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Man City could blow the Invincibles out of the record books

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A month ago, we were wondering if the Premier League title race was over. Now, we should be seriously preparing ourselves for the most successful league campaign of all time. It’s a very real possibility.

If Pep Guardiola can successfully navigate the festive period unscathed, despite a pair of key injuries to central defenders, only Manchester City would stand in the way of a potential record-smashing season for Manchester City.

With 58 points through 20 matches, City has another 54 possible points remaining in their season. While there’s still plenty of soccer left to be played, considering they’ve dropped just two so far, it’s entirely feasible that they could finish the season unbeaten. That would leave Everton as the only team all season to oppose City successfully, in a 1-1 draw the second match of the season. Like a pitcher walking the second batter in an otherwise unblemished first inning, that match very well could end up being the difference between an unbeaten and perfect league campaign.

Here’s why Guardiola and company could absolutely make it through the final 18 matches unscathed: they dominate teams even when they don’t dominate teams.

Consider their 1-0 victory over Newcastle just yesterday. The Magpies nearly grabbed a late equalizer as Dwight Gayle agonizingly missed, leaving the visitors to sweat might could have been at St. James Park. Nevertheless, City escaped with the win – their 18th straight – and in reality, the game wasn’t that close.

xG showed City comfortably in control for much of the match, leaving Manchester City with a 2.1-0.3 advantage in what was a mostly elementary afternoon.

A staple of Guardiola’s style of play, City bolsters its suddenly fearsome defense by choking its opponents to death with an overwhelming swarm of possession. City held a whopping 78% possession against Newcastle on the road, and they average 63% possession on the season, by far the most of any team since Squawka started keeping stats in 2012.

When they lose the ball, City immediately puts the opponent under relentless pressure until they win the ball back, and then rest while in possession before building again from the back. It’s why Nicolas Otamendi outpassed the entire Newcastle outfield team over the course of 90 minutes.

Those numbers aren’t a one-off. Otamendi has reached at least 90 passes in five Premier League matches this season and John Stones another four times. It’s a clear strategy City looks to recreate each and every time on the pitch.

That’s a masterclass in how Pep Guardiola uses possessional dominance to both keep his team fresh over the course of 90 minutes and slowly extinguishes an opponent’s life game after game. Cause of death: asphyxiation. Then they pounce as opponents become frustrated, pushing forward hoping to win the ball back from the City defenders taking a breather, only to realize they’re stretched thin – but it’s too late.

What will stand between Manchester City and a perfect finish to the season is simply if they allow teams one final gasp of air as games wind down – Newcastle nearly found a way through, but couldn’t apply the finishing touch. If another club can finish where Dwight Gayle could not, City’s incredible win streak will come to an end. Otherwise, we could be in the midst of the most amazing Premier League campaign of all-time.

The Invincibles – Arsenal’s legendary 2003/04 season finished with 12 draws and zero defeats. While the 90 total points and 11 point differential over 2nd-placed Chelsea isn’t the most stunning eventual margin, that season is largely considered one of the best – if not the best – Premier League season to date. This Manchester City side is on pace to obliterate all the accomplishments of that amazing team.

Not only will the team potentially reach new heights, but they will likely sweep the individual accomplishments as well. Kevin De Bruyne is the clear favorite for Player of the Year as it stands, seemingly only needing to hold off the prolific Harry Kane. They hold a pair of Young Player of the Year contenders in Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus. They have maybe the most in-form defender in Nicolas Otamendi, despite the many jeers he and teammate John Stones faced only a season ago.

Whether you laud them for their dominance or criticize them for their spending, whether you love them for their style or disdain them for their form, whether you’re a supporter of the club, a neutral fan, or a hated rival, you have but one instruction – enjoy it. It’s possible we may never see another like it again.

UCL, Live: Chelsea v. Bayern; Napoli v. Barcelona

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is back and the Round of 16 games continue this week as Chelsea host Bayern Munich and Barcelona head to Napoli in what should be two epic battles.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

This is arguably the biggest test yet for Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea youngsters as they face the German giants Bayern who are in imperious form in Europe and have Robert Lewandowski leading their charge. What Chelsea lack in experience they make up for in talent and despite some attacking injuries, Lampard will be keen to take the game to Bayern at Stamford Bridge. Given Chelsea’s defensive flaws so far this season, their best form of defense is attack.

Lampard knows Chelsea must lock down Lewandowski and his battle with Antonio Rudiger is one, among many, we are really looking forward to.

[ MORE: Which Premier League team(s) will reach last eight? ]

Elsewhere, Barcelona warmed up for their big trip to Napoli in fine style as Lionel Messi scored four times in a thumping win against Eibar in La Liga on Saturday. Messi, 32, will be Barca’s main men in the cauldron that is the Estadio San Paolo and despite their patchy form in Serie A, Gennaro Gatusso’s Napoli are a dangerous proposition in the Champions League. Especially at home in Naples.

Below is the full schedule for the two UCL last 16 first leg games on Tuesday, with bothgames kicking off at 3 p.m. ET. You can follow the action live by clicking on the link above.


