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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.

Chelsea needs to wait “48 hours” to assess Mount

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Mason Mount‘s move from the Championship to the Premier League has been nearly seamless.

His adjustment to the Champions League was cut down too quickly to get an understanding of whether it would be too big of a jump.

[ MORE: Match recap | Barkley drama ]

Mount, 20, was chopped down by Valencia’s Francis Coquelin, the former Arsenal man, and had to leave the game after just 16 minutes.

Here’s Frank Lampard, from ChelseaFC.com:

“He’s got an ankle injury but we don’t know how bad it is. We’ll have to assess it in the next 48 hours to see the scale of the injury. It was a shame because he started the game well and it meant we had to make the change early on.”

Mount scored nine times with four assists on loan under Lampard at Derby County last season, and has already chipped in three goals for Chelsea this season.

Lampard turned to Pedro off the bench on Tuesday, but any lengthy absence for Mount will spell more time for American youngster Christian Pulisic.

UEFA Champions League Wednesday preview: Man City, Spurs debut

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Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur begin their UEFA Champions League campaigns on very different results and with very different vibes.

City is coming off a stunning 3-2 loss to injury-hit Norwich City, and is set up in Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk for the third-straight season, a side which beat Pep Guardiola once in four tries between 2017/18 and 2018/19 in the UCL.

[ MORE: UCL Tues. wrap ]

But on Wednesday, Guardiola’s men are going to carry a similar feel to one of his old Barcelona teams, as Pep seemingly will have Fernandinho pull a Javier Mascherano and drop into the back line.

Yes, Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi are Manchester City’s hopes at center back, now that John Stones has joined Aymeric Laporte on the shelf.

“For me as a manager it’s an incredible challenge,” said Pep Guardiola. “But I believe a lot, people don’t know the spirit and resolve to solve this problem. The players going to come back with Dinho, Eric Garcia, Taylor Harwood-Bellis. … It’s happened, but what we are not going to do is complain. We have to have 11 players on the pitch and I like it, to find a solution. For the players as well to find an incredible step forward.”

Spurs, meanwhile, will simply be trying to build on any momentum gained by a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at the weekend, a win which came after manager Mauricio Pochettino begged his side to “re-focus” after a relatively poor start to the season.

Now a bit more relaxed, Spurs head to Greece as the clear favorites against stingy Olympiacos. These are, after all, the finalists of last season’s tournament.

Pochettino won’t be sleeping on the challenge, from The London Evening Standard:

“They have good players and if we are not focused and don’t take our best game we are going to suffer. But last season we played in the final of Champions League, so it’s normal people think before the game, Tottenham is one step above Olympiacos but in the end you need to show it on the pitch.”

Spurs are one of two early kickoffs on Tuesday.

Full UCL Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Tottenham Hotspur

3 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Paris Saint-Germain v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
Dinamo Zagreb v. Atalanta
Bayern Munich v. Red Star Belgrade
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester City

American coach Marsch speaks after landmark Champions League day

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Jesse Marsch made his UEFA Champions League debut on Tuesday, a historic first for not just the Wisconsin native but also his country.

Marsch, 45, oversaw Red Bull Salzburg’s 6-2 demolition of Genk, becoming the first American to win a UCL match as manager.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. wrap ]

“We knew we were going into the match full of confidence,” he said, via the Salzburg site. “We knew too that we could put in a performance of this quality. I wasn’t pleased with a few situations, such as conceding for 3-1. That shows our incredible mentality though as it prompted us to give a few more percent and immediately score two goals.”

The ex-New York Red Bulls manager and RB Leipzig assistant manager got another three goals from incredible 19-year-old striker Erling Braut Haland, who nows has 17 goals in nine matches this season.

“It is an absolute joy to work with this team. We have a lot of players who just know how to battle, and that rubs off on the others. You can see that on the pitch on nights like tonight.”

There will be tougher nights ahead for Marsch, who is in a group with Liverpool and Napoli, but Tuesday was a fine start for the tactician. And it was a banner moment for American coaches abroad, who’ve been led by past and present USMNT coaches Bob Bradley and Gregg Berhalter.

Maybe one day that’ll be Marsch’s title… but it seems like he may have some loftier ground to cover on his path through world soccer.

Klopp: Liverpool made wrong decisions; Penalty also incorrect

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is going to bat for his left back after Andrew Robertson gave away what became the decisive penalty in a 2-0 loss to Napoli in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it’s a penalty,” Klopp said. “What can I say, for me, it is clear and obvious no penalty. He jumps before any contact, we can’t change that.”

[ RECAP: Napoli 2-0 Liverpool ]

For what it’s worth: It sure seemed like both a foul on Robertson and a comical embellishment from Callejon, but we digress.

Liverpool just didn’t have it on the day, like when Sadio Mane played a terrible pass to Mohamed Salah on what could’ve been an easy 1-0 lead.

In the moments they did have it, there was Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret making a splendid save.

“We played a lot of good football but didn’t finish it off. We controlled moments but had not enough chances in the end. We made decisions that were not right and have to accept the result. It was very often the final ball that was not right.”

Also, forgive Klopp if he has stopped enjoying the beautiful country of Italy.