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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.

Atletico Madrid roster for MLS All-Star Game includes Felix

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Major League Soccer fans will get a good luck at one of the hottest prospects in world soccer when the MLS All Stars take on Atletico Madrid in next week’s MLS All Star Game.

Joao Felix, the $142 million 19-year-old, is among the roster announced by Diego Simeone for the match.

[ MORE: Newcastle in for $28M Saint-Maximin ]

Felix scored 20 times with 11 assists in 40 matches for Benfica before moving to Atleti in the summer. Those numbers include a hat trick against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League quarterfinals first leg.

The other stars will be there, too, provided no transfers happen in the interim. Koke, Thomas Lemar, Diego Costa, and Saul Niguez are in the squad.

New Atleti defender Kieran Trippier and longtime El Tri hero Hector Herrera will also be sure to help drive attendance in Orlando City.

The full roster is here.

Leagues Cup preview: MLS gets its next shot at Liga MX

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It’s not a typo; The s is very real.

The Leagues Cup — not the League Cup — is the new competition pitting Major League Soccer sides against some of the top sides from Mexico’s Liga MX.

The tournament has been expanded before it’s even seen a ball kicked in competition, as the second edition with go from eight to 16 teams.

[ MORE: Newcastle in for $28M Saint-Maximin ]

For now, though, we’ve got four American and four Mexican sides meeting over the next two months in a bid for North American supremacy not unlike a CONCACAF Champions League stripped of all the minnows.

Much like the CCL, the Mexican sides will be expected to triumph, even with all of the quarterfinals being staged in the United States.

Chicago Fire hosts Cruz Azul on Tuesday, followed by the LA Galaxy’s visit from Club Tijuana.

Wednesday will see the Houston Dynamo host Club America, and Tigres UANL at Real Salt Lake.

The winners meet Aug. 20, while the final will be played Sept. 18 in Las Vegas.

There’s a lot of promise in this, and it gives MLS another chance to make some statements about the distance between it and Liga MX. The Mexican sides have flat out dominated the CCL, and it’s not difficult to make the same prediction for this tournament.

But, like many tournaments, it also gives success-starved clubs a chance to give their fans something big and their players a tonic. For Bastian Schweinsteiger‘s Chicago, for one, it’s a huge opportunity. And for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy, it’s a look toward another piece of silverware for one of the world’s biggest trophy cases.

USMNT prospect Ledezma earns praise from van Nistelrooy

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Even for talents of the highest levels with top soccer education, sometimes a kid’s gotta learn how to eat.

Richard “Richie” Ledezma, 18, is in the midst of his first year at Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven, a spot which beckoned after a five-match, one-goal season in the USL with Real Monarchs of the USL.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Ledezma starred for U.S. U-20 team at the World Cup after his first half-season with PSV, which saw him play with the U-19s while trying to lose some weight.

From Goal.com:

“PSV help me with my nutrition, with my food and how I eat. It’s the quantity of food you eat, I guess,” he added. “Because I came a little chubby, when I got here, I guess. They all called me ‘fatty’ and stuff, so I was like, cool, you know? So no more McDonald’s.”

Goal’s James Westwood had a wide-ranging interview with Ledezma and also spoke with soccer royalty: longtime Real Madrid and Manchester United scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy was Ledezma’s coach with the U-19s.

“He’s making a difference in midfield with very quick-thinking passes, movement, can score a goal, play people in, he’s creating chances for the whole team.”

That’s not just good praise from a legend, but a solid sign for fans of the United States men’s national team. A proper No. 10 or playmaking midfielder could allow Gregg Berhalter or another future USMNT coach to use Christian Pulisic on the wings.

Ledezma has some work to do before he breaks into the first team of the Dutch runners-up, who have signed former Stoke City man Ibrahim Afellay and has Gaston Pereiro in the fold as well.

Newcastle reportedly in for $28M mercurial Nice attacker

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L’Equipe says that Newcastle United have returned to Nice in the hopes of landing Allan Saint-Maximin.

The Ligue 1 outfit wants $28 million for the playmaker, who could team up with Miguel Almiron and (maybe) Joelinton to give the Magpies a much-improved attack.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

Saint-Maximin, 22, has 10 goals and 10 assists across his last two seasons with Nice, and played everywhere in attack for Patrick Vieira: both wings, center forward, second striker, attacking mid… even some left and right midfield.

The player, however, has been a headache for Vieira at times, with the manager saying Saint-Maximin believes that he has enough talent to reach the highest level without the required amount of work.

That said, the youngster’s skill set is electric. He’s a March birth date, too, so a relatively young 22. That $28 million would be another transfer record broken for Newcastle, assuming it happens ahead of the Joelinton move.

Or… as Newcastle fan knows, neither could go through.