Aston Villa 0-0 Manchester City: Villa holds wasteful City scoreless in Garde’s debut

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  • Villa breaks a 6-match losing streak
  • Manchester City takes sole possession of first place

Aston Villa played an inspired game under new manager Remi Garde, but Manchester City will feel they let two points slip away today as both sides finished scoreless at Villa Park.

Raheem Sterling pinged a point-blank header off the face of Brad Guzan early in the second half, and Fernando hit the bar with a similar chance in injury time as the visitors spurned multiple tasty chances.

Aston Villa opened the better team on the ball, but couldn’t produce a real opportunity in front of goal. The best chance of the opening 20 minutes came to Manchester City in the 17th minute as Sterling sent Alan Hutton tumbling to the ground with a nice touch and fired on goal, but Brad Guzan was there to cover his near post.

[ MORE: Watch full match replays ]

City seemed comfortable through the opening half-hour, despite losing Wilfried Bony to a hamstring injury, replaced by Jesus Navas in the 25th minute. Villa did have one big break, with Carlos Gil released in the 35th minute, but could not collect under pressure from a pair of defenders scrambling back.

Sterling was away just a minute later with a break of his own, but was always looking for the contact instead of the goal, and went down sheepishly under little contact as the chance evaporated.

[ MORE: Click here for full lineups, stats, box score ]  

That was all the meaningful action in the first half, and Manchester City began to take control after the break. City had a pair of great chances in the opening 10 minutes of the second period, with the first a free-kick from Aleksandar Kolarov who ripped a scorcher from just outside the box that Guzan couldn’t hold on to, but the spill fell out of harm’s way and was cleared. Just ticks later, Navas picked out Sterling by himself nearly on the goal line, but Sterling’s header from point-blank range was straight at Brad Guzan, and it pinged off the goalkeeper’s face.

The home side was forced back into its own half by an increasing Manchester City attack, and to relieve some of the pressure Remi Garde brought on Charles N'Zogbia for his season debut in the 65th minute. Moments later, Navas then picked out Kevin De Bruyne free on net but again a City attacker botched a close-range chance, as the Belgian fumbled the ball at his feet and couldn’t get off a shot.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Villa finally had a second-half opportunity on the 70th minute as N’Zogbia looked for Scott Sinclair in front of goal, but the City defensive line was strong to repel the ball. They played brightly on the break for a spell, with only a heavy touch from Leandro Bacuna betraying a chance on 76 minutes.

The game exploded open through the final 15 minutes, but neither side could find an opening. Manchester City again should have scored as Fernando’s stoppage-time header off a short corner smashed into the crossbar and cannoned back out.

With the scoreless finish, Manchester City moves alone atop the Premier League table for now, but Arsenal can overtake them with a North London derby later on Sunday. Aston Villa breaks a six-match losing streak along all competition as they move to five points on the year, remaining on the bottom of the table.

Lampard: Pulisic back over “next week or two,” explains caution

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The latest batch of Christian Pulisic news is good: Chelsea boss Frank Lampard says the USMNT star is back training but still days away from being in contention to play in a match.

Pulisic, 22, is yet to play for the Blues this season after suffering an injury in this summer’s FA Cup Final.

[ MORE: West Brom-Chelsea preview ]

Like new addition Hakim Ziyech, Pulisic is getting closer but not quite ready. He hopes to see both players in match action within “the next week or two.”

The Chelsea boss was asked whether the club is being more careful with Pulisic given his series of muscle injuries that have short-circuited several star turns at Stamford Bridge.

From Chelsea’s site:

“There is always a concern about player fitness when their history shows there has been injuries and you try to find the right way and right balance to get the best out of Christian, which we saw in big periods last year. You make sure you don’t over-cook him and leave him susceptible to injury, and particularly with a player of his explosive pace and balance that is a fine line.

“We are working on that and Christian is very open to that. He wants to play, he is so hungry and he is very nearly fit now but it is certainly something we will have to manage this season. We have all seen the talent and it is something I want to get right. I am not saying it is a fundamental, chronic issue, it is not, but we want as many minutes of the great Christian we saw last season on the pitch.”

Makes sense.

