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Man City rises above Chelsea challenge

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Manchester City came back from the break with vigor, overcoming an early Chelsea goal to beat its Top Four rivals 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez scored for the two-time reigning PL champs, with Rodri getting an assist before heading off with an injury.

[ MORE: Grading Pulisic’s day at the Etihad ]

Sergio Aguero also limped off the pitch late for the City, who remains nine points back of leaders Liverpool.

N’Golo Kante scored for Chelsea, whose 26 points are good for fourth place and an 11-point gulf below Liverpool.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]


Three things we learned

1. City’s not dead: The reigning champs City went behind early and inspired some worries that the shine might’ve left the big game hunters, but De Bruyne and Co. were composed in building City back into the lead. Guardiola’s three-man midfield of Rodri, David Silva, and De Bruyne dealt well with the ball and in the more than 50 percent of the game that Chelsea had it, while Riyad Mahrez was pretty great in addition to his wonderful, decisive goal. City boosted its goal differential to a joint league-best 23 (Leicester City).

2. Two more significant injury worries for City: Rodri left the match after 52 minutes and Aguero was carrying a heavy limp when he left the match for Gabriel Jesus. The Argentine then had a talk with Guardiola on the touch line to seemingly let him know the limps weren’t for show. Rodri is a bigger concern, but neither player can miss too much time as City’s title margins are oh-so-slim.

3. Chelsea’s trophy odds change camps: A lot can happen in 25 match days and it would be stunning if a team of the Blues quality dropped out of the Top Four, but the idea that the Blues can erase 11 points of Liverpool lead and have that happen without Man City taking similar advantage of a Reds collapse is a bit wild. Frank Lampard wouldn’t be wrong to think about prioritizing the UCL on occasion when sorting his lineups. We’ll be happy to eat our words and crowd Lampard “King of World Football” if today didn’t sound Chelsea’s PL title hopes death knell.

Man of the Match: Mahrez — His goal was a reminder of his status as one of the Premier League players of the decade, the one-time Leicester City hero. Next-up status for Kovacic and De Bruyne.

What a goal.


Fernandinho hit a scintillating early through ball to help Aguero set up De Bruyne for a hard shot that dragged just wide of the goal.

Willian missed a similar chance at the other end in the same fashion, off the far post by inches.

Kante claimed a lead for Chelsea raced between Benjamin Mendy and Fernandinho to collect a wonderful Mateo Kovacic pass and beat a screened, charging Ederson.

De Bruyne leveled the score in the 29th, cutting to make room atop the 18 and slapping a shot that took a hard turn off Kurt Zouma to make it 1-1.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Mahrez made it 2-1 when he took a Rodri pass and scythed between Emerson and Kovacic to lash past Arrizabalaga.

And Aguero was in prime position to score after Arrizabalaga passed the ball right to him, but the City man smashed off the cross bar.

The second half saw life for both teams, but City was again at the wheel for most of it.  Sterling didn’t have a day to remember, but his clinical side-footed finish of a stoppage time flick was delightful. Unfortunately, it was chalked off by the slimmest of margins.

Report: Six Barcelona board members quit, recommend new election

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Barcelona might be atop La Liga, but the behind the scenes atmosphere is ugly.

A day after reports that president Josep Maria Bartomeu asked four board members to leave the club, the quartet and two others have resigned and called for new leadership.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Marca translated the letter signed by Emili Rousaud, Enrique Tombas, Silvio Elias, Josep Pont, Maria Teixidor and Jordi Calsamiglia (Spanish report here). The first four were asked to leave, with Teixidor and Calsamiglia joining them.

That leaves the board at 13 members.

“We ask that once the results of the audit entrusted to PWC are presented, all responsible to be swept away with the eventual corresponding compensation.

“As a last service to our club, we recommend that as soon as circumstances allow it to call new elections to allow to direct the club, with all the ‘authority’ and in the best possible way in the face of the important challenges of the most immediate future.”

It’s been a terrible season for Barca off-the-field, and Bartomeu’s leadership simply must be questioned given the actions of him and some of the people under his watch. Former players and legends have spoken out against the club’s hierarchy, including Pep Guardiola.

The ouster of Ernesto Valverde was handled without much class, and director Eric Abidal threw the players under the bus for the managerial change. The club has also dealt with “Barcagate,” in which a contracted social media company was fired for posting Tweets against Barca’s players.

