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Guardiola: ‘We’re here to win the Champions League’

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Pep Guardiola has put down a marker as Manchester City beat Real Madrid to reach the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

He now wants his Manchester City side to go on and reach the holy grail and win the Champions League, the trophy their Abu Dhabi owners crave above all others.

Man City beat Real Madrid 2-1 in their Round of 16 second leg, and 4-2 on aggregate, as Guradiola outwitted Zinedine Zidane over two legs to set up a winnable quarterfinal against Lyon in Lisbon, Portugal next Saturday.

Asked by BT Sport after the game what this win against Real Madrid means for Man City and their mentality, Guardiola did not play down their chances.

“For us, it is of course important, we beat them twice. Zizou never lost one knockout game. You see the calm and personality they play with, they are good,” Guardiola said. “But we are here to try and win the Champions League. It is just one step. If we think that is enough, we will show how small of a team we are. To win the Champions League you have to beat the big clubs.”

Man City will face one of those big clubs, likely Bayern Munich or Barcelona, in the semifinal stage of the Champions League but first they have to get past underdogs Lyon, who stunned Juventus as Memphis Depay has led the Ligue 1 side to the last eight.

“I spoke to the scouting department and they told me ‘be alert’ and we have eight days, we will enjoy this tonight and tomorrow, then we will start to think about Lyon,” Guardiola said when asked about their quarterfinal opponents.

Man City are the heavy favorites to beat Lyon and they are the bookies’ favorites to win the Champions League overall.

Pep Guardiola has now piled the pressure on his team to prove just how good they are and even without the injured Sergio Aguero, and with Fernandinho playing at center back, they eased past Real Madrid.

Manchester City have fallen at the quarterfinal stage when favorites in each of the last two seasons and Guardiola knows this is their best chance to win their first-ever Champions League trophy as Bayern Munich or Barcelona are very good, but not unbeatable, if they get past Lyon.

Guardiola looks hungry and he badly wants to win the Champions League for the first time since 2011 as he failed to win the trophy at Bayern Munich and in his first three seasons at Man City.

The stars are aligning for Man City to deliver the one trophy Guardiola hasn’t won since he arrived in Manchester in 2016 and the one trophy the club hasn’t won since their Abu Dhabi owners took over in 2008.

In this year, just a month after they overturned UEFA’s decision to ban them from the Champions League for two seasons, success would surely taste even sweeter for everyone connected with Man City.

West Ham – Wolves: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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West Ham – Wolves: David Moyes will be watching from home after testing positive for COVID-19, though he reportedly remains asymptomatic, when his West Ham United side welcomes Wolverhampton Wanderers to the London Stadium on Sunday (Watch live at 2 pm ET, online via Peacock).

WEST HAM – WOLVES STREAM LIVE

In recent history, West Ham have had an absolutely torrid time against Nuno Espirito Santo’s side since they won promotion from the EFL Championship. The Hammers have found the back of the net zero times, and collected zero points, in four meetings since Wolves returned to the Premier League.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of West Ham – Wolves this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: West Ham – Wolves (INJURY REPORT)

West Ham – QUESTIONABLE: Issa Diop (COVID-19), Josh Cullen (COVID-19)

Wolves – QUESTIONABLE: Fernando Marcal (undisclosed) | OUT: Jonny (knee)


What they’re saying: West Ham – Wolves

Stand-in manager Alan Irvine, on Moyes’ absence: “I’ve spoken to him several times this morning. He is not feeling any symptoms and hasn’t felt them any way through, so obviously it’s a bit frustrating for him, but he’s fine and he’s getting on with other things. Of course, David will be the manager and everything we do will be run through him. He will make the decisions on everything.”

Nuno Espirito Santo, on facing a team with COVID-19 cases: “We are not concerned, I wish David and the players the fastest recovery. What happened to West Ham can happen to any one of us. It’s tough when you are preparing for a game and you cannot be on the touchline. Now we’re not concerned, we’re confident and we trust the authorities to keep things safe for us.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Everything points to a win for Wolves (+105) with West Ham (+270) made slight home underdogs, which should spell out everything you need to know about the Hammers. Best-case scenario for Moyes and Irvine would be to snatch a draw (+240).

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction: West Ham – Wolves

West Ham might get out of the starting block at some point this season, but Wolves are hardly the ideal opponent you want to see when you have zero points and very few positives to start the season. Misery begets misery, and West Ham are in for a bit more. West Ham 0-2 Wolves.


