Claudio Bravo

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.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE HERE

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.

PL Sunday preview: Chelsea v. Man United, Burnley v. Man City, Leicester v. Arsenal

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A critical day of Premier League fixtures hits center stage on Sunday as four of the top six are in action, including Manchester City who controls its own destiny in the title race with three matches to go.

With Liverpool having moved in front with a big win over Huddersfield Town on Friday, it is Man City’s turn to respond. In addition, Manchester United meets Chelsea in a critical battle in the race for the top four, with both teams right in the mix for a spot. Also in that conversation is Arsenal who visits Leicester City needing a win to keep pace with whoever comes out of Old Trafford with points.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE HERE

Finish to the Premier League season is riveting at the top of the table, with both the title race and Champions League battle coming down to the wire. Liverpool sits two points ahead of Manchester City at the moment, with the Citizens still to play on Sunday. Meanwhile, Tottenham sits on 70 points in third, with Chelsea three back in fourth on 67, Arsenal in fifth with 66, and Manchester United in sixth on 64.


Leicester City v. Arsenal — 7:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Arsenal travels to Leicester City to take on the in-form Foxes with an early morning kick. Leicester has won four of its last six Premier League matches and scored a late equalizer to draw West Ham last time out. The match is critical for Arsenal with either Chelsea or Manchester United figuring to get points at Old Trafford later in the day.

The Gunners, however, are not coming into this match in good form, having lost two straight and three of their last four. The Arsenal defense has coughed up six goals over the last two, and boss Unai Emery is struggling to figure out his squad with a number of injury problems to consider. The most important issue to sort out before kick on Sunday is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who missed the last match after minor sinus surgery.

INJURIES: Leicester City —  OUT: Daniel Amartey (ankle). | ArsenalQUESTIONABLE: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (sinus). OUT: Aaron Ramsey (groin), Denis Suarez (hamstring), Hector Bellerin (knee), Rob Holding (knee) and Danny Welbeck (ankle).


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

Manchester City hasn’t dropped points since late January when they suffered a 2-1 loss to Newcastle, and Pep Guardiola‘s squad seems stronger than ever. Last time out was a perfect encapsulation of the squad strength Man City possesses, as Leroy Sane was forced onto the pitch after an injury to vital midfielder Fernandinho, only to see Sane score a goal 15 minutes later.

Burnley was clobbered by Man City last time these two teams matched up back in October, a 5-0 drubbing that sent Man City on a tear through November before bogging down around the holidays. That match also saw Burnley come in with a three-match unbeaten run, but the pasting kickstarted a miserable stretch of seven without a win for Burnley. This time around, the hosts are again coming in having performed well of late, on a run of three wins in four without a loss in that span.

INJURIES: Burnley —  QUESTIONABLE: Phil Bardsley (leg). OUT: Peter Crouch (appendix), Steven Defour (calf), Aaron Lennon (knee). | Man City — QUESTIONABLE: Fernandinho (knee), Ilkay Gundoguan (knock). OUT: Kevin De Bruyne (hamstring), Claudio Bravo (knee).


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

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces another brutal test as he looks to bring Manchester United out of the ignominious slump the Red Devils are currently mired in. Manchester United has lost three of its four Premier League matches in April, and that coupled with the Champions League humbling at the hands of Barcelona has left the honeymoon phase of Solskjaer’s managerial tenure in the distant past. Goalkeeper David De Gea will reportedly keep his place in goal for the foreseeable future despite the Spaniard’s struggles over the past few months, which were evident in the derby loss to Man City last time out.

Chelsea, meanwhile, is in a slide of its own with just two wins in the last six matches and Maurizio Sarri desperately hoping to confirm a Champions League place to give Roman Abramovich something to cling to when assessing the Italian’s first season in charge. They also have lost two straight visiting Manchester United, and have not lost three in a row since 1957 – conversely, of the six times Chelsea has won at Old Trafford, five of them came in a manager’s first attempt with the club.

