Three things we learned from West Ham vs. Manchester City

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LONDON — West Ham United and Manchester City played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at Upton Park on Saturday as the Hammers twice let leads slip against title-chasing Manchester City’s.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Doubles from Enner Valencia and Sergio Aguero evened things up as City never found top gear in east London.

Here’s what we learned.

PAYET HOLDS THE KEY TO HAMMERS SUCCESS

His name was cheered louder than any other West Ham player when it was read out on the PA before the game and during it Dimitri Payet delivered.

The French playmaker oozed class every time he got on the ball and the home crowd adore him. Just before half time his elegant, dipping free kick was spectacularly tipped wide by Joe Hart as he always look to make something happen. Payet, 28, has so far failed to break into Didier Deschamps national team on a regular basis but if the man from the tiny French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean continues to play like this, there’s no way Les Bleus can ignore him in the upcoming friendlies ahead of EURO 2016. In the same mold as Paolo Di Canio and Joe Cole in years gone by, Payet adds a sprinkling of class to West Ham’s attacks and unlocks defenses with his shimmies and poise.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Payet was out injured from early November until early January and in that two-month period West Ham won just once in seven outings and sorely missed his influence and vision in the center of the pitch. With his temperament questioned in the past, Slaven Bilic took a chance on Payet and at $15 million he seems like an absolute steal. With an away win against Man City, plus victories at Liverpool and Arsenal, the Hammers have moved up into the upper echelons of the PL this season. Earlier this week co-owner David Sullivan claimed that with the move to the 54,000 capacity Olympic Stadium coming up next season and a squad which has talents such as Valencia, Diafra Sakho and Aaron Cresswell, the Hammers are “on the verge of big time.” By that he means competing in the UEFA Champions League. If West Ham can keep Payet fit, they have every chance. He holds the key to their success.

CONSISTENCY CONTINUES TO EVADE CITY

It may have gone unnoticed but Man City have failed to win back-to-back Premier League games since Oct. 17 and grinding out wins continues to evade Manuel Pellegrini‘s side, especially on the road where they only have four victories all season long. They battled back from going behind twice on Saturday with Aguero showing his class. The Argentine striker scored from the penalty spot and then grabbed an equalizer 10 minutes from time and before making it 1-1 he had an audacious attempt bounce back off the post after controlling with his right and then delicately lobbing Adrian from an impossible angle.

Without skipper Vincent Kompany they once again looked shaky at the back (the video above shows how one long-throw ripped them open far too easily for Valencia’s second goal) but a ray of light was Nigerian youngster Kelechi Iheanacho jumping off the bench to provide pace and power which led to Aguero’s second equalizer to grab City a point. On the face of things, grabbing a point away at West Ham isn’t a terrible result but City will be striving to string together consecutive wins and with their next four games against Sunderland, Leicester, Tottenham and Newcastle, they have a good chance to do just that. But only if Aguero stays fit and Kompany can accelerate his return from yet another calf injury. .

UPTON PARK UNDER THE LIGHTS A RAW GEM

Strolling along Green Street as you jump off the tube at Upton Park station, I think most West Ham fans would agree that it isn’t the most salubrious of areas London has to offer. But it’s home. An hour or so before kick off you can feel, smell and hear the atmosphere begin to crackle from bars, street merchants and food stalls as you walk down the road towards West Ham’s famous home, the Boleyn Ground.

This is their final season in the stadium they’ve called home since 1904 and with a move to London’s shiny Olympic Stadium looming large, big things lay on the horizon for the Hammers. That said, when you look at the shot I snapped during a break in the second half I think you’ll agree that English soccer will be losing a gem when Upton Park plays host to its final game on May 7.

As new stadiums continue to replace historic homes throughout the PL we should pause for a moment and gaze in the wonder of  stadium which has seen West Ham greats such as Sir Bobby Moore and Sir Trevor Brooking call it home. With the high rise apartment blocks towering over one end of the stadium and a view over the industrial East End of London from high up in the West Stand, it’s hard not to look out and imagine scenes of years gone by. With historic stadiums such as Anfield and Old Trafford getting revamps, plus the likes of White Hart Lane and Stamford Bridge set to be totally demolished and rebuilt, it will be tough to see venues likes this. In a world where we always seem to value what is next, let’s enjoy the past and present and enjoy a slice of English soccer history while we can.

UEL, LIVE — Arsenal meets Eintracht before Man Utd, Wolves play

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The Europa League group stage begins play on Thursday, with Arsenal in Germany to face Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Bundesliga side is missing a lot of familiar faces after a tumultuous summer saw Luka Jovic, Sebastien Haller, and Ante Rebic.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Arsenal will follow suit with some youth, as Emile Smith-Rowe, Bukayo Saka, and Joe Willock drawing starts.

Kickoff is at 12:55 p.m. ET, with Manchester United and Wolves set to kick-off their respective matches against Astana and Braga at 3 p.m. ET.

