The final-day formula for Manchester City was very simple, and very achievable: a win or draw away to Watford (or, a single point dropped by either one of Liverpool or Arsenal) would mean Pep Guardiola‘s first season in the Premier League would finish with a top-four finish.
After 45 textbook minutes of Sunday’s finale at Vicarage Road, Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho had done more than enough to secure the Citizens’ third-place finish, and the automatic place in the UEFA Champions League group stage that comes with it.
Kompany’s opener came after five minutes, as the 31-year-old oft-injured center back headed home a corner kick from Kevin De Bruyne (the Belgian playmaker’s 17th assist of the PL season).
Ageuro followed with a pair of goals well before halftime, in the 23rd and 36th minutes, and Man City had more than enough on the day. De Bruyne tallied assist no. 18 on Aguero’s first goal, a lightning-quick breakaway that made it 2-0. Leroy Sane set up Aguero’s second, City’s third, on the counter.
5 – Sergio Aguero is the 5th player to score 20+ goals in 3 consecutive PL seasons (after Shearer, Henry, van Nistelrooy & Kane). Prolific. pic.twitter.com/rGGAAJQ6Oi
Fernandinho completed the first-half rout, four minutes before halftime, by tapping home an expertly placed cross from his fellow Brazilian, Gabriel Jesus. Right on the hour mark, Jesus put his name on the scoresheet, thanks to a bit of clever footwork and an emphatic finish past another Brazilian, Heurelho Gomes, to complete the scoring.
Liverpool – Aston Villa preview: Liverpool will welcome Aston Villa to Anfield on Sunday with a more urgent perspective on its place in history (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN or online via NBCSports.com).
Liverpool hasn’t gotten its usual return on results for some time. Dating back to the 3-0 loss at Watford on Feb. 29, the Reds are 2W-1D-4L from their last seven outings across all competitions.
The Villans have 27 points, one point back of 17th place Watford and three fewer than West Ham.
Liverpool’s Joel Matip is out for the season and Dejan Lovren won’t play Sunday. Xherdan Shaqiri makes the bench and there are starts for Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Divock Origi.
As for Villa, Matt Targett misses out through injury, as do Bjorn Engels, Wesley, and Tom Heaton. Frederic Guilbert is available on the bench after injury, while American prospect Indiana Vassilev is also a sub.
Jurgen Klopp on not taking a club job post-Liverpool: “When it is time, hopefully I am still healthy and I can say … ‘great, I loved it but now I would like to watch other people doing it. So, I hope I find this inner mood to say … ‘see you later, I wish you all the best, best of luck, love you all but don’t call because of any football matters.’ That’s the plan.”
Dean Smith on Villa taking inspiration from other upsets: “You saw Brighton win in the last minute against Arsenal and West Ham win in the last minute against Chelsea. It didn’t escape me that West Ham’s stats were pretty similar to ours against Chelsea but they managed to stick the ball in the net a couple of times. We can take great heart from that, knowing you can go and beat these big teams.”
Odds and ends
Villa are tied with Southampton for the second-biggest underdog status in Matchweek 33 (+800). A Liverpool win stands at -315, according to DraftKings.
An American abroad is coming home after an uneven time in Scotland.
Former Southern Illinois and Chicago Fire mainstay Matt Polster will return to Major League Soccer this summer with the New England Revolution.
Bruce Arena’s Revs will reportedly pony up about $375,000 to buy Polster from Rangers, where he signed on a free transfer in January 2019 following three-plus MLS seasons that saw him earn a USMNT cap.
He was called up to two January camps for the U.S., going 90 minutes at right back against Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2018. Polster was also a contributor to the U.S. Olympic qualification push in 2015.
Polster, 27, finishes his time with 10 appearances and an assist Steven Gerrard’s Glaswegian set, getting Scottish Premiership and Europa League experience this season.
A defensive midfielder and right back in MLS, Polster played only the latter with Rangers thanks to Scott Arfield, Ryan Jack, Steven Davis, and Glen Kamara chewing up minutes in the middle of the park.
