Benjamin Mendy

Premier League preview: Brighton v. Man City

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  • Man City has won 13 PL matches in a row, dating back to Jan 29
  • All 3 PL games between these clubs have finished in a 2-goal Man City win
  • Brighton has conceded just 2 goals over its last 3 PL matches

Win and you’re in. That’s how simple it is for Manchester City as they visit Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday at 10:00 a.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

City has been nearly unstoppable over the last three-plus months, holding off Liverpool in one of the more entertaining Premier League title races in recent memory. Should Pep Guardiola secure its 14th Premier League win in a row, City will defend its title and take the crown, while any points dropped would open the door for the Reds to make a stunning late move.

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It has been shaky of late, however, with three straight 1-0 results, including the narrow win over Leicester City last time out that required a Goal of the Season candidate from defender Vincent Kompany to keep his side in control of the league. Still, City has conceded just two goals over the last seven league matches, with Aymeric Laporte playing every minute of that stretch alongside either Kompany or John Stones.

Pep Guardiola could have Kevin De Bruyne at his disposal despite a hamstring injury that has sidelined him the last three matches. Fernandinho will miss out with a knee injury and is likely out for the FA Cup final as well, along with Benjamin Mendy and Claudio Bravo.

Brighton sits safely in 17th, and the club has a ceiling of 16th should they win and Southampton lose. The Seagulls are completely healthy aside from Davy Propper and Jose Izquierdo, and will be up for a match that could potentially provide a famous finish to an otherwise barely acceptable season.

What they’re saying

Brighton manager Chris Hughton on motivation for the match: “The message to my players on Sunday will be about the respect for this division. It’s a home match for us which we want to win – it so happens there’s big meaning.”

Manchester City manager Guardiola on expectations for the game: “It is better to focus on what we have to do. If we win we don’t have to look at anything else. It’s a dream to be here, I didn’t expect it when we were seven points behind. We’ve shown many things. If we make back to back it would be nice but nothing is going to change too much – the fact is we have done incredibly well all season.”

Prediction

Guardiola has done a stellar job preparing this team for each game down the stretch, and Sunday will be no different. The attack has misfired slightly over the past month with Kevin de Bruyne on the sidelines, and they face a stout Brighton defense that has conceded more than one goal just twice in the last nine matches. Still, they are prone to implosions, such as a 5-0 loss to Bournemouth in mid-April, a 3-0 loss to Chelsea earlier that month, or a 4-2 loss to Fulham in late January. Manchester City will get a goal in the first half and cruise from there, ultimately winning 2-0 to secure its second straight Premier League crown, a stellar achievement.

Tagliafico announces stay at Ajax for another year

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There may be an exodus of young talent from Dutch side Ajax this coming summer as the club continues its stunning run through the Champions League, but they are doing their best to convince as many players as possible to stick around.

The club announced Friday that Argentinian international Nicolas Tagliafico would not be leaving this summer, and while there was no contract extension to go along with the announcement, it was a short and sweet statement from the defender to help ease fans before the impending sales to come.

The 26-year-old left-back, who was a consistent starter for Argentina at the 2018 World Cup and has since worn the captain’s armband for a few post-World Cup friendlies in Lionel Messi’s absence, joined Ajax last summer from Argentinian club Independente and signed a four-year deal through the summer of 2022.

The announcement marks a slight change in heart for the Argentinian, who just a month ago admitted he could leave the Dutch side soon. “I think in the summer it could be a natural time to take the step,” Tagliafico said in early April. “But I try not to think about taking that step just yet because we have many important games to focus on. Yes, it [the transfer speculation] is flattering because I think it’s the most competitive league. When you are a child, the target is to come to Europe and play in a top league like the Premier League. I came to Ajax because of the philosophy, the style of football and the club.”

Tagliafico’s announcement comes just a month after goalkeeper Andre Onana committed his long-term future to the club with a contract extension signed in late March. “I like to play and here I have the opportunity to play and that’s why I extend my contract,” the 23-year-old goalkeeper said to the club’s official website after signing his extension through 2022. “Ajax did so many things for me and that’s why I extend my contract. For me it’s important to give something back. It was a difficult decision but when you’re a young player, it’s important to choose game time, not only going to a big club when you’re not going to play.”

Onana joined Ajax from Barcelona’s youth academy in 2015, having made his way to Spain through Samuel Eto'o‘s academy in Cameroon. His previous deal was set to expire in 2021, meaning this summer would have been the two-year mark, a popular selling time for a club that wishes to cash in on a player before his value diminishes. He had been linked with a number of top sides including Manchester United and a return to Barcelona, but the extension will give Ajax firm control over anyone who wishes to come make an offer.

Midfielder Frenkie de Jong has already been officially sold to Barcelona, while fellow young Dutch stars such as Donny van de Beek and Matthijs de Ligt have been highly touted and are widely speculated to be leaving the club this summer, along with Moroccan international Hakim Ziyech. Ajax will no doubt profit greatly from their departure, but will want to learn from the mistakes Monaco made after allowing a wealth of young talent like Kylian Mbappe, Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, and Tiemoue Bakayoko all leave the club in one summer, leaving the club in a dire position this season battling relegation.

Former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, who now serves as the club’s CEO, addressed the potential departures, admitting that is the way the club stays afloat and continues the pipeline, but cautioned against selling too much.

“We know that’s a fact. That’s the history of Ajax all along. It has been in the 70s, 80s and 90s, so we know that,” he said to BT Sport before the Champions League first-leg match against Tottenham earlier in the week. “That also gives space for the younger players, guys who are 19 or 20. In two years time, they will be playing at this kind of level. We’re not going to sell seven players. We need to make sure we can stay competitive. We like this stage of the competition and we like the recognition, so we’re not going to break up the complete team. Of course that’s Ajax development, giving young players a chance.”

