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Mahrez, Man City share No. 1 goal: Win Champions League

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After winning the Premier League in historically dominant fashion last season — Pep Guardiola‘s second at the club — every new signing Manchester City make from here on out will be made, and judged, with one goal in mind: winning the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Southgate “the backbone of this team; the man’s a gentleman” ]

Guardiola and Co., won’t be splashing out $80 million for a player with the lowly intent of consolidating domestic power and merely hanging on to the PL title, Riyad Mahrez, who completed his transfer from Leicester City for that very fee on Tuesday, knows it. It’s why he’s at the club.

Having already led the Foxes to the unlikeliest of PL titles two seasons ago, Mahrez has bigger fish to fry, and his targets are perfectly aligned with those of his new employer — quotes from the BBC and the Guardian:

“The Champions League is for big clubs, they’re a big club, they have everything to try to win it.

“City have ambition to go further than the Champions League quarterfinals like they did last season. I made the decision to come here because I want to be part of that.

“Pep [Guardiola] is a big manager, he’s won a lot of things and made history with this club. I’ll give my best to achieve for the club.”

“I haven’t talked about my precise position with the manager yet, but City wanted me and that means a lot. The price tag doesn’t affect me — fees for players have got very big in the last couple of years. I am very happy to be here and will try to give my best for the club. I thought what City did last year was amazing, it was unbelievable to break all those Premier League records, but I am confident about myself. I want to help this team improve and I believe that is what the manager wants.”

“Players at top clubs always have to face competition for places, it is normal for big clubs to have a lot of great players and City are a big club with a big manager.”

Mahrez is an ideal signing for a side with Man City’s ambitions and embarrassment of mega-bucks talent. Sure, he cost the club $80 million — a club-record fee — and you can say that he won’t get enough games with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, David Silva and Bernardo Silva also in the team, but injuries will inevitably rear their ugly heads, and Mahrez’s presence will make City two-deep at three positions behind strikers Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero.

[ MORE: Mourinho: England needs to keep coaches for next World Cup ]

The goal is to win the Champions League while retaining the PL title as an absolute bare minimum expectation. They made it look easy in 2017-18, but their pursuit of all-time records likely played a part in coming up short in European competition. City have an unfair advantage in terms of resources and weapons, but winning a treble (or a quadruple) would amount to a massively unfair achievement.

Andres Iniesta announces international retirement from Spain

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Not a surprise, but still incredibly sad.

After Spain was eliminated by hosts Russia on penalties, Andres Iniesta announced his retirement from international soccer. El Cerebro retires at 34 years of age with 131 caps to his name. He finishes his international career with 13 goals and 27 assists for Spain, and he owns one World Cup and two European titles.

“This was my last game for Spain,” Iniesta told Radio Estadio after the match. “A marvelous spell is over. Sometimes the end is not as you dreamed it.”

Iniesta also concluded a 22-year career at Barcelona this summer, signing a 2-year deal with Japanese club Vissel Kobe.

Against Russia, Iniesta began the match on the bench, the first time he had not started a match for Spain in either the World Cup or European Championship since 2010. He came on in the 67th minute to replace the ineffective David Silva, and while he created three chances for Spain, he was unable to help his country find a winning goal. He scored the team’s first penalty in the shootout, which Spain ultimately lost on a pair of saves by Igor Akinfeev.

Spain gets win after Iran sees equalizer ruled out

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  • Spain goal: Costa (54′)
  • Iranian goal disallowed
  • Next: Spain-Morocco, Portugal-Iran

Iran had an equalizer taken away via Video Assistant Referee and Spain picked up its first win of the 2018 World Cup with a 1-0 win in Kazan on Wednesday.

Diego Costa scored Spain’s goal, as La Furia Roja joined Portugal atop Group B on four points. Iran has three, while eliminated Morocco has yet to get a result.

Team Melli lost their chance to sit atop the group when Saeid Ezatolahi rebound was ruled to have come after an offside touch from a teammate.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Spain certainly had its chances in the first half hour, capped off by an attempted overhead kick from David Silva.

Man City’s 32-year-old attacker had a great deal of chances in the contest, and would see a deflected rip bound wide of the goal during three minutes of first half stoppag time.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

After Gerard Pique missed an in-tight chance to start the second half, Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand made an outstanding punch save on Isco before punching away the rebound bid.

Iran found its first true chance of the match in the 53rd minute, with Karim Ansarifard lashing into a shot from 15 yards that tore into the outside of the goal.

It was moments later that Spain went ahead, Costa getting a goal when a clearance bounding off his shin and into the net.

Mehdi Taremi flicked a header wide of the goal, and Iran thought it had an equalizer through Saeid Ezatolahi only for VAR to step in and call offside on the previous Iranian to touch the ball.

It was off, but only just.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Beiranvand was again on the scene for a 70th minute goal mouth scramble following a drawn-up corner kick by Spain.

Taremi pounded a header over the goal after a Vahid Amiri nutmeg of Pique led to a back post cross.

Which Premier League players will be at World Cup?

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There are 107 players from the Premier League who are going to the 2018 World Cup.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

Manchester City have more players going to the tournament (16) than any other club in the world, while the English national team are the only country in the entire competition to have 100 percent of their players from their domestic league.

Belgium have an incredible 11 of their 23-man squad who play in the Premier League, while Senegal and Brazil have six players each from the PL and Argentina, Denmark and France boast five players each in their final rosters.

Below is a breakdown of the PL players heading to Russia this summer, with players from recently relegated teams in 2017/18 and teams coming up to the PL in 2018/19 included.

Here’s a country-by-country breakdown.

