Three things we learned from Manchester City’s win vs. Chelsea

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MANCHESTER — What. A. Game. Manchester City beat Chelsea 3-0 on Sunday at a raucous Etihad Stadium.

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And, in all honesty, it could have been more for the Citizens as their stars dazzled and blew a lackluster Chelsea away. Jose Mourinho’s side hung in there, but this will be a week to forget for the Portuguese boss after the now infamous medic-gate.

[ MORE: Mourinho says result was “fake” ]

Here are three things we learned from a feisty encounter at the Etihad Stadium between two title contenders.

AGUERO, AND CITY’S, CLASS DAZZLES

Among the home fans at the Etihad, there is an air of expectancy every time Sergio Aguero picks up the ball. After winning the Premier League’s golden boot last season, you can understand why. Last year the Argentine scored 26 times in 33 games and in his first start of the new season he could have had five goals in the first half. He had to settle for one. His personal duel with Chelsea’s N0. 2 goalkeeper Asmir Begovic (more on that below) was epic and Aguero looked to be coming out second best. However, in the 31st minute a moment of individual magic helped settle the match as Aguero controlled the ball in the box with Gary Cahill, John Terry and Nemanja Matic in close pursuit. He flicked the ball past Cahill delicately and rolled the ball home into the bottom corner and off the post in front of the newly renovated South Stand. The Etihad erupted to yet another moment of class from the tiny Argentine striker.

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Other notable performers for City were Eliaquim Mangala who stood up to a fired-up Diego Costa and should have scored with a glancing header in the first half. Plus David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Yaya Toure were all full of running and caused Chelsea’s defense endless problems. Fernandinho was brilliant in roughing up Chelsea’s attackers and added a fine third goal to seal the win. Earlier this week, Vincent Kompany said City “have a point to prove” this season. Kompany headed home City’s second for his second in as many games this season and with two wins from two and two impressive performances under their belt, City’s stars are well on their way to proving that form is temporary but class is permanent. They are now the favorites to win the PL title this season. No doubt.

CHELSEA’S PROBLEMS GROW

In a week where Jose Mourinho had been hung, drawn and quartered by the world’s media for publicly criticizing and then demoting two members of his medical team, Chelsea’s problems worsened after a lackluster display at the Etihad saw them lose a game in August for the first time since 2006 and this damaging defeat equaled Mourinho’s worst-ever loss in charge of the Blues. Chelsea looked sluggish in midfield as Silva, Sterling and Toure ran rings around them, and they failed to find their rhythm in a rambunctious encounter.

A Man City fan dressed up as a doctor (see, above) sat next to Chelsea’s bench, as Mourinho was routinely booed by the home fans for his treatment of Eva Carneiro and Jon Fearn after deciding they were not worthy of a place on his bench. At half time his captain John Terry was sat on the bench, as the 34-year-old center back felt his hamstring and was replaced by Kurt Zouma. Despite their defensive collapse, but the reigning Premier League champions were most disappointing in midfield as Ramires, Hazard and Willian floated around without purpose and Nemanja Matic raced around like the Tasmanian Devil trying to put out fires in the engine room. His usual partner in crime, Cesc Fabregas, was nowhere to be seen and this display reeked of a man low in confidence and unable to live with the cut and thrust of his powerful opponents.

Diego Costa’s struggles epitomized Chelsea’s afternoon. The Spanish international was booed by the home fans throughout, got in multiple battles with most of City’s team and on the stroke of half time he was clocked in the head by Fernandinho’s elbow. It was a nasty blow which required a bandage and lengthy treatment. As the teams went down the tunnel for half time soon after, the Brazilian-born forward went after his countryman Fernandinho and had to be held back by several of Chelsea’s players and staff. Costa set up Hazard for Chelsea’s best chance of the game, but the Belgian squandered it, shooting straight at Hart from 12-yards out and in stoppage time Costa hit the post. That summed Chelsea’s day up. For Mourinho, the pantomime atmosphere surrounding his demotion of two medics was complete when first Cahill needed treatment with an apparent broken nose and then Costa went down moments later with that nasty head injury. City’s medical staff rushed on to help Costa as the two young medics Mourinho had promoted to replace Carneiro and Fearn were still dealing with Cahill.

Chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning!” to the Chelsea medics from City’s fans and “Eva! Eva!” told Mourinho all he had to know about the public consensus regarding his decision to throw the duo under the bus. Chelsea is far from unraveling, but the situation certainly isn’t pretty for the reigning champs right now.

BEGOVIC MAKES HIS CLAIM

Before the game there was plenty of talk if Asmir Begovic could live up to the expectations placed on his shoulders in a huge early season matchup. Begovic, making his first competitive start for Chelsea with No. 1 goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois suspended due to a red card on the opening day, come out on top of an incredible personal duel with Aguero early on in the first half, stopping him three times inside the opening 15 minutes.

