas Verona

In a game that could have gone either way, Juventus, with its star-studded team and all, walked away with three points against 10-man Hellas Verona.

Aaron Ramsey, who made a shock switch to the Old Lady in July following an 11-year spell with Arsenal, scored his first Serie A goal. From distance, in the 31st minute, the 29-year-old’s shot deflected Verona’s Koray Gunter, beating Marco Silvestri and into the goal.
Ramsey’s goal, however, only leveled the score.
Following a missed penalty and second chance, Miguel Veloso scored what can be the goal of the week: a first-time, left-footed volley into the top corner of Gianluigi Buffon’s goal. Verona, who had a couple of clear chances in the second half, were unable to get past Buffon again.
With three points desperately needed to keep pace with Inter Milan, Cristiano Ronaldo came to the rescue. The Portuguese converted from the sport – his first of the season – following a solo run from Juan Cuadrado.

With positive momentum behind them, second-place Juventus travels to Brescia next, while Hellas Verona receive a lackluster Udinese side.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Cagilari 3-1 Genoa

Udinese 0-1 Brescia

VIDEO: Kei Kamara scores superb bicycle kick goal against Sporting KC

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Kei Kamara has scored plenty of goals at Children’s Mercy Park, but none like his bicycle kick goal on Saturday.

The 35-year-old, now in his 16th season, showcased his penchant for scoring right before halftime against his former team. The goal makes 12 for the Colorado Rapids’ forward this season, placing him within the top 10 of the league and two begin his 14-goal season last year.

Overall, Kamara is fifth in the all-time MLS scoring list with 124 goals, second among active players behind San Jose Earthquakes’ Chris Wondolowski.

Enjoy a superb goal from a superb goalscoerer.

La Liga roundup: Messi, Barcelona stunned by inspired Granada (video)

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Granada’s shocking 2-0 win over Barcelona and subsequent rise to the top of the table headlines Saturday’s La Liga action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Granada 2-0 Barcelona

Not even Lionel Messi, who made his season debut on Saturday, was able to save Barcelona against a red-hot Granada.

Granada, who are off to their best start in their 88 years of existence, had a perfect night in front of their supporters, convincingly getting past a Barcelona that dominated possession, but lacked the offensive ingenuity needed to score.

Barcelona’s defense wasn’t noteworthily robust, either.

Two minutes in, the newly promoted side scored through a headed goal from Ramon Azeez, following a defensive turnover from Junior Firpo.

Unable to record a shot on target in the first half and looking to wakeup a dormant attack, Barcelona brought on wonderkid Ansu Fati and Lionel Messi at halftime. Despite the duo connecting on several occasion and generating a shot on target, it wasn’t enough to get past Rui Silva.

In the 66th minute, following video review, substitute Alvaro Badillo converted from the spot, handing Granada their third win of the season.

Atop of La Liga, Granada set their sights on Real Valladolid, while Barcelona, who are off to their worst league start in 25 years, host Villarreal at Camp Nou.

Atletico Madrid  0-0 Celta Vigo

For a second consecutive week, Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid dropped points, drawing with Celta Vigo 0-0 at Wanda Metropolitano.

Tied with league leaders Granada and Sevilla with 10 points, the alarm bells are far from going off in Madrid. However, as Saturday’s performance showed, los Colchoneros are having trouble finishing chances this season, despite fielding an attack with the likes of Joao Felix, Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata.

In five games, Atletico have managed to score only five goals, six fewer than leaders Granada. Against Celta, Atletico registered 20 shots, five on target, but were unable to crack a stellar Ruben Blanco, who registered five saves.

Leveled with Granada and Sevilla, Atletico Madrid look to get back into winning ways as they take on RCD Mallorca. Elsewhere, Celta Vigo, who have won win after five games, host Espanyol next.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Villarreal 2-0 Real Valladolid

Levante 0-0 Eibar