Bit of transfer news from Scotland… I'm told Rangers defender Matt Polster is off to New England Revolution for around £300k. #RangersFC
“ASM” has four goals and seven assists in 25 appearances entering Sunday morning’s match versus West Ham and is one of just three players to average more than four dribbles per game, his 4.7 sandwiched between Adama Traore (5) and Wilfried Zaha (4.5).
It’s not just about the numbers with Saint-Maximin, though, whose magnetic dribbling and personality keep both a defense off-balance and a team hopeful and happy. Newcastle is 1W-3D-7L in the Premier League when Saint-Maximin plays, 10-6-5 when he’s out there.
Any sale, especially with Newcastle’s takeover looming, would have to be well over the approximately $20 million paid by the Magpies last summer.
Schick to Newcastle (amongst others)
The same report lays out a more realistic shopping list for the Magpies than many of the rumors since reports emerged of a big money takeover at St. James’ Park.
Newcastle is being linked with Roma’s Patrik Schick, Nice’s Arnaud Lusamba, Benfica’s Florentino Luis, Penarol’s Facundo Pellistri, and Norwich City’s Ben Godfrey.
Let’s focus on Schick and Lusamba.
Schick was once among the most sought-after names in the game. The 24-year-old Czech striker has nine goals in 22 caps for his country.
Three seasons removed from his breakout season at Sampdoria, Schick has profound his footing on loan to RB Leipzig from Roma. The center forward has 10 goals in 22 matches despite Timo Werner carrying the water in fine fashion for Julian Nagelsmann’s Leipzig.
Like Saint-Maximin last season, Lusamba has been in- and out-of-favor with Nice boss Patrick Vieira. But it’s worth noting that the manager has tried to find a place on the pitch for the 23-year-old center midfielder, deploying him at center forward and right mid at times.
Lusamba averaged 1.2 key passes and 1.3 dribbles per Ligue 1 appearances this season.
Godfrey to Borussia Dortmund
Speaking of Godfrey, could he be going from the bottom of the Premier League table to the upper reaches of Germany? For close to $30 million, to boot?
Two of the Bundesliga’s top clubs continue to monitor top young Premier League talent including the aforementioned Godfrey, with Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig eyeing the 22-year-old.
A center back in Norwich’s maligned and injury-battered defense, England youth international Godfrey has played the seventh-most minutes for Daniel Farke’s Canaries.
Relegation victims have often yielded incredible value for bigger clubs, two great cases in point being ex-Hull City man Andrew Robertson and former Aston Villa force Idrissa Gana Gueye. We don’t need to tell you where they wound up.
Burnley has lost just once in 11 outings including a win over Manchester United and draws with Tottenham and Arsenal.
Three things we learned
1. Blades never say die: Burnley will lament not putting the game to bed with some promising chances but don’t take credit for the point away from Chris Wilder’s Blades. A late short corner routine involved four players on its way to goal, the last moves a clever Billy Sharp flick to the back post for Egan to finish with style. There were some stumbles out of the coronavirus pause and this result can fit in that camp but the resolve of United is real.
2. Burnley’s hopes of a Europa return take a hit: The Clarets booked a pair of 1-0 wins after a blowout loss to Man City and looked very much set for the same on Sunday before the late Blades corner kick. Burnley would’ve loved to directly affect a rival’s point total but has a lot of points available on the docket even considering upcoming matches with Liverpool and Wolves. And might success keep Sean Dyche around his beloved Turf Moor a bit longer despite recent drama with the board?
3. Deputizing skipper as Man of the Match: Tarkowski was quite good apart from his rare goal despite usual center back partner Ben Mee’s absence from the lineup. It was fitting that Tarkowski took the arm band in Mee’s stead, making nine clearances, an interception, two tackles, winning myriad duels including 13 in the air, and completing four of nine long balls (SofaScore).
Burnley – Sheffield United recap
Sheffield United had the best of the first 20 minutes, though Burnley had one solid chance that Matej Vydra was unable to convert.
Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope had a rare rough moment when a long throw-in made its way into the goal but he was saved by a foul in the build-up
VAR did not see an unknowing Erik Pieters handball off a corner kick reason to send Blades to the spot.