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30 seconds in, Aguero raced through after a defense-splitting pass from Silva. One-on-one with Begovic, the entire stadium rose expecting to see the ball nestle into the net… but the Bosnian goalkeeper came flying out and saved low. Any pre-match jitters he would have had quickly dissipated. Then in the space of 60 seconds Begovic made two superb stops down low from Aguero, both after rasping snapshots from the PL’s leading goalscorer last season. After the latter save, Aguero walked up to Begovic and gave him a high five. Respect. A few stray kicks here and there and a little bit of mis-communication at times showed Begovic was still getting used to life at his new club, but his manager Jose Mourinho made a point of applauding him after his stunning double-save in quick succession to deny Aguero.

There were question marks surrounding why Begovic would leave a spot as a PL regular with Stoke City to be a clear No. 2 behind Courtois. Even though he will likely be demoted back to the bench next week against West Bromwich Albion, there will now be question marks around whether or not Begovic can seriously challenge Courtois as the starter. In a day to forget for Chelsea, Begovic’s performance was perhaps the one bright spot as he could do nothing on all three goals. 

LASK Linz loses Austrian league lead for team training

LASK docked points
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LINZ, Austria — Austrian league leader LASK Linz has been deducted six points for conducting team training sessions in violation of pandemic restrictions, a decision that could have a big impact on the title race.

The points deduction means LASK slipped from first place to second, three points behind defending champion Salzburg. There are 10 rounds left to play in the Austrian Bundesliga, which is due to resume on June 2.

The Austrian soccer league said Thursday its also fined the club 75,000 euros ($83,000) for breaking “the basic idea of fair play.”

[ MORE: German Bundesliga Week 29 predictions, preview ]

LASK said it will appeal the verdict.

The proceedings against LASK were started on May 14, when videos were shown to the league of the team training together instead of in small groups as permitted.

The club later acknowledged it held four team training sessions. Both LASK coach Valérien Ismaël and vice-president Jürgen Werner apologized during a press conference.

LASK has 14 days to lodge its appeal.

Bundesliga Week 29 predictions, preview, schedule

Bundesliga Week 29 predictions
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The Bundesliga title is all but Bayern Munich’s following a midweek which saw the Bavarians beat Borussia Dortmund and all other chasers drop points, but the fight for Champions League places remains fierce.

[ MORE: Key issues ahead of Premier League restart ]

Dortmund now must turn its attention from a title fight that isn’t quite over to holding and building upon its four-point advantage on fifth.

RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach sit third and fourth, the latter ahead of Bayer Leverkusen on just two goals of differential.

[ BUNDESLIGA: Week 28 takeaways, Team of the Week ]

So, yes, there will be plenty of drama moving forward. And we’ll start this week’s preview and predictions with a Friday match-up of two teams who took a step out of the catbird seat at midweek and will hope to firm up European plans with a win in Freiburg.

Friday

Freiburg v. Bayer Leverkusen: The scrappy hosts tossed away a 2-goal lead in drawing Eintracht, while Bayer saw its red-hot form cooled off with an exclamation point in a 4-1 loss to Wolfsburg. Freiburg’s now four points out of sixth and Bayer’s outside the top four on goal difference. That said, Kai Havertz’s Bayer has weapons for days and the creativity to get through the compact, physical Freiburg formation. Will the trip down south hamper them? 2-0 Bayer.

Kai Havertz
Kai Havertz (Photo by Jörg Schüler/Getty Images)

Saturday

Hertha Berlin v. Augsburg: Bruno Labbadia has Hertha playing as well as it has since the brief bump the club saw under Jurgen Klinsmann in December. The draw against RB Leipzig is enough to think that they’ll be able to keep it up against a game but undermanned Augsburg. 2-1 Hertha.

Mainz v. Hoffenheim: Led by Christoph Baumgartner’s Player of the Week performance, Hoffenheim finally looked itself at midweek. Mainz has a chance to move clear of the bottom three with a win, as the trio below them all face traditional powers. It’s not a long trip for the visitors, who should really come away with a win. Mainz’s defending is poor. Hoffenheim 2-0 is more an indicator of not being able to rely on the visitors’ consistency.

Schalke v. Werder Bremen: If you’d only watched the Bundesliga since the restart, you’d think these sides would be flipped in the table. Bremen has ground out results and has hope of avoiding its first relegation in 40 years, while ninth-place Schalke has looked like, frankly, one of the worst teams in the league. Winless in 10 with just three goals — two from USMNT mid Weston McKennie — there’s no guarantee David Wagner’s men show up with any vigor and that’s a problem. Bremen still isn’t a potent attack, though, so this one has 0-0 written all over it. We’ll aim for positivity and desperation: a 1-1 draw.

Wolfsburg v. Eintracht Frankfurt: Eintracht would love a match against a bottom-half side given its four-match winless streak, which has included only top eight sides. Enter sixth-place Wolfsburg, who looked dynamite in blowing out in-form Bayer. It’s been difficult to break down the defense of Wolfsburg, who hasn’t lost since the calendar turned to February. That doesn’t change Saturday, as Wolfsburg wins 1-0.

