Premier League Preview: Manchester City vs West Ham

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  • Manchester City has a +13 goal differential on Liverpool, meaning a point would be enough for the title.
  • The home side has lost just once all season at the Etihad – to Chelsea in February.
  • West Ham have lost four of their last five on the road, conceding nine goals.

This is it. It all comes down to this. The Premier League championship is Manchester City’s to lose.

Win, and they’re in. But if West Ham can pull out a shocker, Liverpool can pounce.

One point would do it as well, but it would be surprising if the Citizens even come close to blowing this one. Every stat, every number, and every motivation is on their side as they take on West Ham at the Etihad at 10am ET live on NBC or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

It’s been a crazy season at the top of the table, but Manchester City have timed their run of good form at the perfect time. They’ve stumbled, but not as much as Liverpool. Their loss to the Reds last month seemed like a guillotine at the time, but with the Reds falling apart at the worst time possible, City have just one more small hurdle.

Considering the facts, it doesn’t seem like that big of a hurdle at all.

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Since a soul-crushing loss at home to Chelsea in February – their only loss at home all season – City have dropped just two points at home in league play. They have scored 14 goals in the five matches since the loss to Liverpool.  They have no other competitions to focus on. And scariest of all – they have everyone fit for the first time all season.

Oh, and if that’s not enough, score four goals and the Premier League single-season scoring record is theirs. That’s some motivation.

On the other side, things aren’t so pretty either. West Ham did get a win last week at home against Spurs 2-0, an impressive win for sure, but looking at the recent body of work it’s a small gold star in an otherwise ugly picture.

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Since the beginning of March, the Hammers have just five goals away from Upton Park.  They let in a whopping six their last time at the Etihad (a cup tie in January) and have conceded 12 times to Manchester City in their three fixtures against City across the league and cup this season.

Brace yourselves, Premier League. This one could get ugly.

What they’re saying:

Sam Allardyce on who he wants to win the title: “From a neutral point of view, everybody would like to see Liverpool win it. From a personal point of view I’d like to see Steven Gerrard win it.”

Manuel Pellegrini on his squad: “When I arrived here, my target was always to play well and try to win the title. The moment I accepted the job it was because I had a lot of trust that I could win the league. I think the first thing I can say is we chose the right squad we needed for this year.”

Pundit Jamie Carragher on City’s season: “Winning the Premier League is a massive achievement for a club, so Manuel Pellegrini and his players can feel very proud of themselves if they get the job done on Sunday. Manchester City may only win what everyone expected them to, considering the money they have spent and the fact they have the best squad in the division, but they have been given big challenges by Liverpool, Chelsea and, for a long period, Arsenal. City have been playing catch-up for most of the season – they could win the title having spent just 15 days at the top of the table – and I think that shows that they have character in their ranks as well as quality.”

Prediction:

If you couldn’t tell from earlier, there’s only one way this thing ends. You see everyone’s comments on City’s character, and there’s a reason why.  We saw it last season in their barnburner with QPR on the final day of the season, getting the goals they needed to win the title in unbelievable fashion. This time around, they don’t have the same mountain to climb, but they’ll want to put on a show and prove they deserve to win in convincing fashion.

With everything presented here, a 4-1 Manchester City victory will help them earn the right to hoist the trophy in front of their home fans. The Etihad will be buzzing, and it’s possible West Ham earn a bit of a consolation early by catching City on too much of a high, but they won’t be able to hang for long. Congratulations will be in order for Manuel Pellegrini and company.

Chicharito says Mexican team “always feels welcome” in the United States

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Mexico will take on Wales on Monday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA as they warm up for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Playing in the United States is nothing new for the USMNT’s southern neighbors, and it doesn’t phase them. In fact, they love it.

Star striker Chicharito told reporters that he and the rest of the squad is more than happy playing north of the border, because according to him, apart from a pair of venues, they can’t even tell they’re on the road.

“We always feel welcome here,” Chicharito said. “It’s like our second country, if we can say that, apart from Columbus [Ohio] and apart from the stadium in Miami when we played Colombia…those two stadiums, that’s the only time I’ve felt that we were the away team.”

