Eliaquim Mangala

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Laporte stretchered off with apparent knee injury

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Raise your hand if you had Brighton and Hove Albion’s Adam Webster playing a potentially serious role in the Premier League title chase.

Webster’s hard challenge on Aymeric Laporte left the Manchester City star defender clutching his knee.

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The Frenchman was stretchered off the field, days away from making his long-anticipated debut for country.

Fernandinho took his place, as City sanctioned the departure of Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala this season and John Stones is yet to return to full fitness.

Laporte is one of the best defenders in the world, made even more valuable by how neatly his attributes meet Pep Guardiola‘s system.

It’s difficult to name a more difficult to replace player for Man City. Let’s hope for the best for the player.

Stay tuned.

Mangala leaves Man City for Valencia return

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Once among the most expensive defensive signings in football, Eliaquim Mangala is leaving Manchester City for pennies on the dollar (or pound).

Valencia announced the center back’s capture on Monday, saying the 28-year-old would join on a two-year deal.

[ MORE: USSF promotes Stewart, hires USWNT GM ]

Mangala joined Man City from Porto for $54 million in 2014 and appeared 79 times over parts of three seasons, taking a short loan at Everton and a full season in La Liga.

That was 2016-17 with his new club Valencia, where he played in 30 matches and posted two goals with decent defensive numbers.

Last season he logged around 600 minutes for City and another 134 with Everton, but signed a one-year contract extension late in the season. His lone bit of silverware with City came in 2017-18.

Given his age and position, we may still see some return on Mangala’s promise. $54 million for defenders may not be anything too crazy these days, but it certainly was in 2014. His time wasn’t quite a bust — he put in a pretty good performance during his first season at the Etihad Stadium — but it was very close.

PL Sunday preview: Manchester derby; Chelsea, Liverpool go for 12

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You could say that Sunday is a big day of Premier League fixtures, but you’d be massively under-selling a six-and-a-half-hour period that see four games played, featuring five of the PL’s “big six” sides.

[ MORE: Spurs grind out another win despite mounting injuries ]

Liverpool vs. Fulham — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

In the day’s first game, Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool will seek to become the first side in the PL to reach a dozen games without a defeat. Doing so with a victory at Anfield would (temporarily) vault them ahead of Chelsea and Manchester City for top spot in the title race. A swift response will be required after a shocking defeat away to Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League on Tuesday. It’s not the first time the Reds have lost away on the continent this season: after losing to Napoli last month, Liverpool returned to domestic play and secured a scoreless home draw with Man City.

While Tuesday’s hiccup might seem a disaster in Liverpool’s world, last-place Fulham would beg to differ. The Cottagers haven’t won since Aug. 26, game no. 3 of the season, and have managed just two points from the eight games they’ve played since. On the bright, they sit just three points adrift of 17th place and can drag themselves clear of the relegation zone with a few decent results. Slavisa Jokanovic‘s side has had plenty of problems on both ends of the field — they’ve scored just four goals in their last seven games, simultaneously conceding 20 of the 29 they’ve given up on the season.

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) | Fulham — OUT: None


Chelsea vs. Everton — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Very few foresaw a title challenge from Chelsea in Maurizio Sarri‘s first season in England, but the Blues sit second in the table (ahead of Liverpool on goal differential) nearly one-third of the way through the season, also yet to lose (in any competition) in 2018-19. Eden Hazard appears fully recovered from his back injury, which severely limited his minutes late last month, after playing 62 minutes in Thursday’s Europa League win away to BATE Borisov. The Belgian superstar is joint-top of the Golden Boot race with seven goals (plus four assists — tied-fourth most) and has been the best player in the PL, by a substantial margin. In comparison to City and Liverpool’s stingy number of goals conceded — four and five, respectively — Chelsea’s eight seems uninspiring, yet remains next-best by a good distance.