How to watch West Ham – Wolves stream and start time

Kickoff: 2 pm ET Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Man City – Leicester: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Man City – Leicester: Pep Guardiola will have just 13 first-team players at his disposal when Manchester City hosts Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday (Watch live at 11:30 am ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

MAN CITY – LEICESTER STREAM LIVE

With a combination of injuries and confirmed cases of COVID-19 currently ravaging an already-thin squad, City have no choice but to tread water and simply stay afloat in the coming days and weeks as they attempt to reclaim the Premier League title from Liverpool. It’s a difficult position to be in, no doubt about it, and Leicester should present a tricky challenge for Guardiola and Co., without the likes of Bernardo Silva, Aymeric Laporte, Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero and Ilkay Gundogan, among others.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Man City and Leicester spent much of the 2019-20 season second and third — and third and second — in the PL table, each looking up at Liverpool miles and miles ahead, before winding up second and fifth, respectively. City won each of the two meetings last season — 3-1 at home in December, and 1-0 away in February.

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Man City – Leicester this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Man City – Leicester (INJURY REPORT)

Man City – QUESTIONABLE: Ilkay Gundogan (COVID-19), Aymeric Laporte (COVID-19) | OUT: Bernardo Silva (thigh), Gabriel Jesus (undisclosed), Sergio Aguero (knee), Joao Cancelo (foot), Oleksandr Zinchenko (undisclosed)

Leicester – QUESTIONABLE: Demarai Gray (illness) | OUT: Cengiz Under (transfer clearance), Ricardo Pereira (knee), Jonny Evans (thigh), Filip Benkovic (groin), Wilfred Ndidi (groin)


What they’re saying: Man City – Leicester

Pep Guardiola, on Man City’s injury issues: “With the situation we have right now, we need players from the academy. We have just 13 players fit. With the problems we have up front, he will stay with us. We will use him. We cannot forget, like with Phil, he is only 17 years-old. He has a lot of things to improve. We cannot anticipate the progress of every young player. We’ve had Phil, Eric, Liam and we have Cole Palmer, who will be an exceptional player. We congratulate the academy. I am the last step, but before there are a lot of people in the club working for this and it is a big success for them.”

Brendan Rodgers, on how to improve Leicester: “Firstly, we have a number of young players who can improve. Last season, we showed lots of real potential in the squad. I always felt that two things would help us to improve and continue to develop this process. One of those was time. That means time to work with the players who are here, making them better year on year, particularly the young players. They will have gained from the experiences of last season — good and bad. Time will improve James Maddison. Time will improve Harvey Barnes. Consistency will make us better as well. That will come with the introduction of quality.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Perhaps a bit surprisingly given their ongoing injury issues, City (-350) are heavy betting favorites with Leicester checking in as massive underdogs at +850. The draw (+480) might just make for the perfect speculative wager this weekend.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction: Man City – Leicester

City struggled to put away Bournemouth in the League Cup on Thursday, and will have largely the same group of players available on Sunday. Facing Leicester will be a significant increase in quality of opposition. Leicester might just get something out of this one and do Liverpool an early-season favor in the process. Man City 1-1 Leicester.


How to watch Man City – Leicester stream and start time

Kickoff: 11:30 am ET Sunday
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Could Brighton and Hove Albion be the Premier League season’s surprise?

Brighton and Hove Albion
Photo by ALEX PANTLING/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
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If you were to scroll through our match recaps of Brighton and Hove Albon during the 2019-20 Premier League season, it feels like a safe bet that many would say something along the lines of “Graham Potter’s Seagulls deserved better.”

At least that’s how it felt to me, and watching Brighton’s first three outings of the 2020-21 campaign has me digging deep ahead of a two-test week for the Seagulls against Manchester United in the PL (Watch live at 7:30 am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) and the League Cup.

[ PREVIEW: Brighton – Man Utd ]

Even with those matches ahead (like hours ahead in the first case), I’m puffing my chest just a bit at pegging the Seagulls to surprise and finish 10th.

The PL season-opening loss to Chelsea was a throwback to last season and the decisive win over Newcastle far from a surprise (When the Seagulls go up 2-0 with that set of defenders, well, good luck). Their depth provided a 2-0 League Cup win at Preston North End is a feather in the cap of depth as well. So is the fact that Potter was comfortable loaning Shane Duffy to Celtic and selling Dale Stephens to Burnley.

Brighton went 9W-14D-15L last season, Potter’s first with the Amex Stadium set, and their 41 points were seven fewer than expected goals would’ve projected due to their performances.

That was a good start to determining whether the Seagulls’ look of unluck went beyond the eyeball test. We reached out the numbers people at Liam Tharme from Albion Analytics to talk through the rest.

“The chance wastefulness was all across the board (last season),” Tharme told ProSoccerTalk. “Glenn Murray, Aaron Connolly, and Neal Maupay all underperformed their xG.”

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk Unfiltered, Week 2 ]

Part of that could be down to adjustment. Connolly burst onto the scene at 19 by scoring a brace against Tottenham but was, in fact, 19. Maupay scored 10 times but was adjusting to his first season in the Premier League. Murray might have been 36 but was coming off consecutive double-digit goal campaigns in the PL and a one-goal season is a stunner.

