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Man City’s Kompany still weeks away from return

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Premier League title-contenders Manchester City will be without captain Vincent Kompany for at least another two weeks.

[ MORE: LVG’s time up? ]

Speaking to the media ahead of City’s Capital One Cup semifinal second leg against Everton on Wednesday — City trail 2-1 after the first leg — manager Manuel Pellegrini confirmed that Kompany, 29, is still some way from returning after his latest calf injury.

The captain of the Belgian national team has only appeared in nine of City’s 23 Premier League games season and his last appearance came in a 4-1 win over Sunderland on Boxing Day where his latest return from injury lasted just nine minutes as he limped off after coming on as a second half sub.

“I think Vincent Kompany will return in a couple of weeks,” Pellegrini said. “We are doing all we can, sending him to different places and doctors to try and make sure it doesn’t happen because it is very sad for him not to play.”

It is also very sad for City that Kompany hasn’t been playing.

[ MORE: Crucial stretch arrives for Bradley, Le Havre ]

In the eighth games he’s started this season City have conceded just once and are unbeaten, winning six of those outings. I was present at Upton Park for their 2-2 draw with West Ham United on Saturday as Pellegrini’s side looked shaky at the back without their skipper and had Sergio Aguero’s razor-sharp instincts to thank for a point.

Without Kompany, the duo of Nicolas Otamendi and Martin Demichelis were undone by West Ham’s pace and the only other option is Eliaquim Mangala who has failed to fully adapt to the pace of the PL.

[ MORE: Kompany urges City to become “more Mancunian”

Kompany is more than just a center back. He is the man who holds City’s defense together and the sooner they get him back the better. With back-to-back home games against Leicester City (Feb. 6) and Tottenham (Feb. 14) coming up, then a clash against Dynamo Kiev in the UEFA Champions League last 16 on Feb. 24, having Kompany back for that pivotal stretch is key. Amazingly, City still have a great chance of completing the quadruple and if Kompany returns fully fit, their chances of winning at least two of three trophies will be greatly enhanced.

Premier League storylines: Matchweek 28

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Matchweek 28 is almost here in the Premier League and it’s time to focus on the top storylines ahead of the action.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Below we take a deeper look and preview the weekend’s biggest battles.


Liverpool’s quest for invincibility and immortality [ STREAM ]

  • Watford v. Liverpool, Saturday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

With the PL title having been in the bag for two or three months already, the Reds’ pursuit of history which can almost certainly never be matched is the last remaining point on their checklist. Not only are they unbeaten through 27 games and chasing Arsenal’s “Invincibles” of the 2003-04 season, they are already within 11 points of that famed Gunners side’s final tally (90)… with 11 games still to play. Jurgen Klopp‘s side has dropped two points, in a single draw back in mid-October, all season. That’s 18 straight wins. That’s over four months without dropping a point. Can they max out at 112 points? Can they avoid defeat for another two and a half months? The quest continues with a trip to 19th-place Watford on Saturday. Oh, those poor Hornets.


Chelsea lead the way in top-four/five race [ STREAM ]

  • Bournemouth v. Chelsea, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Given recent developments between Manchester City and UEFA, this season’s top-four race is now a top-five race for Champions League qualification. A race for top-four was already going to be mighty interesting with four sides separated by just three points, beginning with fourth-place Chelsea, prior to the announcement of Man City’s ban. Since then, the Blues snapped a four-game winless skid with a victory over Tottenham Hotspur and have a three-point advantage on fifth and sixth place. Simply put, it’s Frank Lampard‘s side’s spot to lose.


Fifth place is Man United’s to lose [ STREAM ]

  • Everton v. Man United, Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Now, two weeks after the ban, we have seven-horse race for fifth, beginning with current leaders Manchester United. From the Red Devils all the way down to Everton in 11th, five points separate the seven sides hoping to capitalize on City’s misfortune. Back-to-back victories over Chelsea and Watford have seen Man United leapfrog Tottenham and take the driver’s seat ahead of Matchweek 28. A victory at Goodison Park on Sunday would obviously keep them there while also effectively eliminating one of the six chasing sides right out of the starting gate.


Spurs slowly crumbling as injuries debilitate attack [ STREAM ]

  • Spurs v. Wolves, Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold)

And then there’s Spurs, who sat fifth for quite some time and looked like they might be able to hold on and challenge for fourth, even after Harry Kane suffered a torn hamstring and could miss the rest of the season. That was, of course, before Son Heung-min broke his arm, perhaps also resigning him to the same season-ending fate. Now, Jose Mourinho is left with Lucas Moura and Dele Alli as very much not-center-forward options to play center forward. If last Saturday’s loss to Chelsea was any indication, the final few weeks of soccer played by Spurs will not be particularly fun to watch.

Pardew confronted by frustrated Den Haag fans on training field

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Alan Pardew is experiencing a few — shall we say — growing pains in his first couple of months in charge of Eredivisie side ADO Den Haag, culminating in a number of frustrated fans entering the club’s training field and confronting the English manager on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Jurgen Klinsmann’s parting shots cause anger at Hertha Berlin ]

According to reports, around 10 supporters made their way onto the club’s training field to protest recent results. Den Haag have won just one of six games since Pardew was named manager on Christmas Eve. That lone victory came on Pardew’s debut all the way back on Jan. 19. Since then, they have lost three games and drawn two.

