Biggest obstacles for Man City’s ‘impossible’ quadruple

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola remains adamant that his side is likely to fail in its bid to win either the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, or FA Cup.

“It’s almost impossible to win the quadruple,” he said. “Surviving is a miracle and it’s nice to be there.”

[ JPW: Who has the edge in PL race? ]

Is that so, or just a big dose of humility in the face of unprecedented success? In this instance, a lot of the former with perhaps a bit of the latter.

Let’s start here: Believe it or not, fortune has not been on City’s side in the Premier League.

In an alternate reality that played by the rules of probability and not humanity, Manchester City would have a four-point lead on the table with a match-in-hand, although admittedly the Ws and Ls associated with those xG totals are collective, and not tabulated by individual xG results.

NOTE: Defined by Opta, expected goals (xG) “measures the quality of a shot based on several variables such as assist type, shot angle and distance from goal, whether it was a headed shot and whether it was defined as a big chance.”

Instead, the reigning PL champs sit a point back of Liverpool with that match-in-hand looming April 24 at Old Trafford in the Manchester Derby.

And here’s the thing: Liverpool has been less fortunate than City since each played 20 matches and the Reds had a 7-point lead on the table, conceding three more goals than expected by the model (The green numbers show how many times goal-luck has smiled on a side, the red the opposite).


3. The FA Cup (Wolves or Watford)

Man City should collect at least two trophies this year with the Cup double, though there’s certainly an argument to be made that non-cumulative titles and one-off results which can crumble due to one decision over 90 minutes are dicier than, say, a league title.

But City will be the prohibitive favorites on May 18 whether it plays Wolves or Watford, and will still have two weeks to go if it manages to qualify for the UCL Final in Madrid.


2. UEFA Champions League

City’s challenge of winning a pair of two-legged ties, one against Spurs and another against either Ajax and Juventus, seem about the same.

And the final would be one of Liverpool, Porto, Manchester United, or Barcelona.

Starting at Spurs is a big help, as Pep Guardiola — and yes, by extension, another fine tactician in Mauricio Pochettino — will know whether he has an away goals advantage after one leg.

City has won three-straight against Spurs after Pochettino claimed four of six points in Guardiola’s first PL season. And the challenge versus Spurs will roll into our final obstacle.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned from Saints-Liverpool ] 


1. The Premier League (and schedule congestion)

First things first, City and Liverpool are far-and-away the two deepest teams in the Premier League, and most would agree that the reigning champs are a bit deeper.

Plus, City won the thing last season and doesn’t have the specter of having never won the Premier League looming over it (Something which, while not exactly scientific, is a clear mental issue and evident to anyone who has ever played a team sport).

Liverpool’s defeat of Bayern Munich in the Champions League gave City more room for error in the PL title fight, as the Reds will now have to contend with two matches against Porto around next Sunday’s visit from Chelsea.

And should both advance, Liverpool has the advantage of sandwiching its semifinal around Newcastle (albeit at St. James’ Park) while Man City gets a visit from a more capable Leicester City.

The depth of City should be an advantage in the case of meeting Spurs three times in 12 days, especially with the last two at home, but to follow-up that match with a trip to Manchester United in a fierce derby gives Guardiola’s men four huge matches in a five-match, 16-day stretch.

It’s just difficult to believe that the congestion won’t cost City a win somewhere, and if that’s in the UCL it could cost them their bid for a title. If it’s in the league, then it would need Liverpool to draw or lose at least once. That part is trickier to imagine given the Reds really do seem primed to get past their second murky form stretch of the season and knock-on for the final stretch.

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.