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How have Man City’s veterans reinvented themselves?

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The new kids on the block at Manchester City have been very, very good this season, but what about the veterans who have now won their third title with the Citizens?

Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero have reinvented themselves and have undoubtedly improved under Pep Guardiola‘s guidance as question marks around their future at the club hung in the air following the third-place finish in 2016/17.

Yet with Pablo Zabaleta, Joe Hart, Aleksandar Kolarov and Yaya Toure deemed surplus to requirements since Guardiola arrived in the summer of 2016, the Spanish coach believed in Silva, Kompany and Aguero but has had to help all three adjust to new roles and ways of playing to elongate their City careers.

How exactly have they changed their games and adapted to Pep’s methods?

The most dramatic change has been in Sergio Aguero’s game, as the Argentine striker who previously would start shivering and look around in a daze if he went anywhere near the halfway line has now become a mobile part of City’s attack and is popping up out wide and in deeper roles as well as being the Johnny on the Spot the team needs to finish off chances. City missed Aguero badly for the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal defeats to Liverpool with Gabriel Jesus a fine understudy but not yet possessing Aguero’s predatory instincts.

Aguero is now 29 years old but he has now scored at least 20 PL goals in each of his past four seasons and in three of his last four campaigns he has scored at least 30 in all competitions. At City and this season he has added more dynamism and link-up play to his performances as he broke Eric Brook’s record and is now City’s all-time leading goalscorer and is already prepping himself to return to Independiente when his City contract ends in the summer of 2020. He now has 199 goals in 292 games for City in all competitions and his status as not only a City legend but a PL legend is secure.

Speaking of club legends, Kompany also falls into that category as the Belgian center back has now captained City to three league titles in the past seven years. Although the first PL trophy, in 2011/12, will have been the sweetest to end City’s 44-year wait for a league title, this will be a close second, especially for Kompany.

The towering center back has been ravaged by injuries over the past few seasons and his career was in considerable doubt at the end of last season as Guardiola tried to nurse him back to full fitness as carefully as possible, something which seemed to frustrate Kompany. Yet Guardiola’s patience has paid off and Kompany, 32, has delivered plenty of commanding displays this season — the League Cup final win against Arsenal stands out particularly as he had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in his back pocket — as his calf problems have dissipated and been managed expertly with plenty of games off to rest.

He seems to have admitted that his once blistering pace is long gone (due to the injuries) and Kompany now spends more time pushing forward and being tight to the striker he is marking. That suits City’s high-pressing style under Guardiola well and although Kompany has made just 19 appearances this season, you can make a real argument that whenever he is in the team they look more organized and confident defensively. Kompany has reinvented himself in accepting his limitations and, crucially, by working with Guardiola’s medical staff to regain his fitness.

Focusing on David Silva, the 32-year-old Spanish midfielder has had his best-ever PL season and his pulled the strings alongside Kevin De Bruyne in a slightly deeper role in midfield. They’ve been eerily similar to Xavi and Iniesta in Pep’s Barcelona teams and the runs of Silva and KDB into gaps opened up by Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling staying wide have seen Silva grab 11 assists and nine goals, while KDB has 20 assists and 11 goals.

Silva’s reinvention as a deeper central midfielder comes from being in the right place at the right time. Guardiola realized his countryman had the ability to dictate the tempo of the game and everything ticks when Silva is on song. His clever passes round the corners, perfectly weighted cutbacks and surging runs have become a trademark of one of the greatest teams the Premier League has ever seen. Silva is now in his eighth season at City and the $35 million they paid Valencia for him in 2010 is a bargain. Silva will pull the strings for Spain at the World Cup this summer and he is in the conversation for City’s best-ever PL player alongside Kompany and Aguero in terms of his incredible consistency as he’s played in 344 games over the past eight seasons, the lowest games tally being 36 in 2015/16 and that was down to an injury.

Silva’s off-field problems must also be taken into account when assessing his brilliance this season. His newborn son Mateo was born prematurely and he has missed games to travel back to Spain to be with him, yet his play on the pitch hasn’t dropped at all as he dedicated his third title at City to his son who continues to battle.

Cruzeiro relegated from Brazilian top flight for first time

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Brazilian side Cruzeiro was relegated from the top flight for the first time in the club’s 98-year history following a 2-0 defeat to Palmeiras on the final day of the season.

Cruzeiro required victory and a loss by Ceara at Botafogo to stay safely in the Brazilian Serie A, but neither came to pass.

Palmeiras midfielder Ze Rafael scored in the 58th minute to send the visitors on their way, with fellow midfielder Dudu finished things off in the 84th minute. Referees ushered the players off the field immediately after the conclusion of the match as Cruzeiro fans rioted in the Mineirao stadium, ripping out seats, setting off smoke bombs, and clashing with police.

Cruzeiro finished 17th in the 20-team table, three points back of Ceara in 16th. In the Brazilian top flight, the bottom four teams are relegated. CSA, Chapecoense, and Avai were also relegated. Cruzeiro had won the Brazilian Serie A as recently as 2013 and 2014, winning four titles in its history. They also have six Copa do Brasil titles, most recently winning the league cup in 2017 and 2018.

Flamengo ran away with the championship, finishing on 90 points, 16 points clear of second-placed Santos and third-placed Palmeiras who both finished level on 74 points. Palmeiras had challenged for the title, but fell off at the end of the season with a five-match winless run through November.

