Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Manchester City

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How different will Manchester City look at the end of this month than it does right now?

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That’s the multi-million dollar question when it comes to the UEFA Champions League side, who brought in English stars Raheem Sterling and Fabian Delph this summer and are heavily-linked with Wolfsburg’s Kevin De Bruyne and even Juventus’ Paul Pogba.

Regardless, Manuel Pellegrini has held onto his job and will lead the pursuit of City’s third title in five years. City boasted the Premier League’s best goal differential last season, but finished second to Chelsea by eight points.

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Best possible XI:

—– Hart

—– Zabaleta —– Kompany —– Mangala —– Clichy

—– Delph —–

—– Sterling — Toure — Silva —–

—– Aguero —– Bony —–

Transfers In: Raheem Sterling ($75 million, Liverpool), Fabian Delph ($12 million, Aston Villa), Enes Unal (undisclosed, Bursaspor), Patrick Roberts (undisclosed, Fulham), David Faupala (Free, Lens)

Transfers Out: James Milner (Free, Liverpool ), Dedryck Boyata ($2.3 million, Celtic), Scott Sinclair (undisclosed, Aston Villa), Karim Rekik ($5.9 million, Marseille),

source: Getty ImagesStar player: Sergio Aguero – With respect to David Silva, Aguero is deadly when healthy. His 32 goals in 40 matches last season include six in 7 UEFA Champions League matches, and the 27-year-old has backed up his club work with 7 goals in 7 appearances for Argentina so far in 2015. He’s the reigning Golden Boot winner in the Premier League, and likely the favorite to do it again in 2015-16.

Last season: 2nd, Champions League Round of 16, FA Cup fourth round, League Cup fourth round — A Spring swoon cost City its hopes at a title, as the Manchester club went through a 2-4 stretch. The losses at Liverpool and Manchester United may be forgiven by some, but losses at Burnley and Crystal Palace are another story. City lost 12 points at home last season, and will hope to make the Etihad Stadium back into a fortress.

Coaches’ Corner: Pellegrini’s status as City boss was a hot topic in the Spring, but he held onto his job, perhaps for good reason. Can he coax a better season out of Yaya Toure, and find the goods to boost Sterling from a promising player to a surefire star? Will he last into the start of the UEFA Champions League, where City put themselves in a notorious position during last year’s group stage before climbing out? Can he spearhead Cup runs that last longer than two rounds? Pellegrini went from a Double in 2013-14 to nothing last year. That won’t do this time around.

PST predicts: City is getting older, and needs a Yaya renaissance to contend for a title. Adding De Bruyne would give them the depth to compete in Europe, but adding Pogba would launch them into the stratosphere of UCL favorites (despite their lack of resume). As is, City is a contender for the Top Four that could finish as low as fifth behind Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

Leicester City’s Rodgers: ‘Good news’ on Vardy injury

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Brendan Rodgers says there’s good news when it comes to the injury suffered by Jamie Vardy in Leicester City’s 4-1 blowout of West Ham United on Wednesday.

Vardy hurt his glute in the win, temporarily returning to the match after treatment from the trainer but ultimately subbing off before halftime.

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“It wasn’t his hamstring, so that’s good news for us,” Rodgers said, via The Leicester Mercury.

“He just felt a twinge in his glute, so we just have to wait and see on that in the next day or so. Thankfully his hamstring is okay and he just felt some pain in his glute, so we will have to assess that over the next few days.”

Vardy has a Premier League-best 17 goals, one more than Man City’s Sergio Aguero.

He was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted one of Ayoze Perez’s two goals on the day. Perez’s seven goals are second on Leicester, while James Maddison‘s six are third.

Iheanacho has six goals and three assists in 485 minutes and there’s reason to believe he can feast off Leicester’s playmaking if Vardy needs a match or two to heal.

Whether he can fill Vardy’s shoes in the long-term is a big question, especially as Leicester aims to return for the Champions League.

Transfer rumor roundup: Willian Jose to Spurs, Bournemouth after Croatian CB

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London could get itself another Willian.

Willian Jose, 28, was left out of Real Sociedad’s squad at his request on Wednesday, with the club Tweeting that he’d prefer not to play until his situation is resolved.

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Jose Mourinho said he would not comment on another team’s players, but Willian Jose could help Spurs bridge the gap to Harry Kane‘s return.