In other Pulisic news, the American is being hailed for reaching out to a young Libyan who saved a man from drowning.

Mohammed Al-Arabi is described as one of the leaders of a Chelsea fan club in Libya. He heard someone in distress on a beach in Libya and rescued them from the water but was lost at sea for 20 minutes.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

Al-Arabi ended up in a coma for 24 hours but has emerged with his health.

Pulisic sent a video to Al-Arabi describing the Libyan as “brave” and a “hero or a legend.”

Al-Arabi was stunned, via the BBC:

“What Pulisic did is surprising and I didn’t think that my actions would get such attention from the club that I have supported since I was a child,” he told BBC Sport Africa. “I love Chelsea very much and I try to go to their matches whenever circumstances allow me to travel. I’m not lying when I say Chelsea are the best thing for me in life: my friends tease me that I exaggerate my support, but this has made me love this club even more and more.”

“Pulisic’s words have not only raised my spirits but also urged me to do more to help others. Life is simple, and when you see a star encouraging a simple person it is a great incentive for many people to do help in such situations. I have to thank everyone who saved my life and the life of the other person, whose name I do not know, and everyone who supported me in this difficult experience.”

Nice nod from Pulisic, but even better from Al-Arabi. To a long and fruitful life!

Suarez unveiled by Atletico Madrid; Messi takes swipe at Barcelona

Luis Suarez Atletico Madrid
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The iconic partnership of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez at Barcelona is a thing of the past and the greatest player in the world is clearly unhappy to see it.

Meanwhile, the Uruguayan pairing of Suarez and manager Diego Simeone is just beginning (and we think Joao Felix may have something to say here, too).

Atletico Madrid announced the signing of ex-Liverpool star Suarez on Friday, injecting power into its attack in a bid to overtake Real Madrid and Barca and reclaim La Liga superiority.

Suarez will turn 34 in January. The two sides meet Nov. 22 in Madrid and May 9 at the Camp Nou.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk Unfiltered, Week 2 ]

He scored 20 or more goals in each of his six seasons at Barcelona, including a career-high 58 (with 40 league goals) in 2015-16. He bagged 21 goals and 11 assists despite being limited to under 2700 minutes last season due to injuries.

Could Suarez’s arrival have a bonus outcome and strengthen the resolve of countryman Jose María Gimenez to stay in Madrid? The aforementioned trio is part of a history of Uruguayan success at Atleti, as Diego Godin, Diego Forlan, and Fernando Correa have all delivered the goods.

Messi and Suarez enjoyed a terrific chemistry on- and off-the-field with Barcelona (Who can forget the photo of the pair calmly watching their kids play soccer, which is turned into a meme used by every soccer coach in the world to decry more volatile soccer parents and guardians).

The Argentine used Instagram to salute his CONMEBOL and now La Liga rival. He’s not happy. Here are some selections from his post, translated by Sky Sports.

“You deserved a fitting farewell for the person that you are: One of the best players in the club’s history, having achieved incredible things both individually and collectively. You didn’t deserve to be pushed out the way they did, but the truth is nothing surprises me anymore.”

“I was gradually accepting it, but when I got into the dressing room today, how hard it’s going to be to no longer have you around in the day-to-day on and off the pitch really dawned on me. We’re going to miss you so much. …. I wish you all the best for your new challenge. Sending love to you and your family. See you soon, mate.”

Messi tried to leave Barcelona earlier this summer but La Liga backed the club’s reading of his contract and the player was unwilling to expose his club to a court battle.

It’s going to be an interesting journey through Messi’s presumed final year at his beloved Barcelona. Will the club’s presidential elections and/or transfer actions do enough to keep him a one-club man beyond the summer of 2021?

MADRID, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 01: Messi and Suarez after a Barcelona goal against Atletico Madrid in 2017 (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

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Report: Man City offering Otamendi in package for Dias or Kounde

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Manchester City is moving on from Kalidou Koulibaly and has a package in mind as Pep Guardiola moves to improve his center back situation with a couple of weeks to go in the transfer window.

Reporter Fabrizio Romano says that City has offered veteran center back Nicolas Otamendi and money in a $60 million package to both Sevilla and Benfica in pursuit of Jules Kounde and Ruben Dias, respectively.