Premier League Preview: West Ham United v. Arsenal

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Two struggling London sides meet Monday when West Ham United hosts Arsenal (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The sides might’ve expected they’d be within close proximity at this point on the fixture list, but two wildly disappointing seasons means the three points between the Gunners and Irons comes with the former in 11th and the latter 16th.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

It’s been nine matches since Arsenal beat someone, 11 since it happened in the Premier League. West Ham hasn’t been much better, winning once in its last 10.

Freddie Ljungberg has yet to win as Arsenal interim boss, while West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini could see his current stint in London end without more results like the Nov. 30 win at Chelsea.

Monday versus Arsenal would qualify.


Injuries/suspensions

West Ham United: OUT โ€”ย  Jack Wilshere, Lukasz Fabianski, Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid. QUESTIONABLE โ€” Michail Antonio.

Arsenal: OUT โ€” Dani Ceballos. QUESTIONABLE โ€” Rob Holding.


Probable lineups

West Ham United: Martin; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Fredericks; Rice, Noble, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Snodgrass, Haller.

Arsenal: Leno; Kolasinac, Sokratis, Luiz, Bellerin, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette.


What theyโ€™re saying

West Ham’s Antonio sees an opportunity: “The only three teams that are really performing are Liverpool, Leicester and Man City. Everyone else is getting beaten, and it means we’ve had a missed opportunity so far this season. We started the season off brightly, the best start we’ve had for four years, but then we’ve had a slump. Everyone’s having a slump and this is our slump. Now it’s time for us to start turning up. We’ve been in this situation before and we know how to dig in and pull ourselves up again.”

Arsenal’s Ljungberg on setting targets: “I don’t think we should stop talking about the top four, but for us it’s about concentrating on what we’re doing here now and not look up, down, sideways. We just need to work on our own game and our own confidence.”


Prediction

Really, you wouldn’t want to predict anything from these sides right now besides goals. We’ll give an edge in desperation to the hosts and a 2-2 draw.

La Liga: Sevilla held at Osasuna, Getafe maintains UCL fight

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Sevilla was held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Osasuna on Sunday, giving both Real Madrid and Barcelona space at the top of the La Liga table.

Munir El Haddadi put the visitors 1-0 up just 11 minutes in, but Ezequiel Avila struck just before halftime to share the points. Sevilla was held to just two total shots through the opening 45 minutes, and despite Osasuna defender Oier Olazabal being shown a second yellow card with 29 minutes to go, Sevilla still managed just 11 total efforts through the 90 minutes, with four on target.

Getafe continued its battle for a top four spot as they won 1-0 on the road at Eibar. Angel Rodriguez bagged his eighth goal of the season to secure the win, cropping up in the 67th minute to finally put Getafe through. They had been turning the screw for some time, forcing Marko Dmitrovic into a pair of big saves just before the opener which came from an absurdly tight angle after Angel had rounded the goalkeeper. The win leaves them fourth, level with Real Sociedad on 27 points.

They were allowed to close the gap after Real Sociedad was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw at 14th placed Real Valladolid. The visitors put just two of their 14 shots on net, and dropped to fifth thanks to Getafe holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Athletic Club also fell back in the race for a top four spot, dropping a 3-2 decision on the road at Real Betis. Joaquin scored a first-half hat-trick, with all three goals coming in the opening 20 minutes to give him five in his last three games. Inaki Williams brought Athletic Bilbao one back before halftime from the spot, and Yuri Berchiche made things interesting with a minute to go, but that was all they could muster as the visitors fell to sixth on 26 points, above Atletico Madrid on goal differential with the two yet to play head-to-head.

Celta Vigo made it interesting as Iago Aspas scored a man-down goal, but Leganes held on for a 3-2 win over the 10-man visitors. Oscar Rodriguez had a first-half brace to help the hosts to a 3-0 lead, but Nestor Araujo and Aspas helped Celta Vigo make things interesting. Still, a 71st minute second yellow card for halftime substitute Gabriel Fernandez hampered the visitors in their efforts for a comeback, leaving Celta Vigo in the relegation zone, a point back of safety, with Leganes is four points behind them in 19th.

Gerrard reacts to Rangers’ Old Firm heartbreak in final

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Steven Gerrard lined his Rangers side up for success, but fate was cruel to the Liverpool legend.

Rangers lost the League Cup Final to their Old Firm rivals on Sunday despite out-shooting the Bhoys by a 16-5 margin, winning a penalty, and playing almost a half-hour up a man.

[ RECAP: Rangers 0-1 Celtic ]

“To a man we were very good … by much the better side,” Gerrard said. “But unfortunately that’s not what gets you a trophy.”

But Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster stopped Alfredo Morelos’ penalty, three minutes after goal scorer Christopher Jullien was offside on the lone goal of the game.

Scotland doesn’t yet use VAR, and Gerrard doesn’t love VAR but he likes it more than he likes Scottish officials.

“There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR,” he said, via the BBC. “I’d be a liar if I said I was 100% in favour of it, but the one thing I do know is that officials up here need support.”

Now he has the task of getting his men to rebound ahead of its biggest non-derby in ages, as Rangers need at least a draw against Young Boys at home on Thursday to advance to the Europa League knockout rounds

“It’s a bit raw right now… It’s up to me to pick the players up. One thing I will say is I’ll stay with these players on the evidence of today because they gave me absolutely everything. We might have to suffer a bit short-term. I need to pick them up a bit physically and mentally for Thursday which is huge but our day will come on the evidence of today.”

Gerrard has done a very good job with Rangers, who are two points back of Celtic in a two-horse race for the Scottish top flight title. Celtic has won eight-straight titles to improve their total to 50, four less than the Rangers.