INJURIES: Man United —  QUESTIONABLE: Ander Herrera (hamstring). OUT: Phil Jones, Scott McTominay. | Chelsea — QUESTIONABLE: N'Golo Kante (rib). OUT: Callum Hudson-Odoi (Achilles).

How will Man City and Man United line up for critical derby?

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There is as much on the line in Wednesday’s Manchester derby than anyone could have hoped for, and the enormous stakes will only feed the excitement on the pitch.

Whereas these big matches often end in cagey draws in the first half of the season with little incentive for the teams to do anything other than avoid losing, a draw won’t do for either side this time around, and there could be goals on the cards. So with everything on the line, how will these teams line up on the field?

[ MORE: Hudson-Odoi injury renews contract talks ]

There are injuries to consider on both sides. Pep Guardiola confirmed that Kevin De Bruyne will not be available tomorrow for Manchester City after his injury against Tottenham left the rest of his season in doubt. Manchester United, meanwhile, will reportedly be without defender Phil Jones after he was withdrawn in the heavy defeat to Everton last time out. Other than that, both squads are fully healthy minus the long-term injury to City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

The biggest question for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be how to deploy his back line against the vicious Manchester City attack – particularly on the flanks. He left Ashley Young on the bench each of the last two matches, with natural center-backs Victor Lindelof and Marcos Rojo deputizing at full-back, but that experiment could come to an end with Luke Shaw returning from suspension. In Jones’ absence, Rojo or Lindelof could be moved back to the middle, or Solskjaer could bring Eric Bailly back into the fold after failling to see the field in the last two months. The midfield has also been a conglomeration, with the third spot up in the air next to Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic. Fred and Juan Mata have both seen time, but Ander Herrera will be reportedly returning from his injury and could see the field.

[ MORE: Solskjaer hoping for turnaround ]

For Manchester City, Guardiola’s headache will be constructing his midfield without De Bruyne. He has had Fernandinho in and out of the lineup over the last few weeks due to nagging injuries, and it remains to be seen if he utilizes the defensive midfielder to anchor the formation. Ilkay Gundogan has played deeper when Fernandinho has been absent, and he’s played well in that spot, but at times they still seem to be missing a natural anchor, and it was Fernandinho who came in to replace De Bruyne after his injury.


MANCHESTER UNITED

—– De Gea —–

— Dalot — Rojo — Smalling — Shaw —

—- Matic —- Herrera —-

—- Martial —- Pogba —- Rashford —-

—– Lukaku —–


MANCHESTER CITY

—– Ederson —–

— Walker — Stones — Laporte — Zinchenko —

—– Fernandinho —–

—- Gundogan —- Foden —-

— B Silva —- Aguero — Sterling —


Preview and Prediction: 4 Premier League sides meet in FA Cup semifinals

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Four Premier League sides are all that remain in the FA Cup as the semifinals get under way Saturday and Sunday.

Manchester City meets Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday, with Watford v. Wolverhampton to contest the second meeting a day later. The winners of both matches will meet in the final at Wembley Stadium on May 18.

The first match up features Pep Guardiola looking to keep his side in the running for the unprecedented quadruple. In addition to the FA Cup still in play, City has already won the League Cup, trail Premier League leaders Liverpool by two points with a game in hand, and begin Champions League quarterfinals against Tottenham midweek.

For Brighton, the Seagulls have been to one Cup final in the club’s history, back in 1983 when they reached the FA Cup final, losing to Manchester United at Wembley. They fell 2-0 to Manchester City in this season’s only meeting so far, way back in late September in the midst of Man City’s incredible start to the season.

To make matters even more daunting for Brighton, they will have to contend with a near-fully fit Manchester City squad. Other than long-term injuries to Claudio Bravo and Benjamin Mendy, the only injuries for City is a knock to Fabian Delph and a new hamstring injury for Olkesandr Zinchenko. Sergio Aguero is back from his slight knock, but might not start the match.

Prediction: While Brighton is a much different side from when these two teams met back in September, Manchester City is not. They are still as dominant as ever, and the healthy squad has enough players to rotate through the four competitions and still maintain its edge. City wins 3-0.

On Sunday, Watford meets Wolverhampton Wanderers for the second time this season, with the first meeting also back in the fall. Watford won 2-0 in a game that began Wolves’ ugly six-game slide. Wolves will head to Vicarage Road a very different team than on that October day, fighting for a Europa League position and having stunned Manchester United twice over the last few weeks.

Starting Sunday, these two teams will be seeing enough of each other over the final few weeks of the campaign. While they still have a Premier League fixture remaining as well, they’re both battling hard for a Europa League position, separated by just a single point in the table. Winning the FA Cup would go a long way towards easing that burden, but should neither make it, the battle to the finish line will be bitter, and this meeting could be the warm up for that game on April 27 back here at Vicarage Road yet again.

Wolves brings a squad with them that won’t be phased by the bright lights, with the internationally experienced Joao Moutinho and Rui Patricio leading the way along with stars Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota who have Champions League games under their belts. They also have a completely clean bill of health, a valuable asset heading into a pressure-filled run-in to the season. Watford will be without Tom Cleverley due to a hamstring injury, while Roberto Pereyra is a game-time decision after coming off against Fulham.

It’s been a while for both these clubs, with Watford last reaching Wembley in this competition in 1984, their only time having done so. Wolves last made an FA Cup final 1960, and they’ve lost four in a row at this stage.

Prediction: This is a fascinating matchup between two equally talented teams. Wolves has the experience advantage, but Watford is at home. This one goes to penalties after a 1-1 draw, and Wolves keeps its cool and comes out on top in the shootout.

Premier League preview: Fulham v. Man City

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  • City can regain top spot with a win
  • Fulham 13 points from PL safety
  • Man City aiming for 7th-straight win

Fulham host Manchester City on Saturday at Craven Cottage (Watch live, 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), in one of the most lopsided games of the season.

Surely there won’t be an upset…

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

The beautiful thing about the Premier League, and this season in particular, is that this shock results have been cropping up. Fulham are 19th in the table and any hope of surviving has all but evaporated with eight games to go. Caretaker boss Scott Parker has made Fulham into a tough defensive unit, but they have lost all four games since he took charge.

As for Man City, the imperious machine rolls on for Pep Guardiola as they have won six-straight Premier League games to drag themselves back into the driving seat in the title race. A win here puts them ahead of Liverpool (at least until Jurgen Klopp‘s side play against Tottenham on Sunday), but playing in the first PL game after the international break could cause some problems for Pep.

But with a game in hand of Liverpool and City going for a historic quadruple, Pep seems pretty relaxed about everything. At least that’s right now…

In teams news Fulham could have Andre Schurrle back after recovering from a virus, while Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho, John Stones, Benjamin Mendy, Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi are all back from injury for City with Fabian Delph and Claudio Bravo their only absentees.


What they’re saying

Parker on the challenge of trying to stop Man City: “You certainly have to adapt to face City, and we’ve been working on that over the last 10 days and now for the next couple of days too. They are well-coached, well-drilled, and we’ve been trying to give the lads as much information as possible for the challenges we’re going to face. They are that good that we can put all the scenarios in place, but you’ve still got to face them. We all understand the challenge ahead, fantastic players, team and along with a manager who will arguably go down as one of the greatest as well.”

Guardiola on trying to win a historic quadruple: “I would say after international break we came back good, the rhythm is quite similar. Now we will play 11 games and we deserve to play 12, maybe 14 maybe 15. Eight left for Premier League, game by game we see what happens.”


Prediction

This will be a little trickier for Man City than we all think, especially after the international break, but they have so many star players returning that squad rotation will see them come out all guns blazing. 3-1 win to City.

Fans who want to try their hand at predicting PL games can down the NBC Sports Predictor app, with a chance to win up to $50,000 each week. Download it on iOS or Google Play.