Tuesday Champions League action

Chelsea v. Bayern Munich
Napoli v. Barcelona

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Our latest Premier League player Power Rankings are here and there are new faces pushing their way into the upper echelons.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Stars from Premier League giants Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal, Man City and Wolves dominate our power rankings after some impressive performances and there are plenty of new entries and plenty of players from the same teams.

[ MORE: Club Power Rankings

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


1. Anthony Martial (Man United) – New entry
2. Diogo Jota (Wolves) – New entry
3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – Up 16
4. Olivier Giroud (Chelsea) – New entry
5. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Up 6
6. Richarlison (Everton) – Up 1
7. Dwight McNeil (Burnley) – New entry
8. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Up 2
9. Moussa Djenepo (Southampton) – New entry
10. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) – Down 5
11. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – New entry
12. Bruno Fernandes (Man United) – Up 4
13. Dani Ceballos (Arsenal) – Down 9
14. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Even
15. Martin Dubravka (Newcastle) – New entry
16. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – Down 4
17. Harry Maguire (Man United) – Down 9
18. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Man United) – Down 12
19. Stuart Armstrong (Southampton) – New entry
20. Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal) – Down 7

Key battles: Chelsea v. Bayern; Real Madrid v. Man City

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Two Premier League teams play in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 this week as Chelsea host Bayern Munich and Man City head to Real Madrid in the first legs.

Which battles will determine the outcome of these games?

[ MORE: Predicting the UCL last 16 encounters ]

Below we take a look at three crucial head-to-head clashes which will be pivotal in deciding which teams will reach the quarterfinals.


Chelsea v. Bayern Munich

Antonio Rudiger v. Robert Lewandowski: The former has become a real threat from set pieces for Chelsea but his main role will be to stop the most lethal striker in Europe this season in Lewandowski’s. Bayern’s target man is ageing like a fine French win and has 40 goals to his name in all competitions for club and country. Chelsea’s defense has struggled at times this season and Lewa must be licking his chops in anticipation as he tries to win his first-ever Champions League title.

Jorginho v. Thiago Alcantara: Two pass-masters in central midfield will be a joy to watch. Jorginho has a more defensive role to play with N’Golo Kante out and the Italian will look to deliver perfectly weighted passes to get Chelsea’s attack going. As for Thiago, his vision works really well alongside some of Bayern’s more defensive midfielders and he is so assured in possession. The Spanish international has class on the ball and he and Jorginho are very similar. What a battle this should be.

Reece James v. Alphonso Davies: This is a battle we should all look forward to. Canadian star Davies has been a revelation at left back for Bayern and is encouraged to steam ahead and join in attacks whenever he can. James does exactly the same for Chelsea and has made the position his own in his debut season in the Premier League. These two players will be around at the top level and playing in the Champions League for a very long time and you can expect incisive runs up and down as they go head-to-head.

Real Madrid v. Man City

Casemiro v. Kevin De Bruyne: This will be one heck of a job for Real’s Brazilian destroyer. Of course, Casemiro can play too but his main role will be to shut down Kevin de Bruyne who has been in imperious form for Man City in recent weeks. When KDB is fit and firing on all cylinders he is almost unstoppable and he is a player who continues to be linked with a move to Real this summer amid the uncertainty over Man City’s two-season European ban.

Sergio Ramos v. Sergio Aguero: The master of the dark arts against the master of finishing will be fascinating viewing. The Sergio’s will put on a show and Aguero will fancy his chances of wriggling past Ramos and being the hero. That said, how many times have we written off Ramos in the past? The Real Madrid and Spain skipper seems to always find a way of coming out on top but he will be stretched to his limits as his Real defense try to put out fires all over the place with Aguero, KDB and Raheem Sterling or Gabriel Jesus popping up.

Karim Benzema v. Aymeric Laporte: The latter has been influential since his return from injury and his absence is the main reason Man City are so far behind Liverpool in the Premier League title race. Benzema’s physicality could cause Laporte some issues and like Ramos, he is underrated for a player who has been pivotal in winning four Champions League titles with Real Madrid. Laporte is good on the ball and Benzema’s clever turns and flicks means this battle will be more about brains than brawn.

Lyon-Juventus gets green light despite virus concerns

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LYON, France (AP) French club Lyon says its sold-out Champions League home game against Juventus will go ahead as planned on Wednesday despite the coronavirus outbreak in nearby Italy.

Lyon said in a statement on Tuesday it received the go-ahead from French authorities for the match to take place “in its initial configuration.”

Up to 3,000 Juventus fans coming from different regions of Italy are expected to attend Groupama Stadium for the last-16, first-leg match.

The fast-spreading virus from China has led to the postponement of Serie A games in northern Italy, where a cluster of the COVID-19 disease has caused seven deaths and towns to be locked down.

Health Minister Olivier Veran told RTL radio on Tuesday that France is not considering closing its border with Italy, nor banning big gatherings of people because it would not make sense.

Asked specifically about the Lyon-Juventus match, Veran said: “Should we ban gatherings? Should we stop the (Paris) Fashion Week? Should we stop matches? Should we close universities? The answer is no.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports