Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs Manchester City

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  • Manchester City has not conceded a goal in 508 minutes.
  • Of the eight times City has scored 5 or more goals in a game this season, only one came on the road.
  • A win would put the Gunners three points from the top; a loss gives Everton a chance to pull within three of Arsenal.

It’s a pivotal match for both clubs in the top-four picture as red-hot Manchester City travels to the Emirates for a date with Arsene Wenger’s Gunners at 1:30pm ET on NBCSN or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

For Manchester City, who have not conceded a goal in over five straight Premier League matches, the title is theirs to lose – and so are the record books.  Another clean sheet would put their streak at a club record 598 minutes.  Already, their streak is City’s best in the top flight since 1915.

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Add the fact that Manuel Pellegrini and company have bagged 11 goals in that span (eight in their last two) and Arsenal will have plenty to think about on both ends of the pitch.

The same can’t be said for the Gunners.

Wenger’s bunch have been up to their usual late-season slide recently, picking up just four points thus far through March and seeing themselves outscored 9-3 largely thanks to a 6-0 spanking by Chelsea.

(MORE: Arsene Wenger deeply regrets not signing Yaya Toure)

With an away win, Arsenal are all but mathematically eliminated from the title contention, while Manchester City would kick off their three-match gauntlet in a positive fashion.

Following this weekend’s fixture, City will host Southampton at the Etihad before traveling to Anfield for a potential title-decider against Liverpool. Following that, City could be in the clear with just Sunderland, West Brom, Crystal Palace, Everton, Aston Villa, and West Ham left on the docket, making this stretch even more important.

Not too much has changed on the injury front for either side.  Arsenal will still be without Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere, while Laurent Koscielny misses out thanks to a calf injury. Pellegrini misses Sergio Aguero and Matija Nastasic while welcoming back David Silva.

What they’re saying:

Pellegrini on Arsenal: “I think Arsenal have a chance of winning the title. Maybe they didn’t play well or have the results they needed in the last two matches. But I think that all the teams will drop points also from now until the end of the season, so I continue thinking that Arsenal have a lot of chances to fight for the title.”

Wenger on their current position: “We want to finish first in the league and everything else, the other priorities are still there. You want to be in the Champions League of course, but it is never good enough to be anything other than first and you hope always you are the best. If you ask any team, and they have to be in the top four (so) you cannot say as well it is a shame, but you want to be first – you do not work day and night to be second.”

David Silva on City’s position: “I think another win would make us favorites. There will still be a long way to go but we’ll be in a great position going into the final few weeks. If we win them all, there is nothing anyone can do to stop us.”

Prediction:

With two teams coming into the match in almost completely opposite form, there’s an easy route.  Arsenal will have to fight hard to win the match, and Wenger will have them looking for revenge after the Chelsea defeat led to many counting them out. It’s hard to see a club like the Gunners laying down and dying like they did at Stamford Bridge twice in such a short span, and for that reason I like a 2-2 draw in this match, much to the delight of Chelsea and Liverpool fans.

Peru’s World Cup foes lobby to overturn Guerrero’s ban

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Following last week’s decision handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Peru captain and talisman Paolo Guerrero has been banned from the 2018 World Cup — at the age of 34, almost certainly his last opportunity to star on the world’s biggest stage.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

However, in the days since that decision, a number of Guerrero’s fellow professionals and World Cup stars — France and Denmark captains Hugo Lloris and Simon Kjaer, and Australia’s Mile Jedinak — have written to FIFA, on behalf of FIFPro, the world player union, in hopes of rendering Guerrero eligible to pay at next month’s tournament in Russia.

“We respectfully ask the Fifa Council to show compassion,” the trio wrote. “In our view it would be plainly wrong to exclude him from what should be a pinnacle of his career.”

[ MORE: Ronaldo hints at Real Madrid exit | Bale does the same ]

That Lloris, Kjaer and Jedinak are the players lobbying in favor of Guerrero is particularly notable given the fact that Peru will face France, Denmark and Australia in Group C.

Guerrero tested positive for cocaine late last year, after a tea he drank was tainted and triggered a fail drug test.

SKC, Crew SC play to 0-0 draw; VAR steals the show (again)

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — The game in 100 words (or less): Nothing ruins a good game of soccer more than controversies involving the referee — and now that VAR is active within MLS, yet another failure of the video-review system to correct the most “clear and obvious” of wrong decisions. There is no longer any rhyme or reason in deciding whether or not to utilize what could be a very helpful tool. Check the third video further down this page to comprehend the absurdity of VAR in Sporting Kansas City’s 0-0 draw with Columbus Crew SC on Sunday. As for the actual soccer which was played, Tim Melia made one save to deny Gyasi Zardes with a point-blank header early in the first half, and a second to deny Zardes rom the penalty spot just before halftime. Despite being a back-and-forth affair between the league’s second- and third-place teams with a chance to take the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race, there were just six shots on target in total and genuine scoring chances were few and far between.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

Three moments that mattered

43′ — Zardes wins a PK, but Melia makes the save — Melia was responsible for giving away the penalty kick, and he more than made up for it by denying Zardes moments later.

45+6′ — Higuain puts studs into Espinoza, sees red — Originally not called a foul, changed to a red card following video review. On the softer side of red cards (just an opinion).

59′ — Martinez takes a swing at Sinovic, but no video review — At this point, it’s just time to disband the entire VAR experiment. It’s turned MLS into a clown show and an embarrassment. Signed, someone who was initially in favor of VAR, assuming MLS would utilize it properly.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Tim Melia

Goalscorers: None

Rayo Vallecano win promotion back to La Liga

Photo credit: Rayo Vallecano / @RayoVallecano
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MADRID (AP) Rayo Vallecano earned promotion to Spain’s top division after beating Lugo 1-0 in a second-tier league game on Sunday.

Alex Moreno’s goal for the hosts in the 40th minute sealed Rayo’s return to La Liga after two seasons away.

Huesca had already secured promotion last weekend with a 2-0 victory at Lugo.

The third team to move up will be the winner of a two-round playoff between the four teams that finish the season from third to sixth.

Malaga, Las Palmas and Deportivo La Coruna were all relegated from the top flight this season.

FOLLOW LIVE: West leaders SKC host East’s 2nd-best Crew SC

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City host Columbus Crew SC, the Eastern Conference’s second-place side, at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday with both sides capable of overtaking Atlanta United for top spot in the Supporters’ Shield race.

[ FOLLOW: SKC vs. Crew SC in top-of-the-table clash ]

Sporting KC, who are unbeaten in three straight and have lost just once since opening day (11 games), lead expansion side Los Angeles FC in the West. Meanwhile, Crew SC enter Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash unbeaten in their last six games (four wins) and trail the league leaders from Atlanta by a single point.

Hit the link above to follow along throughout the afternoon, and check back with PST for coverage after the final whistle.