Gotta love it when the real transfer market looks like the FIFA video game transfer market.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

Both prospective City additions are much younger than the 32-year-old Otamendi. Dias is 23 and Kounde is 21 and would join Nathan Ake and Aymeric Laporte in the City back line (and Eric Garcia, for now). Romano says Sevilla turned down the package last week.

Kounde debuted for Bordeaux at the age of 19 and moved to Sevilla in 2019. Between the clubs, he’s played in 111 matches and scored six times. He was named to the Europa League Squad of the Season when Sevilla won the tournament this summer.

Dias is a Benfica lifer and already has 19 caps for the Portuguese national team, a standout member of the side that won the UEFA Nations League. He was linked with Manchester United last year.

As for Otamendi, the Argentine has won nine trophies at Man City over 210 appearances in five seasons. He was also a member of the 2017-18 PFA Team of the Year when City set a number of Premier League records.

The players look similar when put side-by-side in WhoScored’s Player Comparison tool, though obviously there’s a required allotment for the differences in league.

But Dias’ vision and range of passing makes him the top option in the bunch. We’ll see what happens as the days move forward.

WhoScored
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Transfer news: Cyprien to Newcastle; Chelsea, Rice agree terms

Cyprien to Newcastle
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We’ve got a bargain price — Wyatt Cyprien to Newcastle — and one that could hardly be described as anything near a discount — Declan Rice to Chelsea — in our Premier League transfer rumors for Friday.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

Chelsea’s opening offer to West Ham was about what it paid Leicester City for Ben Chilwell. West Ham is reportedly asking a touch more than the English record Manchester United paid the Foxes for Harry Maguire.

In related news, Leicester knows how to maximize its profits on Three Lions players.


Rice to Chelsea

Declan Rice wants to go home again.

The West Ham midfielder and former Chelsea youth has agreed terms with the Blues on a five-year deal as Frank Lampard aims to buy Rice.

The Express reports that Chelsea has so far offered $57 million to West Ham, who wants about $102 million for the 21-year-old.

Chelsea has already spent more than $300 million this summer after last summer’s transfer ban cost them any new additions.

Rice would join Edouard Mendy, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell, and Kai Havertz as big money buys by the Blues in 2020.

Only eight defensive midfielders are ranked higher in value by Transfermarkt: Rodri, Joshua Kimmich, Casemiro, Fabinho, Jorginho, Ruben Neves, and Marcelo Brozovic.

He could become the sixth most expensive English player in history if he costs any more than the $58 million price tag slapped on Chilwell.

That… is something.

Most expensive English player transfers (Transfermarkt)

  • Harry Maguire, Leicester -> Man Utd, $101 million
  • Raheem Sterling, Liverpool -> Man City, $74 million
  • John Stones, Everton -> Man City, $65 million
  • Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Palace -> Man Utd, $64 million
  • Kyle Walker, Spurs -> Man City, $61 million
  • Ben Chilwell, Leicester -> Chelsea, $58 million

West Ham has to get a huge figure for Rice, especially if the player is sold to a crosstown rival. The Irons have already faced criticism for failures in the transfer market and the sale of Grady Diangana to West Brom had captain Mark Noble speaking publicly about his displeasure.

There are also rumors that David Moyes’ targets are too rich and the players being offered the selective Scot are not up to his standards. Maybe the Rice money allows Moyes to get “one of his own” but that’s a significant risk for a man who’s yet to prove he’s an upgrade on Manuel Pellegrini.

Cyprien to Newcastle

Newcastle United’s biggest hole is in the center of the park and the Magpies are again being linked with Nice’s Wylan Cyprien.

Bordeaux is said to be leading the race for the 25-year-old who is out-of-contract at the end of the season and said to be available for a $12 million price tag which would not put off the Magpies.

Cyprien has 23 goals and 12 assists in 127 league outings for Nice, who is coached by Arsenal legend and former NYCFC boss Patrick Vieira.

He is an excellent passer who doesn’t mind a shot and is strong on set pieces, scoring seven times last season. That’s one off his career-best in Ligue 1 goals set in 2016-17.

It’s a report Newcastle fans will probably hope to speak into existence.