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PL preview: Newcastle United vs. Man City

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  • Man City chasing 18th straight win
  • Newcastle seek 2nd straight win, relegation breathing room
  • City lead PL by 12 points; Newcastle up to 15th

Manchester City ticked one gigantic box of history in the last two weeks, but now Pep Guardiola‘s side must continue its dominance and survive another 19 games if they are to achieve the unthinkable — finish a Premier League season unbeaten.

Up next is a trip to St. James’ Park to take on Rafa Benitez‘s relegation-battling, up-for-sale Newcastle United on Wednesday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

With the PL title all but sewn up with half the season still to play — an unthinkable phrase when considering last season’s first-year struggles under Guardiola — the substance to this City side is clear for all to see, but it’s the style with which they’ve thrashed any and all comers this season which is more impressive: 60 goals scored, to just 12 conceded. Thursday will mark the two-month anniversary since City last conceded multiple goals in a game (to woeful West Bromwich Albion, a side without a win in 18 games), just as Saturday will mark three months to the day since Guardiola’s men last failed to score multiple goals in a game.

Of the PL’s top 10 goal scorers (may of which have now played one more game ahead of Wednesday), three don the Sky Blue of City — Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero (both with 12) and Gabriel Jesus (8). Of the PL’s top 10 assist maker thus far, again, three are City players — Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Leroy Sane (all with 8) are tied atop the chart, each with two more than anyone else.

[ MORE: Boxing Day blues for Man Utd; joy for Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs ]

The task facing Newcastle is a tough one, to put it tightly. It’s not much, but it’s somewhere to begin: the Magpies were improved and borderline prolific on their last outing, picking up a surprising 3-2 win away to West Ham United. The result snapped a nine-game winless skid (eight loss) in PL play, and vaulted Newcastle out of the relegation zone. Even after Tuesday’s Boxing Day fixtures, Benitez’s men have three places and one point of cushion between themselves an 18th place.

INJURIES: Newcastle — OUT: Alexsandar Mitrovic (back); QUESTIONABLE: Mikel Merino (leg), Isaac Hayden (knock) | Man City — OUT: John Stones (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (knee)

What they’re saying

Benitez, on ending the skid: “It’s difficult when you have a bad run but we analyzed the games and deserved more from four or five of them. But we lost confidence and it was very important for us to win. It was important for us to have a good performance against a good team, and they started well with pace, then later the long balls and second balls, but we dealt with things well.”

Guardiola, on managing a squad like City’s: “I was a football player. I understand the players in that when they are substituted and don’t play, they are sad and upset. I understand our job is to try and search to find a weakness but I try to have the best relationship with my players as possible. Sometimes, I think Gabriel Jesus deserves to play – and Bernardo Silva and Eliaquim Mangala. The important thing is that they have respect between each other. … I have a lot of respect for Sergio Aguero and all he has done, what he does and what he will do in the future. He will decide everything about his future and his life.”

Prediction

At this point of their record-breaking run, it’s not a matter of if Man City will win, but a matter of by how many will they do so? The answer, on Wednesday, should be, “by at least two or three.”

Pellegrini: West Ham focused on week-to-week, not table

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Manuel Pellegrini knows a thing or two about the patience required in building a contender over the long-term, and says this West Ham team has the ingredients to make a serious run in the Premier League.

The Irons hammered Manchester United 2-0 on Sunday at London’s Olympic Stadium, an impressive feat even given the Red Devils’ struggles.

[ RECAP: West Ham 2-0 Man Utd ]

It nets West Ham a fifth-straight result following a blowout loss to Man City to start the season.

“We have more quality, but we’re also more consistent and more solid,” Pellegrini said. “The international break was important for us because we had all the defenders and worked a lot to be more concentrated, to make better tackles and better movements.”

That doesn’t mean they can afford to look past anyone, especially an in-form Bournemouth team with top-half designs of its own under Eddie Howe.

“I think we must try to beat Bournemouth 1-0 in our next league game and then see what happens. We’re not thinking about the future.”

West Ham supporters certainly are, and if the attacking weapons are many if Manuel Lanzini and Andriy Yarmolenko have shaken their injury woes to join Sebastien Haller and Felipe Anderson as terrific components of the system.

Solskjaer “being very positive” despite disappointment in Man Utd loss

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Manchester United slumped to another defeat on Sunday, this time 2-0 at West Ham United, and lost another key attacker in the process.

Already missing Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial, the Red Devils saw Marcus Rashford limp off the pitch and Mason Greenwood unavailable to replace him due to tonsillitis.

[ RECAP: West Ham 2-0 Man Utd ]

Rashford is expected to be “out for a little while,” and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is trying to put on a happy face despite another substandard performance.