Manuel Lanzini (West Ham United)
Marcos Rojo (Manchester United)
Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City)
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Willy Caballero (Chelsea)

Mat Ryan (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town)

Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea)
Simon Mignolet (Liverpool)
Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)
Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)
Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur)
Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur)
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United)
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)
Nacer Chadli (West Bromwich Albion)

Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)
Danilo (Manchester City)
Fernandinho (Manchester City)
Willian (Chelsea)
Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
Ederson (Manchester City)

David Opsina (Arsenal)
Jose Izquierdo (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur)

Dejan Lovren (Liverpool)

Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City)
Andreas Christensen (Chelsea)
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur)
Mathias Jorgensen (Huddersfield Town)
Jonas Lossl (Huddersfield Town)

Jack Butland (Stoke City)
Jordan Pickford (Everton)
Nick Pope (Burnley)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur)
Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
Phil Jones (Manchester United)
John Stones (Manchester City)
Harry Maguire (Leicester City)
Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur)
Ashley Young (Manchester United)
Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur)
Fabian Delph (Manchester City)
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea, on loan at Crystal Palace)
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Jesse Lingard (Manchester United)
Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal)

Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur)
Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Olivier Giroud (Chelsea)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City)

Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea)
Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)

Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton)
Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Burnley)

Maya Yoshida (Southampton)
Shinji Kagawa (Leicester City)

Korea Republic
Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur)
Ki Sung-Yueng (Swansea City)

Javier Hernandez (Mexico)

Roman Saiss (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Wifried Ndidi (Leicester City)
Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City)
Victor Moses (Chelsea)
Alex Iwobi (Arsenal)

Andre Carrillo (Watford)

Jan Bednarek (Southampton)
Grzegorz Krychowiak (West Brom, on loan from PSG)
Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City)

Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
Joao Mario (West Ham United, on loan from Inter Milan)
Cedric Soares (Southampton)
Adrien Silva (Leicester City)

Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace)
Nemanja Matic (Manchester United)
Dusan Tadic (Southampton)
Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle United, on loan at Fulham)

Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Idrissa Gueye (Everton)
Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham United)
Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke City)
Alfred N'Diaye (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Badou Ndiaye (Stoke City)

David De Gea (Manchester United)
Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
Nacho Monreal (Arsenal)
David Silva (Manchester City)

Victor Lindelof (Manchester United)
Martin Olsson (Swansea City)
Kristoffer Nordfeldt (Swansea City)

Granit Xhaka (Arsenal)
Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City)

Yohan Benalouane (Leicester City)

2018 World Cup team preview: Spain

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Getting to know Spain: The World Cup champs from 2010 crashed out in the Group Stage four years ago but they are in very good shape heading into this summer after so many years of underachievement.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

La Furia Rioja aren’t quite as lethal as they were from 2008 to 2012 when they won three-straight major tournaments, but they’re 19 games run. Their last defeat was their Round of 16 loss to France at EURO 2016. Andres Iniesta and David Silva will pull the strings with an experienced defensive core of Sergio Busquets, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique leading the way. For more on Spain’s history, click here.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

What group are they in? Group B, where they are favorites and their huge showdown against border rivals Portugal will kick things off in style. Spain also face Morocco and Iran who will be no pushovers but remember: Spain lost their opening game of the World Cup in 2010 to Switzerland and still went on to win the tournament. It’s a marathon, not a spring…

Game schedule – Group B – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here

Friday, June 15: Portugal v Spain, Sochi 2pm ET
Wednesday, June 20: Iran v Spain, Kazan 2pm ET
Monday, June 25: Spain v Morocco, Kaliningrad 2pm ET

Projected lineup (4-3-3) – Check out the 23-man squad list in full

—– De Gea —–

— Nacho — Ramos — Pique — Alba —-

—- Silva —- Busquets —- Iniesta —-

—- Koke —- Costa —- Isco —-

Star player: David De Gea – This feels like the moment David de Gea announces himself as the best goalkeeper in the planet. He may already be, at least on current form, after Manuel Neuer spent most of the 2017/18 campaign out injured. De Gea was voted Manchester United’s player of the season for the fourth time in the past five years and he also won the Premier League’s Golden Glove award for the most clean sheets. After finally usurping Iker Casillas as Spain’s numero uno, DDG is ready to be the star they need in defense. De Gea will need to deliver in big moments and if he does, Spain’s attacking talents will no doubt make the most of plenty of clean sheets.

Manager: Julen Lopetegui – He has yet to lose a game as Spain’s manager and the fact he worked with so many of this squad in the youth teams has helped to usher in a new era relatively smoothly. Lopetegui has the luxury of having the likes of Ramos, Iniesta, Busquets and Silva around to steady the ship but he’s given exciting attackers such as Iago Aspas, Lucas Vasquez and Isco the chance to flourish. Lopetegui knows Spain are expected to get to at least the semifinals and his man-management will be key to deliver that goal.

Secret weapon: Andres Iniesta – The captain and a true legend who will be playing in his final tournament for Spain. He will want to go out on top after leaving Barcelona and signing for Kobe in Japan over the past few weeks. Iniesta knits everything together so well and if he and Silva can control the tempo of a game and feed Diego Costa and Isco with chances, Spain will go very close to winning the World Cup. Iniesta oozes class and it feels like he has one more incredible chapter to write.

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Prediction: Spain will be licking their lips at being handed a relatively straight-forward route to the quarterfinal stage. They know they must make the most of this opportunity and if they win Group B ahead of Portugal then all the talk will be about them going all the way and winning the competition. You worry if Diego Costa is going to 1) stay fit and 2) score the goals they need to advance, but their midfield options are so vast and crammed with quality that they should be just fine. Expect to see Spain in at least the semifinals. Anything less than that and they’ve underachieved.