Season preview: Can Man City go back-to-back?

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Manchester City at a glance

Premier League titles: 3 (English First Division titles – five)
FA Cups: 5 (1904, 1934, 1956, 1969, 2011
League Cups: 5 (1970, 1976, 2014, 2016, 2018)
European Cup Winners’ Cup: 1969/70

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They will cruise to the title again because…They have the best squad in the Premier League by a distance and the best manager in world soccer. Do I need to go on? Their record-breaking 100 points last season showcased just how dominant they can be and it would be a brave man who bets against City winning back-to-back league titles.

Yet they could become their own worst enemies once again, yet still finish second… One of the major problems City had last season (they had zero “major” problems, but you get what I mean) was finishing off teams who sat back and defended deep. In a run of games against Huddersfield, West Ham and Southampton they won late on but struggled to break down stubborn defenses. Leaving themselves open to counter attacks could be an issue for City, but it’s unlikely they’ll finish outside the top two anyway. Another issue: playing against the high-press of Liverpool and teams who are brave (or stupid) enough to implement those tactics.


Best possible XI

—– Ederson —–

—- Walker —- Kompany —- Otamendi —- Mendy —-

—- Sterling —- Fernandinho —- Silva —- Sane —-

—– De Bruyne —–

—– Aguero —–


Transfers In: Riyad Mahrez ($77 million, Leicester City), Philippe Sandler ($3.3 million, PEC Zwolle)

Transfers Out: Pablo Maffeo ($11.6 million, VFB Stuttgart), Angus Gunn ($17.4 million, Southampton), Bersant Celina ($3.8 million, Swansea City), Aleix Garcia (Loan, Girona), Jack Harrison (Loan, Leeds United), Tosin Adarabioyo (Loan, West Brom), Erik Palmer-Brown (Loan, NAC Breda)


Ranking their offseason: 8/10 – With so many World Cup stars not around for preseason (Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling and John Stones to name a few…) Pep Guardiola was able to give plenty of minutes to Man City’s impressive crop of youngsters during their U.S. tour. They impressed, with the likes of Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz looking solid and several showing they can be called upon this season. Perhaps that is why City have only made one signing heading into the final days of the window.


AP

Star player: Kevin de Bruyne – Closely followed by David Silva, KDB is influential to the way City press to win the ball back and then have so much quality to hurt opponents when they have possession. The Belgian wizard had a very good World Cup but will be eager to prove he is undoubtedly the best player in the PL after losing out on the Player of the Year awards to Mohamed Salah in 2017/18. His driving runs, incisive passes and hammered shots from central areas are near on impossible to stop given all of the quality attackers swirling around him each weekend.


Coaches’ Corner: Guardiola delivered the PL title in record breaking fashion and signed a new extended deal at City to celebrate over the summer. That said, the Spaniard is never happy and he will be eager to make sure his squad doesn’t become complacent. City didn’t retain their title on their previous two occasions they’ve been crowned champions of the Premier League and Guardiola may have to tweak a few things, especially when it comes to not leaving themselves exposed defensively, as they go all-out for goals and victories each week.


PST predicts: This is Man City’s title to lose. It really is. Their incredible strength in-depth means that despite several stars only returning to preseason training a few days before the season starts, they can bed themselves into the league season easily without City missing a beat. Expect them to be challenging for every trophy going, once again, and even the distraction of a deep UEFA Champions League run shouldn’t stop them from running away with the PL title for a second-straight season.

Josef Martinez scores 2 more in win, including sensational solo work

AP Photo/John Minchillo
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Josef Martinez scored his 25th and 26th goals of the MLS season, and if he challenges his MLS record of 31, he may also stare down soccer royalty.

The Venezuelan striker scored two more on Wednesday in a 2-0 defeat of FC Cincinnati in Ohio to give him goals in 15-straight league contests.

He now has 76 goals in 80 MLS games, which is good.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

On the season, he’s six goals shy of matching the Major League Soccer record he set with last season’s 31 regular season goals.

According to MLSSoccer.com, he’s six games shy of tying Lionel Messi’s world record for consecutive league matches with a goal.

Even that’s a little tricky: Messi scored in 21-straight games in which he was eligible for selection, but 19-straight before missing two matches for injury. In that remarkable run of 21, he also had a run of six-straight braces.

It’s not really worth it to attempt to compare the two streaks: If Martinez gets to 21 (or even 19), it’s amazing stuff and worth celebrating on a worldwide level. Everyone has a bad game every now and again, but Martinez still finds the score sheet in ’em.

Look at the magician’s tricks he used for this one, including a back heel first touch and two freeze-frame cut moves. That’s not even mentioning the finish.