He admits disappointment with the result and overall performance, but seems to imply it’s all part of a process for the Red Devils. From the BBC:

“At the moment we’re just all very flat. Key moments went against us. They had some great finishes. We just didn’t have the quality when we had those big moments. In the Premier League if you don’t take them you won’t get any points. It tipped in their favor and we just have to accept that.”

“I’m disappointed we didn’t win today, but apart from that I’m being very positive. I’ve said many times that there will be highs and lows. We’ve had some highs along the way, today we just have to accept we got no points and look forward to next week.”

Solskjaer says Martial and Greenwood should both be back soon, with a Cup tie against Rochdale before Arsenal visits Old Trafford on Monday.

AT HALF: Alexander-Arnold’s sensational goal highlight of wild 45 minutes

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An insane first half between Chelsea and Liverpool yielded three goals, two that counted, and one that was a thing of pure beauty at Stamford Bridge.

Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s goal was the beautiful part, while Roberto Firmino has also scored and Mason Mount‘s toe couldn’t skip past VAR in the run-up to Cesar Azpilicueta’s overruled goal.

A free kick atop the Chelsea 18 came Liverpool’s way after Andreas Christensen got tangled with Sadio Mane.

[ STREAM: Chelsea v. Liverpool (NBCSN) ]

A training ground play had Salah roll a shot pass for Alexander-Arnold to belt past Kepa Arrizabalaga in the 15th minute.

The goal is Alexander-Arnold’s first in 10 months for the Reds, who are bidding to go 6-0 to start the season. That’s above, and here’s Firmino’s below:

10-man Wolves level late against pitiful Palace defending

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Wolves fought back for a deserved point via a last-second equalizer, as Crystal Palace’s stoppage time silliness allowed a 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park on Sunday.

A Leander Dendoncker own goal put the Eagles in front, and Palace was up a man when Romain Saiss took his second yellow with 18 minutes to play.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

But danger man Jeff Schlupp was denied in the box by star man Rui Patricio minutes before Diogo Jota capitalized on Palace allowed a silver platter cross to get to his feet.

Wolves are still winless, with four draws through six matches, and sit 19th. Palace’s eighth point has it 12th on the table.


Three things we learned

1. Ward giveth, and taketh away: Joel Ward forced the own goal that gave Palace the lead when his wild drive through traffic turned off Leander Dendoncker to defy Rui Patricio, but his inexplicable stooping, missed intervention on the game winner was stunning. More on that below.

2. Wolves fight to death to find easy winner: Adama Traore, Jonny Otto, and the Wolves attack did not bow their heads after Palace took their fortunate lead nor after Romain Saiss’ second yellow card sent them diown a man, and Nuno Espirito Santo will love how his men fought to the final whistle while making timely interventions at the back (and taking advantage of Palace misfires).

Wilfried Zaha was dispossessed and it took three uncontested passes down the left of the Palace shape for Traore to find himself one-on-one with Patrick Van Aanholt. The Dutch defender played off Traore, who simply swept a cross to the back post. A chest trap, volley or 900 other things from Joel Ward could’ve ended the game, but he tried and missed a diving header that allowed Jota two touches to roof into an empty cage.

3. Silly from Saiss should’ve sealed it: Romain Saiss was sitting on yellow for a foul on Wilfried Zaha when he went out of his way to foul the Ivorian right on the touch line. Both managers saw the clear foul up close and personal, and Nuno Espirito Santo will certainly not like the idea of trusting Saiss again after his automatic ban.

Man of the Match: Vicente Guaita — The Crystal Palace goalkeeper was sensational in the draw, and the only reason Wolves weren’t ahead well before the Dendoncker own goal.


[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

An early corner kick led to a James McArthur goal mouth block of Leander Dendoncker’s low drive toward the near post, as Wolves got their first pressure on Palace following an opening 10 minutes that belonged largely to the hosts.

Palace’s Ayew headed a Luka Milivojevic corner into the arms of Rui Patricio in the 26th.

Vicente Guaita made the play of the first half when Raul Jimenez looped a cross over Mamadou Sakho to an unmarked Matt Doherty. The powered header was slapped away by a flying Guaita to keep it scoreless.

The keeper was again called upon when a 1-2 allowed Diogo Jota to lash a shot on goal in the 38th.

Palace took a stunning lead within 40 seconds of halftime, as Ward’s hard drive took a big turn off Dendoncker to spin past Patricio. The sequence began with Jeff Schlupp dribbling Willy Boly, the latter being imperious for most of his season.

By the time Romain Saiss was shown his second yellow for a fouls on Wilfried Zaha, the game felt academic. Would the 10-man Wolves find anything in the final 18 minutes?

The opposite, really, as Schlupp cued up substitute Christian Benteke which looked set for glory until the Belgian took an extra touch and drove into the arms of Patricio.