Talks between the fans and staff are said to have gone smoothly, but their mere presence is a clear indicator that Pardew isn’t exactly universally loved. With Den Haag currently sitting in 17th place — one spot and four points from the relegation playoff place — Pardew’s Dutch adventure is looking more and more like it’ll be just a six-month stay as his initial contract stated.

[ MORE: Man City makes statement, comes back in Madrid ]

Den Haag CEO Mohammed Hamdi commented on the fans’ protest with the following statement: “ADO Den Haag has one of the most loyal groups of fans in the Netherlands. They are so passionate and want to support the team. The club and supporters are supporting Alan Pardew and the team.”

Klinsmann’s parting shots cause anger at Hertha Berlin

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BERLIN (AP) Hertha Berlin thought it was done with Jurgen Klinsmann after his abrupt resignation as coach.

Not so.

[ MORE: Man City makes statement, comes back in Madrid ]

The publication of details from a 22-page diary that Klinsmann wrote during his short time at Hertha has caused a furor at the club and tipped an already testy break-up even further into acrimony.

Hertha general manager Michael Preetz said the club was checking its legal options. He was accused by Klinsmann of “catastrophic failures” and a “culture of lying.”

The Sport Bild magazine published details from Klinsmann’s journal on Wednesday, when it reported that one of the 55-year-old former great’s conclusions after quitting on Feb. 11 was that “the management team has to be replaced immediately. If that doesn’t happen, the great new signings will become average players after a while.”

With Klinsmann at the helm, Hertha spent an estimated $83 million on player signings in January – more than any other team in the world. The moves were made possible because of financier Lars Windhorst’s $250 million investment in the club.

[ MORE: Three things we learned: Real Madrid 1-2 Man City ]

Klinsmann was particularly critical in his journal of Preetz, whose functions he wanted to take over while he was still coach. Klinsmann had said he left because he couldn’t work with the German coaching model, where a team manager shares responsibility for player signings and welfare. Klinsmann wanted full control for every sporting aspect.

Klinsmann said former Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick had turned down the opportunity to coach Hertha in November — before he himself took over — because he couldn’t work under Preetz. That claim was rejected by Rangnick’s agent, Marc Kosicke, on Thursday.

In his journal, Klinsmann also made comments on every Hertha player, describing Salomon Kalou as “too old and content,” fellow forward Dodi Lukebakio as “not willing to suffer,” and the goalkeepers of “not being Bundesliga standard.”

Hertha president Werner Gegenbauer hit back at the “shabby allegations” and a visibly annoyed Preetz said the attacks were “perfidious and unworthy.”

[ MORE: Lyon scores memorable win over misfiring Juventus ]

Windhorst, who brought Klinsmann to the club in the first place, declined to comment. Interim Hertha coach Alexander Nouri, who worked as Klinsmann’s assistant for the 77 days he was at the club, said he “knew nothing” about the journal.

“It’s indisputable that the club is damaged,” Preetz said.

The club has other problems. Klinsmann’s tenure as coach did not go as planned – he was supposed to lead the club toward the European qualification places after he was appointed on Nov. 27. He left after an uninspiring record of three wins, three draws and three losses in the Bundesliga. Hertha was also knocked out of the German Cup by Schalke.

Nouri took over and Hertha earned a 2-1 win at Paderborn, but that that was followed last weekend by a 5-0 loss at home against Cologne. The Hertha fans mocked the players by singing “Oh wie ist das schon” (Oh, how wonderful).

Hertha is only six points above Fortuna Dusseldorf in the relegation zone ahead of their match on Friday.

CCL wrap: Stoppage-time GK goal saves Tigres; Henry’s Montreal grinds it out

Goalie goal
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Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League nearly featured an upset for the ages.

It will have to be content with a finish for all time.

El Salvador’s Alianza came back from a 4-2 aggregate deficit to nearly knock UANL Tigres out of the CCL, but Tigres goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman provided a stoppage time goal to eliminate the upstarts.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Tigres will now meet Ronny Delia’s New York City FC, who had little trouble holding up its first-leg lead over San Carlos.

Thierry Henry’s Montreal had to sweat out a scoreless draw with Saprissa, but rode its two away goals to a date with either Seattle or Olimpia.

Guatemala’s Comunicaciones and Club America are the final match of Wednesday, kicking off at 10 a.m. ET.

UANL Tigres 4-2 (5-4 agg.) Alianza

What a match. Down 2-1 after one leg, Tigres scored thrice in the first 23 minutes. Ex-West Ham man Enner Valencia struck first before Andre-Pierre Gignac score in the 17th and 23rd.

But Juan Carlos Portillo scored twice in nine minutes before halftime to put the away goals advantage in the Salvadorans’ corner.

Tigres out-attempted Alianza 19-6 but couldn’t get it done, and my goodness did it need shot No. 19 from its Argentine international backstop.

Great header for a goalie.

Montreal Impact 0-0 (2-2 agg.) Deportivo Saprissa

This was a dreadful match, but it won’t bother Titi too much; Henry’s men had just 31 percent of the ball and nearly scored anyway through Shamit Shome.

The Impact showed a lot of guts and discipline in frustrating the Costa Ricans, who were disappointed when Clement Diop made an incredible save in the 89th minute.

NYCFC 1-0 (6-3 agg.) San Carlos

Alexander Callens scored the lone goal of the contest, the damage done in Costa Rica last week.

Speaking of damage done, Delia had a “Welcome to CONCACAF officiating” moment.