Willian Jose has been a double-digit scorer for Real Sociedad in La Liga for the previous three seasons, and is well on his way to another 10-goal campaign. He’s got eight goals in 20 matches this season.

Bournemouth needs defensive help, and is reportedly rivaling Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers for Portuguese giant Toni Borevkovic.

The 22-year-old Croatian has one goal in just over 3000 minutes with the side since arriving from domestic side NK Rudes.

He’s averaging 1.3 interceptions, .9 tackles, and 3.3 clearances per game in league play.

Rio Ave sits seventh in Portugal’s top flight and is managed by former Premier League boss Carlos Carvalhal.

Dropped points in Top Four race point to wild February

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Regardless of whether Wolves end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season on Thursday, there will be five teams within seven points of fourth place heading into Matchweek 25.

Chelsea has 40, a comfortable-enough six-point lead on Manchester United, Spurs, and Wolves (who meet Liverpool at 3 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Sheffield United has 33 points.

February, specifically the next three matchweeks, will see the teams inside that group learn a lot more about their fates, and give Chelsea and Sheffield United big opportunities to cement their places in the Top Four and Seven, respectively.

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In the case of the latter, it’s because the Blades are the only team in the bunch who don’t face a Top Four six-pointer; Chris Wilder‘s men will meet Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Brighton, while the others will be beating up each other.

Chelsea’s path is fraught, but a big opportunity. The Blues travel to Leicester City before hosting both Manchester United and Spurs. Nine points there would effectively Top Four-proof Frank Lampard‘s side.

By the way, how’s this for a hot take? If any of Chelsea, Man Utd, or Spurs find their center forward or playmaker help in the window, they’ll have a leg up on their Top Four rivals. And, really, is that extra few million pounds worth the spoils of the Champions League? Yup.

Bruno Fernandes is not (yet) with United, and the Red Devils face Wolves and Chelsea in their next two matches. Spurs have City and Chelsea. Tumult is probable!

A draw with Newcastle and loss at Watford dampened Wolves’ hopes of riding into fourth. Beginning with Thursday’s visit from Liverpool, however, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men face three of the Top Seven and then a visit from Norwich City. It’s not over.

And don’t entirely rule out Leicester City from dropping into the fray; The Foxes host Chelsea and Man City, and visit Wolves.

One more nod, however improbable: Arsenal sits 10 points back of fourth but meets Burnley, Newcastle, and Everton over those three match weeks. A perfect run could have the Gunners thinking big (Man City is after that, alas).

Matchday 25
Leicester City v. Chelsea
Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United
Manchester United v. Wolves
Spurs v. Man City

Matchday 25
Sheffield United v. Bournemouth
Wolves v. Leicester City
Chelsea v. Manchester United
Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur

Matchday 27
Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City v. Man City
Wolves v. Norwich City
Sheffield United v. Brighton
Manchester United v. Watford

Spurs play Wolves the next week, too!

Mourinho: Spurs don’t have attacking depth, but do have ‘family’

Mourinho on Spurs win
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In this “whole new Jose Mourinho” world, the key word is family.

Mourinho said it six times in his post-match presser after Tottenham Hotspur scrapped to a 2-1 defeat of Norwich City on Wednesday in London.

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Spurs had an early lead disappear when Ryan Sessegnon gave away a penalty to Max Aarons, and Teemu Pukki converted it for a 70th-minute deadlock.

Heung-Min Son scored nine minutes later. It was a win that is good for the whole family.

From Football.London:

“It was fantastic what happened after the 1-1, which happens in a difficult moment for us where I look to the bench and I don’t have attacking players to change the game the team is a little bit fatigued, especially Lucas, Son and of course Lamela. I took him off because he was in trouble and he is a player who is coming from very important and long injury, so very difficult.

“How can we change the game? With the family spirit, the family character and desire.”

Mourinho also praised Giovani Lo Celso‘s work on the wing for attack-short Spurs as “a good experience for the family,” and Paulo Gazzaniga‘s support for returned goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as “a good member of the family and he is such a special friend of Hugo.”

I mean, I’m getting the warm and fuzzies.

Clearly, Mourinho is stressing unity and there’s a bit of bunker mentality involved, as the manager mentioned some dicey calls not going their way against Watford, Liverpool, and now Norwich.