Manchester City’s title hopes all but over. Where has it gone wrong?


Manchester City will not win the Premier League in 2014-15. There. I’ve said it.

[ RECAP – Palace 2-1 City ]

The reigning PL champions have crumbled from being two points behind Chelsea after 21 games of the season in early January, to being nine points behind and having played an extra match in the first week of April.

[ PLAYBACK: Wonder goals, 2015-16 title race ]

Just a year after winning the PL title, Manuel Pellegrini is on the chopping block after UEFA Champions League failure and the Citizens currently sit in fourth place after three defeats from their last five matches.

Here’s a look at why their title defense has fallen by the wayside this season.

Yaya Toure’s demise

Okay, he scored a beauty against Crystal Palace on Monday but his struggles have continued throughout the campaign as Toure simply looks like he doesn’t want to be there. Last season he finished as City’s top scorer in the PL with 20 goals but this campaign the Ivory Coast international has scored just seven goals in the PL and his demeanor reflects his reduced productivity. Toure doesn’t want to be around and at the age of 31, those rumors linking him with a move to Inter Milan this summer seem to be making sense. The highlight of his season was success at the African Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast. Mentally, it appears that Toure has checked out as his and City’s season has been one to forget.

Pellegrini’s insistence to play 4-4-2

Another reason for City’s stumbling performances since January has been down to Pellegrini’s insistence to play 4-4-2 and start Sergio Aguero up top with Edin Dzeko. So often City have been outnumbered in midfield and that was the case once again on Monday as Crystal Palace used Joe Ledley, James McArthur and Jason Puncheon to overload Fernandinho and Toure in the middle.

Samir Nasri and Frank Lampard were on the bench against Palace and as so often has been the case in the past few weeks, why would you starve Aguero of chances when the Argentine is one of the most predatory forwards in the game? Maybe because he’s been injured for large chunks of the second half of the season and has been struggling, as the stat above suggests…

Kompany, Aguero’s rustiness since injury

In the final months of the season Aguero and Vincent Kompany haven’t been themselves. It is clear for everyone to see. After Aguero injured his knee in December, he hasn’t quite emerged as the same player as he has failed to score in his last five games for City after scoring 23 goals this season before that. As for Kompany, his steely leadership in the center of defense has been missing since he suffered a hamstring and calf injuries from December to January, as City have succumbed to Burnley and Crystal Palace away from home in two of their last three matches.

That resolve is missing from City’s side, as two of their leading men have failed to come up with the goods when their side has really needed it. City has now lost away at Liverpool, Burnley and Palace in their last three away matches and their ability for Kompany to come up with a big stop — he seems to have lost a yard of pace and sharpness since his injuries — and Aguero to find a finish late on, has dissipated. How much you can put that down to a month out from December to January is questionable, but their sharpness hasn’t quite been there as both guys are leaders and lynch-pins of the Citizens. A confusing incident occurred in the second half of City’s clash which summed it all up. Pellegrini was ready to sub off Kompany as the Belgian international seemed to be struggling with yet another injury, however he then waved away his Chilean boss and carried on. Kompany hasn’t been fully fit or at his best for quite some time and it has hurt City, badly.

Live, UCL: Ajax in action as playoff round begins

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The first legs of the UEFA Champions League playoff round kick off on Tuesday, as Ajax, Club Brugge and Slavia Prague all head on road trips as they hope to clear the final hurdle and reach the group stage.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

It is rather outrageous that Ajax, the reigning Dutch champions who reached the semifinal of the UCL last season, have to qualify for this tournament, but here they are. Dusan Tadic (fresh from signing a new seven-year contract) is once again leading the charge for this young Dutch side who have lost Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt over the summer, and edged past PAOK 5-4 on aggregate in the last round. Ajax head to APOEL Nicosia of Cyprus in the first leg and hope to have a healthy advantage to take back with them to Amsterdam for the second leg next week.

Club Brugge head to LASK Linz from Austria as USMNT goalkeeper Evan Horvath now faces real competition for his starting spot as Belgian national team and former Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet arrived over the summer. LASK shocked FC Basel in the third qualifying round

As for the other game on Tuesday, CFR Cluj host Slavia Prague in Romania in a clash between two teams who have been making waves in Europe over the past few years. Cluj knocked Celtic out in the last round and it will be quite the occasion in Transylvania, as Slavia’s star man is Romanian international Nicolae Stanciu.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s games, with all games kicking off at 3 p.m. ET. Three more UCL playoff games take place on Wednesday.

Click on the link above to follow all of the action live, while we will have you covered with a roundup of the action right here on Pro Soccer Talk.

APOEL Nicosia v. Ajax
CFR Cluj v. Slavia Prague
LASK v. Club Brugge

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Matchweek 2 is in the books and there is plenty of movement in our latest Premier League player Power Rankings.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Players from Man City, Liverpool, Leicester and Man United dominate our list, while there are a few surprise names from some of the teams who have surprised us all in the opening weeks of the new season.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.

1. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – New entry
2. Teemu Pukki (Norwich City) – New entry
3. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Up 3
4. Dani Ceballos (Arsenal) – New entry
5. Marcus Rashford (Man United) – Down 2
6. Raheem Sterling (Man City) – Down 4
7. Harry Maguire (Man United) – Down 6
8. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) Down 3
9. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Man United) – Down 1
10. James Maddison (Leicester City) – New entry
11. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – Up 7
12. Anthony Martial (Man United) – New entry
13. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Up 2
14. Ashley Barnes (Burnley) – Down 7
15. Chris Basham (Sheffield United) – New entry
16. Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester City) – New entry
17. Jordan Pickford (Everton) – Up 2
18. Mason Mount (Chelsea) – Up 2
19. Alexander Lacazette (Arsenal) – New entry
20. Leandro Trossard (Brighton) – New entry

St. Louis awarded MLS expansion franchise


Major League Soccer is heading to soccer’s spiritual home in the United States of America.

St. Louis, Missouri was awarded an MLS expansion franchise on Tuesday, as it became the 28th team in the rapidly expanding league.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

The franchise is expected to enter the league in 2021, along with Austin FC as Inter Miami and Nashville SC are schedule to arrive for the 2020 season.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber was on hand in downtown STL to make the announcement.

Garber was alongside Mayor Lyda Krewson, plus the ownership group led by Andy Taylor and Carolyn Kindle Betz of Enterprise Holdings and Jim Kavanaugh, CEO of World Wide Technology and Saint Louis FC, who celebrated their success of bringing top-tier soccer to St. Louis. Kindle Betz will be joined by other female members of the Taylor family, which will make STL the first female majority-owned team in MLS history.

“After two decades of discussion about St. Louis becoming part of Major League Soccer, we are here today to announce it,” Garber said. “Saint Louis, with its incredibly rich soccer history, not only deserves an MLS team but has earned one.”

With the owner of Saint Louis FC, the USL franchise in the Midwest city, also involved in the arrival of MLS it is believed the team name, badge and colors will now be selected.

“Our ownership group has come a long way since we first announced our bid last October at Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club, and it’s an incredible feeling to now be able to say, St. Louis is home to the first official majority female-led ownership group in MLS,” Kindle Betz said. “Our MLS team and stadium will only add to St. Louis’ renaissance currently underway and will provide us with a great opportunity to bring together many different segments of the community, uniting people in their love for the game.”

St. Louis’ Downtown West district is now set to be transformed with the stadium kickstarting a larger development which will include mixed-use retail, restaurants and gathering spaces open year-round to the public.

The ownership group have previously released plans for a 22,500-capacity stadium in the West Downtown neighborhood. Not having a solid stadium plan curtailed the efforts of others to bring MLS to St. Louis in the past, with the city council voting against partial funding for a stadium near Union Station in 2017.

But just when it looked like St. Louis would miss out on the MLS expansion race, they’re in.

With St. Louis losing the NFL’s Rams to Los Angeles, this is a shrewd move from MLS and follows their model of placing teams in major U.S. cities which do not have major league franchises across all sports. It takes the league to 28 teams, with Sacramento, Phoenix and Charlotte said to be among the favorites for the next two franchises as the league aims to expand to 30 teams.

It also helps to link up Midwest cities, as FC Cincinnati, the Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew, Sporting Kansas City and Nashville SC now have a new rival.

STL has brought in very good crowds for their USL side Saint Louis FC and also USMNT and USWNT friendlies, plus international friendlies between European clubs in recent summers.

Many of the USA’s top talents hail from the STL region (Taylor Twellman, Tim Ream, Brad Davis and Steve Ralston to name a few) and there is a rich soccer heritage in the city, with five of the 11 starters for the U.S. side in their historic 1950 World Cup win against England from St. Louis.

College soccer, amateur teams and former pro teams from St. Louis have all had a major impact on soccer in the USA.

There is now an MLS team to build on that legacy and create new iconic moments in St. Louis.

Report: Beckham stadium site has unsafe arsenic levels

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MIAMI (AP) An environmental analysis shows the proposed site for David Beckham’s Major League Soccer stadium in Miami is far more toxic than previously expected.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

The Miami Herald reports the analysis found arsenic contamination reaching more than twice the legal limit, and surface-level soil samples containing hazardous debris at the Melreese golf course site, where people have played golf for more than 50 years.

The consultant’s report says almost the entire site near Miami International Airport is contaminated by ash from a municipal incinerator shut down long ago.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said Monday night that team officials said the findings could increase cleanup costs to $50 million at the site.

The sprawling $1 billion commercial and stadium complex would serve as home to Beckham’s MLS team, Inter Miami .