Chicharito knows that the high population of his countrymen and women in the United States helps the Mexican team feel close to home when they play over the border. He’s all for the melting pot of the US.

“We feel at home [in the United States],” Chicharito said. “We have plenty of Mexicans here, so I don’t know what else to tell you, we feel welcome, we feel glad, happy to be in touch with those people here. They are sacrificing a lot of things, and they are all enjoying their lives that they decide to live in the USA…it’s great. It’s great when you come to another country and you feel like you are home. You see all the stadium green, shouting and screaming your names, screaming your goals, so yeah, it’s great.”

Mexico will play Wales on Monday at 9:00 p.m. ET, and will return home to take on Scotland at Azteca on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

England international Delph expecting child in middle of World Cup

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England international Fabian Delph could face quite the dilemma if England advances past the group stage of the World Cup.

Delph’s wife Natalie is expecting the couple’s third child on June 30, which is two days after their pivotal group stage match against Belgium, and two days before the squad would take the field July 1 for its Round of 16 game should they win Group G. If they finish second in the group, they would play their Round of 16 game on July 3.

When asked what his plans are, Delph joked that his wife would manage on her own. “She’s tough, she’s a Yorkshire lass so she’ll deal with it,” Delph said with a smile.

He then coughed up the truth: they’re not quite sure what the plan is.

“We’re not 100% certain, with a game on the 28th there might be an opportunity to fly back and then get back fast,” he said. “[England manager] Gareth [Southgate] has been fantastic. There’s nothing more important than family to me – family always comes first and always will.”

There’s another dilemma that Southgate must navigate involving Delph. The 28-year-old is a natural winger, but played wing-back in Pep Guardiola‘s title-winning system for much of the year and saw a massive uptick in form in the new role, playing in place of the injured Benjamin Mendy. Southgate must decide where he wants to deploy Delph – if at all – and if he wishes to fit his formation and tactics to mold Delph’s season under Guardiola.

Authorities drop assault charges against Hope Solo

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KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) — Prosecutors in Washington state have dropped domestic violence charges against former U.S. national team star goalkeeper Hope Solo.

Solo was charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault in 2014 after police said she assaulted two family members at a home in Kirkland, east of Seattle. The case was delayed by appeals.

KING-TV reports that city prosecutors dropped the charges Wednesday, saying the witnesses in the case wanted to move on with their lives and did not want to participate in a trial. An attorney for Kirkland, Melissa Osman, wrote in court documents that the circumstances were unlikely to be repeated.

The longtime national team goalkeeper and two-time Olympic gold medalist recently ran unsuccessfully for president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. She has called for equal pay and equal treatment for the U.S. women’s team.

Mark Hughes signs new long-term contract at Southampton

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Mark Hughes has gone from Stoke City outcast to Southampton savior in little under six months time.

The Welsh boss was let go from Stoke City with the Potters 18th in the table and headed towards eventual relegation, but he was picked up by fellow relegation candidates Southampton after the departure of Mauricio Pellegrino. He steered the club to safety, finishing three points above the drop in 17th.

With the Saints in the top flight for another season, the club has announced the signing of Hughes to a new three-year contract.

“Mark, Eddie and I are thrilled to have signed long-term contracts with the club. It was the only option we considered, having spent the last eight weeks with the club,” Hughes said of himself and his assistant coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki. “Now it is vital that we take the unbelievable support we received from the fans during the last few games into next season. The staff and the players will work hard every day to deliver the success this club deserves, and with everyone pulling together we will achieve our goals.”

Hughes guided Stoke City to three consecutive ninth-placed finishes, the highest the club had ever finished in the English top flight, but they finished 13th last year and regressed even further this campaign. The sale of playmaker Marko Arnautovic was particularly damaging, and the club scored just 35 goals in 38 games as a result.

At Southampton, Hughes took over a club that sat in 17th with just eight matches to go. He lost three Premier League games in a row to start his tenure and only won two league matches with Saints the rest of the way, but managed to keep the club barely afloat.