Bayern Munich v. Fortuna Dusseldorf: Sixteenth-place Fortuna kicks off a four-match run against top four contenders with the need for a surprise or two along the way to the two winnable fixtures at the end of the season. Bayern has pretty much quit losing under Hansi Flick, and its 15-match losing streak isn’t going to end here. Robert Lewandowski didn’t score in a league match for just the sixth time this season in Tuesday’s Der Klassiker win. Figure that changes at home. Bayern 3-1.

Bundesliga team of the week
Robert Lewandowski (Photo by Federico Gambarini/Pool via Getty Images)

Sunday

Borussia Monchengladbach v. Union Berlin: Union heads across the country to meet a Gladbach side who’s disappointed in consecutive matches. It would be surprising if that extended into a third match, especially with second place a realistic goal and so many talented attackers including Marcus Thuram and Alassane Plea. Given a terrible performance versus Bremen, they wake up. Gladbach 2-0.

Paderborn v. Borussia Dortmund: Paderborn has been playing well for a last-place side, and Dortmund might be reeling a bit after performing well enough to get a result from Bayern but losing on a Joshua Kimmich wondergoal and wondering what would’ve been if VAR reviewed an apparent Jerome Boateng handball in the box. Still, there’s too much talent here even at a desperate host. In a non-coronavirus world the home crowd changes our opinion a little on the score line. Dortmund 4-0.

Monday

Koln v. RB Leipzig: Alright, so anything could happen here, really. Leipzig is unbeaten in nine since a Feb. 1 draw with Gladbach, but only three wins have kept them from embracing their place in the title fight. Now out of the picture, they meet a Koln who was the worst team in the league for four months, then the hottest for three, and is now winless in four. In the end, the Dayot Upamecano-led Leipzig back line is too strong and will be enough. Leipzig 3-0.

LISTEN: NBC’s crew discusses the Premier League’s June 17 return

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Rebecca Lowe, Arlo White, Lee Dixon, Robbie Earle, Graeme Le Saux, Kyle Martino, and Robbie Mustoe react to the announcement that the Premier League has agreed to a provisional restart date of June 17.

The state of play for England’s top-flight is live as Liverpool closes in on its first domestic title of the PL era and the European and relegation pictures are anything but settled.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on NBC via Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ] 

Transfer news: Tagliafico to Chelsea; Osimhen to Arsenal

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In the latest transfer news Chelsea have been linked with a move for Nicolas Tagliafico, while Arsenal are said to be keen on Victor Osimhen.

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Starting in west London, Chelsea are said to be interested in Ajax left back Nicolas Tagliafico as the Argentine defender will be available this summer.

According to The Telegraph, Tagliafico, 27, will be available to buy for $28 million and he’s been linked with Arsenal in the Premier League and plenty of top clubs in Europe. Per the report, Tagliafico would be a much cheaper option than Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell.

Tagliafico is a solid, reliable defender who is calm on the ball and versatile. That is exactly what Frank Lampard wants at left back as his two current options Marcos Alonso and Emerson have been inconsistent with Alonso better going forward and Emerson slightly better defensively. Chelsea need to improve defensively and be it in a 3-4-3 formation or a 4-3-3 system, Tagliafico will slot in well.

At $28 million, Tagliafico would be a very shrewd signing and he’s been influential in the Ajax side which has impressed in Europe over the last two seasons, including in their run to the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League semifinals. With Ajax winger Hakim Ziyech already joining Ajax from Chelsea, the Blues could do a lot worse than picking up Tagliafico to solve their left back problem.

Osimhen
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Switching from west London to north London, Arsenal have been linked with plenty of attacking players in recent weeks, even though it appears Mikel Arteta will be strapped for cash in the upcoming transfer windows.

A report from La Replubblica says that Arsenal are battling with Napoli for 21-year-old Lille forward Victor Osimhen.

Osimhen has flourished at Lille over the past few years and Arsenal are looking to sign young, hungry, pacy forwards and the Nigerian international fits the bill.

Nicolas Pepe joined Arsenal from Lille last summer in a club-record deal of close to $88 million and per the report, Arsenal already owe Lille plenty of monthly payments on the deal for Pepe so maybe Osimhen’s transfer fee could be built into that payment plan?

Still, his price tag of over $60 million seems way too high for an Arsenal side who are looking at swap and loan deals galore, plus have agreed to a long-term wage cut with players and staff.

Is up front an area they are looking to strengthen? With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang maybe leaving, plus Alexandre Lacazette also said to be keen on a move, that leaves Arteta with youngsters Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli who have both impressed. Osimhen scored 20 goals in all competitions last season and 18 this season and Lille are said to be willing to sell on some of their best young stars as they did not qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season due to the Ligue 1 season being canceled in France and a points-per-game model used to determine the final table.

Osimhen could be available but could Arsenal afford him? Surely only if Auba and Laca both leave.