Both drew the ire of Lionel Messi, who can exercise a clause to leave the club this summer (though that seems unlikely). Messi also admitted he “sees weird things happening” after Bartomeu spoke to the players after “Barcagate.”

Messi also refuted Thursday rumors of a move to Inter Milan in a since-deleted IG post.

Bartomeu has been Barca’s president since January 2014, and the club has won the 2014/15 Champions League and four of five La Liga crowns during his full seasons in charge. There have, however, been a lot of misses in the transfer market.

It might get uglier before it gets better, but there isn’t too much room for worse.

Premier League March Madness: Handicapping the Final

Premier League March Madness
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There was a thriller when Wolves and Everton met at Goodison Park on Sept. 1, and we’re hoping for the online poll equivalent when our Premier League March Madness concludes on Friday.

Wolves already gave us one on Thursday, blowing a lead they held for most of the day to see a 50-50-to-the-vote deadlock before a sizeable win in extra time (30 minutes of added voting).

Everton had an interesting win of its own, destroying Merseyside Derby rivals Liverpool with more than 80 percent of the vote.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Before we go any further, if you’re unfamiliar: To make sure you’re not missing out on either March Madness or the business end of the PL season, we’ve gone ahead and merged the two competitions. The March Madness Final Four and Championship game were due to take place this weekend in Atlanta but now you will be voting on Tottenham v. Arsenal instead of Duke v. Kansas.

Teams are seeded from 1-16 based on their current spot in the table, with Aston Villa winning the relegation playoffs on Monday to remain in the Premier League.

Road to the Final

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
TuesdaySweet 16 results
WednesdayElite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The Toffees are the favorites here, having knocked off Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool.

But this will be the first time in the tournament where Everton won’t have the benefit of a club many other teams hate as the opposition.

Wolves’ extra time win over Sheffield United was a first real scare of the tournament, and the Molineux set will hope its extra time performance was a showing of what it will do when faced with elimination.

It’s difficult to choose against Everton here, even if the Anfield faithful will move to the side of the Wolves. We’ll call it 54-46 to the blue side of Liverpool.

RESULTS: Premier League March Madness Final Four

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Everton has its first Merseyside Derby since 2010 thanks to the voters of ProSoccerTalk.

The Toffees’ 21-match run without a win over Liverpool “ended” Thursday in Premier League March Madness, the fusion of two of our favorite sporting competitions.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

We hinted at this win on Wednesday given the exits of all the Premier League giants besides Liverpool, as supporters of Manchester United, Man City, Arsenal, Spurs, and Chelsea might leap at the chance to take the Reds off any throne.

But to say we saw this margin? The Toffees didn’t just beat their rivals; Carlo Ancelotti’s men stomped the Reds into online oblivion.

So who will Everton meet in the final after knocking off Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool?

The winner of Sheffield United and Wolves came in nail-biting fashion, the two sides nearly as evenly-matched as their 1-1 draw at the Molineux on Dec 1.

Wolves led for much of the day but saw their lead slip to 50.4-49.6 with minutes left in voting.

At 6:30 p.m. ET, it was dead-even. 50-50.

So we extended voting to extra time, and Nuno Espirito Santo must’ve deployed a ridiculous substitute because Wolves ran away with the thing to the tune of 59.6-40.4. #Swing.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ]

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
TuesdaySweet 16 results
WednesdayElite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

Much-chased Havertz reportedly prefers Bayern move

Kai Havertz
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The latest transfer gossip regarding rumor mill regular Kai Havertz pours a lot of cold water on the hopes of several Premier League giants.

Havertz, 20, has been linked with Liverpool, Manchester United, and Manchester City this season with his odds of leaving Bayer Leverkusen at an all-time high. He’s also been connected to Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham to cover most of the Top Six bases.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

But Sky Sports says the German playmaker is keen to stay in his home country and make a move to Bayern Munich, who has been linked with Havertz, Leroy Sane, and Timo Werner in a bid to revolutionize its UEFA Champions League credentials.

Havertz has 10 goals and eight assists in 34 matches this season after exploding for 20 and seven in 42 last year. He doesn’t turn 21 until June.

The youngster provides little defensively but averages 2.3 key passes and 2.3 dribbles per match in Bundesliga play while passing at a tidy 87 percent despite living in the danger areas.

Whoever gets Havertz has a gem on its hands, but perhaps the Premier League will amp up their interest and recruiting efforts after these reports (if they haven’t already).