Full slate

12:55 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Lazio
LASK v. Rosenborg
Getafe v. Trabzonspor
PSV Eindhoven v. Sporting Lisbon
Basel v. Krasnodar
APOEL Nicosia v. Dudelange
Copenhagen v. Lugano
Standard Liege v. Vitoria SC
Qarabag v. Sevilla
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Arsenal
Rennes v. Celtic
Dynamo Kiev v. Malmo

3 p.m. ET
Wolfsburg v. Oleksandriya
Espanyol v. Ferencvaros
Rangers v. Feyenoord
Porto v. Young Boys
Slovan Bratislava v. Besiktas
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Wolfsberg
Partizan v. AZ Alkmaar
AS Roma v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Gent v. Saint-Etienne
Manchester United v. Astana
Wolves v. Braga
Ludogorets Razgrad v. CSKA Moscow

Report: Man City’s David Silva in “likely” Inter Miami move

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Arguably the greatest player in Manchester City history could become the first star player of Inter Miami.

That’s the story coming out of England, where The Independent reports that David Silva will “likely” join Inter Miami CF for its inaugural MLS run in 2020.

It’s well-known that Silva is leaving Man City this summer after one last-go at his first UEFA Champions League title.

[ MORE: Man City bests Shakhtar ]

David Beckham has been recruiting some of the top names in the game, and has been linked with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Silva, 33, checks all the boxes. The Spanish star won two EUROs and a World Cup, and is still playing at a very high level. He has five assists in six matches for City this season.

If healthy, it would be foolish to expect anything but dominance out of Silva, though beware the think pieces out there about how he “might find it tougher than he thinks.” We’re talking about a world beater who posted 10 goals and 14 assists for City last season.

Even at his age, he’d carry one of the top resumes of any player to join Major League Soccer (Beckham, Steven Gerrard, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic would like a word).

He has 71 goals and 134 assists in 402 matches for City, and would eventually line up against fellow City Football Group club NYCFC.

NBC Sports’ Premier League Fan Fest heading to Austin

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Everything is bigger in Texas. And this will be no different.

NBC Sports and the Premier League have announced details for the first Premier League Mornings Live Fan Fest event of the season, and we are heading to Austin, Texas in October.

Just like the events in Washington D.C., New York City and Boston last season, fans will be able to watch all of the PL action together with the live studio show taking place in front of them.

This time it takes place at Scholz Garten in downtown Austin.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live

The two-day celebration of Premier League fandom will take place on Saturday Oct. 26 and Sunday Oct. 27. The Scholz Garten venue is inclusive of a full street closure, courtyard space, and indoor bar.

All sections of the venue will be packed with fun activities and of course plenty of viewing areas for fans to watch all of the action.

The event will feature the NBC Sports studio broadcast live onsite with special appearances throughout the day. We’ll also have free merchandise and giveaways throughout the day, plus food, drink and plenty more.

Premier League Interim Chief Executive, Richard Masters, said: “After a successful season of Premier League Mornings Live, we are delighted to be visiting Austin, Texas, for the first event of 2019-20. Last year we saw how passionate our American fans are, as we brought the Premier League experience to Washington D.C., New York and Boston.

”This season we are once again working with NBC Sports and bringing many of our clubs, partners and some famous faces to unique locations in different cities. Those attending in Austin can expect some great activations and I am sure there will be plenty of entertaining football for them to enjoy as we have some exciting fixtures taking place over the weekend.”

Report: Newcastle United tracking Atlanta United’s Martinez

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A report out of Newcastle says the Magpies may be returning to Atlanta United’s ranks for a January transfer swoop.

MLS record goal scorer Josef Martinez is the name mentioned as among Newcastle’s targets, though journalist Lee Ryder says there may be trepidation given Miguel Almiron’s failure to find goals at St. James’ Park.

[ MORE: Hex watch sees Canada move closer ]

Martinez, 26, scored twice more Wednesday evening for the Five Stripes, including a sensational solo goal. He has scored in 15-straight league matches and is five goals away from matching his MLS single season record set last season.

Atlanta signed Martinez through the 2023 season. Transfermarkt puts his market value around $11 million, comparing him with players like Jurgen Locadia, Yoshinori Muto, and Manolo Gabbiadini.

Newcastle broke its transfer record to land Almiron last season, then smashed it sign Joelinton from Hoffenheim in August. The Magpies have also splashed cash on Allan Saint-Maximin and there’s a clear focus on upgrading the attack.

Maybe the Magpies would view the move as a bargain which could help Almiron get back to his form of last season, but it seems there would be numerous hurdles to clear before a firm bid would be made for Martinez. If Saint-Maximin or Almiron finds form, would there be room for Martinez running underneath Joelinton? Or maybe we’re wrong and Mike Ashley is ready to spend to provide adequate depth?

Lots of questions here.