USWNT announces final matches of World Cup-winning year

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CHICAGO (AP) The Women’s World Cup champion U.S. team will wrap up 2019 with matches against Sweden and Costa Rica.

U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday that the U.S. will face Sweden in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 7 and Costa Rica in Jacksonville, Florida, on Nov. 10.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

The team is wrapping up its World Cup victory tour next month with matches against South Korea on Oct. 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and on Oct. 6 in Chicago.

Coach Jill Ellis is stepping down following the match in Chicago after leading the team to a pair of consecutive World Cup titles.

The United States is 15-1-2 this year and currently riding a 14-game winning streak.

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

Report: Mane to get big raise, Liverpool contract through 2025

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Liverpool’s Senegalese sensation looks set to stay at Anfield deep into his 30s.

Sadio Mane is in talks with the Reds hierarchy over a new deal that will run through 2024-25, and pay him more than $15 million per season.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

Mane, 27, currently has a deal through 2023, but surely wouldn’t mind a raise. And Liverpool will be happy to tie him down on Merseyside a bit longer.

He’s scored six times in seven matches this season, also grabbing an assist. That’s on a better pace than his 26 goals and five assists over 50 appearances in 2018/19.

Mane has 70 Premier League goals at the moment. Do you tip him to eclipse 100 while still at Anfield? 125?

Europa League preview: Man Utd, Wolves, Arsenal begin group stage

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The Europa League begins its group stage on Thursday, with the three Premier League combatants taking on clubs from Kazakhstan, Portugal and Germany.

Manchester United’s kids are gonna get some playing time when Astana visits Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Teenager Mason Greenwood and 21-year-old Axel Tuanzebe will start, and Sergio Romero will be between the sticks.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

And the Manchester Evening News notes that Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes could also start at Old Trafford, meaning the veterans in the fray will be quite important.

Enter Fred, the forgotten $68 million man from Shaktar Donetsk. The 23 minutes he played last week versus Leicester City account for his lone time on the pitch this season.

Here’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:

“I’m sure we’ll see more and more of Fred. We spoke about it earlier, he’s had some great games in midfield with Scott against PSG and Arsenal, for example, and we’re just waiting for that to flourish.”

Fred had an odd record under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last season, barely in the squad when the team started hot but trusted against PSG and Barcelona in the Champions League.

Speaking of little-used midfielders, Arsenal boss Unai Emery is getting a little grief for leaving Mesut Ozil behind for the Gunners’ trip to Germany for a big match with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Ozil made his first start of the season in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Watford at the weekend, playing 71 minutes and departing with the club up 2-1.

So why not even bring him abroad? Rest.

“Because we are going to play another match on Sunday,” Emery said, via The London Evening Standard. “My decision is because he played and also I’m thinking tomorrow the focus and the first 11 and after that I decided who are the players who can be the best for tomorrow and also the players not and that is Sokratis and Mesut.”

Sokrastis Papastathopoulos is also out, having played a big role in the embarrassing performance at Watford.

There have been tough times for Wolves as well, who sit in the relegation zone after five matches of the Premier League season.

They’ve been quite good in Europa League, though, dispatching a pair of minnows before winning both legs against Serie A side Torino.

Why the inconsistency? It’s not fixture congestion, according to Ruben Neves:

“I don’t think fatigue has anything to do with it, Neves said, via The Birmingham Mail. “We’re all top players, we’re used to it, we’re used to playing a lot of games in quick succession. I don’t think the Europa League has (anything) to do with our position in the Premier League. Obviously, we haven’t had the start that we’ve wanted, but it’s been a beautiful journey into the Europa League. This is a historic moment for Wolves and we’re going to do our best in this competition.”

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men are in Portugal to meet Braga, one of three tricky opponents in Besiktas and Slovan Bratislava.

Full slate

12:55 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Lazio
LASK v. Rosenborg
Getafe v. Trabzonspor
PSV Eindhoven v. Sporting Lisbon
Basel v. Krasnodar
APOEL Nicosia v. Dudelange
Copenhagen v. Lugano
Standard Liege v. Vitoria SC
Qarabag v. Sevilla
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Arsenal
Rennes v. Celtic
Dynamo Kiev v. Malmo

3 p.m. ET
Wolfsburg v. Oleksandriya
Espanyol v. Ferencvaros
Rangers v. Feyenoord
Porto v. Young Boys
Slovan Bratislava v. Besiktas
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Wolfsberg
Partizan v. AZ Alkmaar
AS Roma v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Gent v. Saint-Etienne
Manchester United v. Astana
Wolves v. Braga
Ludogorets Razgrad v. CSKA Moscow