Murray left for Watford and the Championship, where he’s traditionally feasted, but Connolly and Maupay have added a year’s experience to their electric skill sets.

More on that 2019-20 season, whether you deem it unlucky, wasteful, or both.

While there were outings that saw the Seagulls get the rub of the xG green, more often than not it was the other way around.

Look how many came in Dec. 8 – March 7 window that saw Brighton collect only 14 of 45 points via a 2W-8D-5L run.

Notable 2019-20 Brighton reality v xG results

  • Aug. 17 — 1-1 draw with West Ham (2.4-1.0 xG)
  • Sept. 14 — 1-1 draw with Burnley (1.69 – .34 xG)
  • Dec. 16 — 1-1 draw with Palace (2.48 – .48 xG)
  • Dec. 26 — 2-1 loss to Spurs (1.09 – 1.03 xG)
  • Jan. 21 — 3-1 loss to Bournemouth (1.97-1.92 xG)
  • Feb. 1 — 3-3 draw with West Ham (2.03-1.31 xG)
  • Jun. 23 — 0-0 draw with Leicester (1.1 – .51 xG)
  • July 8 — 3-1 loss to Liverpool (2.32 – 2.62 xG)

The team has bought Joel Veltman from Ajax and fended off all suitors of Ben White, who earned a great reputation on loan at Leeds.

The midfield has looked tremendous this season aside from Yves Bissouma’s ridiculous cleat to the face of Jamal Lewis that earned the Seagull a red card. Steven Alzate looks the part after getting acclimated to the PL last season and addnbg Adam Lallana is a good thing.

“Bissouma has really matured as a ball player,” Tharme said. “Under (Chris) Hughton he was more of a transition player, starting counter attacks through dribbles. He can now operate closer to goal, and played the most passes of any Brighton player vs Newcastle. And the same for Alzate, he’s so positionally versatile (RB/CM) that he can play 360 degrees.”

Small sample size alert, but Albion Analytics notes Brighton is second this season for average duration of goal-scoring attacks (55.6 seconds) and fourth for the average number of passes in goalscoring attacks (16.5).

So consider these bigger picture stats below, too, as I admit that my prediction of 10th on the table is perhaps a bit lofty but also quite achievable.

 

Lampard: Pulisic back over ‘next week or two,’ explains caution

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The latest batch of Christian Pulisic news is good: Chelsea boss Frank Lampard says the USMNT star is back training but still days away from being in contention to play in a match.

Pulisic, 22, is yet to play for the Blues this season after suffering an injury in this summer’s FA Cup Final.

[ MORE: West Brom-Chelsea preview ]

Like new addition Hakim Ziyech, Pulisic is getting closer but not quite ready. He hopes to see both players in match action within “the next week or two.”

The Chelsea boss was asked whether the club is being more careful with Pulisic given his series of muscle injuries that have short-circuited several star turns at Stamford Bridge.

From Chelsea’s site:

“There is always a concern about player fitness when their history shows there has been injuries and you try to find the right way and right balance to get the best out of Christian, which we saw in big periods last year. You make sure you don’t over-cook him and leave him susceptible to injury, and particularly with a player of his explosive pace and balance that is a fine line.

“We are working on that and Christian is very open to that. He wants to play, he is so hungry and he is very nearly fit now but it is certainly something we will have to manage this season. We have all seen the talent and it is something I want to get right. I am not saying it is a fundamental, chronic issue, it is not, but we want as many minutes of the great Christian we saw last season on the pitch.”

Makes sense.

In other Pulisic news, the American is being hailed for reaching out to a young Libyan who saved a man from drowning.

Mohammed Al-Arabi is described as one of the leaders of a Chelsea fan club in Libya. He heard someone in distress on a beach in Libya and rescued them from the water but was lost at sea for 20 minutes.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

Al-Arabi ended up in a coma for 24 hours but has emerged with his health.

Pulisic sent a video to Al-Arabi describing the Libyan as “brave” and a “hero or a legend.”

Al-Arabi was stunned, via the BBC:

“What Pulisic did is surprising and I didn’t think that my actions would get such attention from the club that I have supported since I was a child,” he told BBC Sport Africa. “I love Chelsea very much and I try to go to their matches whenever circumstances allow me to travel. I’m not lying when I say Chelsea are the best thing for me in life: my friends tease me that I exaggerate my support, but this has made me love this club even more and more.”

“Pulisic’s words have not only raised my spirits but also urged me to do more to help others. Life is simple, and when you see a star encouraging a simple person it is a great incentive for many people to do help in such situations. I have to thank everyone who saved my life and the life of the other person, whose name I do not know, and everyone who supported me in this difficult experience.”

Nice nod from Pulisic, but even better from Al-Arabi. To a long and fruitful life!