The presence of Tagliafico alongside veterans Daley Blind, Lasse Schone, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, plus Onana’s stay will give the club a solid base to flow more young talent through the ranks.

PL Sunday Preview: Liverpool host Chelsea; Man City visit Crystal Palace

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In what may be Liverpool’s toughest remaining league match of the season, the Reds host the Blues of Chelsea in an epic matchup between two big six sides. Chelsea will be looking to spoil Liverpool’s title hopes yet again. It was Chelsea and Demba Ba who pounced on Steven Gerrard‘s slip in midfield which led to Liverpool losing the title in 2014.

Liverpool v. Chelsea — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Liverpool took care of business last week early against Porto, and with a 2-0 lead, it may allow manager Jurgen Klopp to focus more of his attention on one of the biggest games of the season against Chelsea. When these teams met earlier in the season, Chelsea recorded a 1-1 draw in the Premier League and a 2-1 win in the League Cup. More than Manchester City, Chelsea may be Liverpool’s bogey team. The Reds haven’t beaten Chelsea in six games, dating back to 2016.

One of Liverpool’s big boosts heading into the match is the return of the marauding Scottish left wing back Andrew Robertson. That should allow James Milner to either return to midfield or take a place on the bench, where he can make a second-half impact with fresh legs. In addition, Joe Gomez is available after a long injury layoff while Adam Lallana is expected to take part as well. But it will be up to the likes of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane to break down Chelsea’s backline and secure a massive three points to stay alive for the title.

An interesting little facet of this game is that it will come minutes after the end of Manchester City’s match at Crystal Palace. Liverpool and Chelsea’s players will know if Man City has taken back the lead in the table, or whether Liverpool can extend its lead at the top.

INJURIES: Liverpool —  OUT: None | Chelsea — OUT: None

Crystal Palace v. Manchester City — 9:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Before Thursday’s defeat to Tottenham in the UEFA Champions League, Manchester City hadn’t lost a match since a 2-1 loss at Newcastle at the end of January. Now, Pep Guardiola heads back to London for the second time in a week looking to remain in the title hunt.

With Liverpool keeping pace at the top, Man City can’t afford a slip on on the road, but Roy Hodgson and his side will be hoping to pick up at least a point at Selhurst Park. Unsurprisingly, Crystal Palace has struggled against the Big Six sides this season, with the exception a 3-2 win….at Manchester City. Andros Townsend‘s world-class strike helped to prove the difference. Could Crystal Palace secure six points over the title-favorites?

Meanwhile for Man City, Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sane could inject some freshness back into the squad after sitting out the past couple of games. Also in Man City’s favor, Crystal Palace has lost 12 of its 16 Premier League home games this season. Plus, with a win, Man City goes one point ahead of Liverpool, putting all the pressure on Klopp’s side.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace —  OUT: James Tompkins (groin), Mamadou Sakho (knee) | Manchester City — QUESTIONABLE: Oleksandr Zinchenko, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy

Pochettino tabs Champions League game vs. Man City as biggest of his life

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Mauricio Pochettino has taken charge of 22 Champions League matches in his career against the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, and Inter Milan.

According to the man himself, none stack up to this week’s meeting with fellow Premier League giants Manchester City in the quarterfinals.

When asked if Tuesday’s game should be billed as the biggest of his life, Pochettino responded affirmatively. “Yes, as a coach. Yes. This is going to be one of the most important games.”

Pochettino then looked to try and downplay the significance of the match, saying Spurs had already reached their goals for the Champions League this season, claiming the rest is icing on the cake. “For us, it is a bonus to play in the quarter-finals. We are going to try to beat them. The [current] objective is to be in the semi-finals but it is going to be tough because Manchester City are a very good team and we respect them.”

The Argentinian hoped that the game brings out the best of the new stadium, and that while the full debut of the venue has passed, the honeymoon phase continues in full force. “We want to start tomorrow being very aggressive and try to dominate,” Pochettino said. “We have had time to prepare for the game. It is our second game in our new stadium and the first in the Champions League so we hope the atmosphere is amazing and tough for our opponent.”

Pochettino conceded that Manchester City has the deeper and more talented squad, especially given City’s return to health with Sergio Aguero, Benjamin Mendy, and Kyle Walker all expected to be fit for the match. “We must match their desire. The thing we cannot match is when we talk about talent but it going to be 11 versus 11 and I hope my team is going to be better than them.”

Amid City’s squad strengthening, Spurs is still missing a number of key players. Eric Dier, forward Erik Lamela, and Serge Aurier are all expected to miss the match through various injuries.

Man City advances to the FA Cup Final (video)

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Gabriel Jesus‘ early goal was enough as Manchester City beat Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 in an FA Cup semifinal on Saturday at Wembley Stadium.

Man City has already won the League Cup and is alive for the Premier League and UEFA Champions League in addition to the FA Cup.

[ RECAP: Newcastle 0-1 Palace ]

Benjamin Mendy made his first appearance since November for Manchester City, with left back issues trailing the club into several competitions.

Jesus was the beneficiary of a tremendous cross from Kevin De Bruyne when the Brazilian planted a flag for City with a diving header in the fourth minute.

That was it for a while, though Man City rarely looked trouble and appeared on the verge of a second goal for some time.

Kyle Walker was fortunate to stay on following a head-to-head scenario with Alireza Jahanbakhsh, but it probably shouldn’t have been a sending-off.

Brighton managed a pair of shots on target before all was said and done, but couldn’t draw level. Man City will face the winner of Watford and Wolves in the Final on May 18.