It’s been nearly five years (Dec. 4, 2013, against Manchester United) since Everton last won away to one of the PL’s “big six” sides. Sunday’s trip to Stamford Bridge is merely the Toffees’ next opportunity to break their 30-game skid (0W-9D-21L), but it’s hardly a golden one. It’s been nearly as many tries, 23, since Everton last won away to the Blues (Nov. 26, 1994). Everton’s newly crowned talisman, Richarlison, has been made available for selection after being an injury doubt all week. Marco Silva won’s be so lucky in defense, though, as first-choice center back Kurt Zouma, on loan from Chelsea, is ineligible to play against his parent club.

INJURIES: Chelsea — OUT: None | Everton — OUT: None


Man City vs. Man United — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The third and final — though first in the table — unbeaten side, Man City, will host a Man United side which has (somewhat predictably) fallen on hard times in Jose Mourinho’s third season at the club. Despite winning three of their last four league games, the Red Devils enter Sunday’s Manchester derby seven points (and four places) behind fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur. However, Tuesday’s Champions League triumph away to Juventus will have United feeling full of confidence when they visit the Etihad Stadium. Mourinho has been strangely quiet this week — with regards to City, not Juve — offering few, if any, words about City’s financial fair play predicament or his side’s chances. Perhaps the red half of Manchester has begun to accept the city for its newfound blueness.

As for City, what’s to dislike about a side that has dropped just two points in its last 11 games (all competitions) and has shown no signs whatsoever of dropping off from last season’s record-setting performance? Sure, Kevin De Bruyne is set to miss a couple months due to a knee injury, for the second time this season, but he’s appeared in just three league games thus far (started none — 82 total minutes), yet City have won 29 of a possible 33 points. There’s also a small matter of avenging the home loss of last season, which prevented Pep Guardiola‘s side clinching the title against its most bitter rivals.

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Kevin De Bruyne (knee), Claudio Bravo (achilles), Eliaquim Mangala (knee) | Man United — OUT: Antonio Valencia (undisclosed)


Arsenal vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Since suffering defeat in each of their first two games this season, Arsenal have fancied themselves as one of the unbeatens, winning 13 and drawing three of their 16 games since. The somewhat troubling part of those impressive numbers, though, is the fact that the three draws have all come in the Gunners’ last four games (two in the PL, one in the Europa League). On the plus side, one of those league draws came against Liverpool last weekend, signaling the Gunners might just be credible peers to title contenders once again.

Their opponents on Sunday, Wolves, have struggled in recent weeks after a strong start to the season. Three straight losses have dropped Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side to 11th in the table, and an inability to score from open play has been a key culprit. Wolves scored twice in last weekend’s 3-2 loss to Tottenham, but each tally came from the penalty spot, after being held scoreless by Watford and Brighton & Hove Albion — not exactly defensive world-beaters. Still, to be seven points and seven spots clear of the relegation zone right now, in the club’s first season back in the PL since 2012, has been a dream start everyone involved with the club would have taken back in August.

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Stephan Lichtsteiner (hamstring), Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Danny Welbeck (ankle) | Wolves — OUT: None

PL Sunday preview: Man City, Chelsea go for 11 unbeaten

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Two of the Premier League’s three remaining unbeaten sides will be in action on Sunday, when Manchester City and Chelsea attempt to match Liverpool’s 11-game unbeaten run to start the season.

[ MORE: Arsenal come back to snatch a point vs. Liverpool | Three things ]

Manchester City vs. Southampton — 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Pep Guardiola‘s side has already won twice this week — knocking off fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur on Monday, followed by a League Cup round of 16 triumph over Fulham on Thursday — and now they turn their attention to a drastically less tricky challenge in relegation-threatened Southampton, who entered the weekend stuck in 16th place. Yet again, Man City will be without world-class midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who suffered another knee injury against Fulham in just his second game back from his last knee injury. Alas, City have been incomprehensibly dominant without De Bruyne, who is yet to start a PL game this season, to the tune of a +24 goal differential after 10 games. Despite such a strong start, City are yet to put any distance between themselves and the chasing pack. Liverpool went top of the table with their draw away to Arsenal on Saturday, and the two title contenders appear destined to battle one another for the next seven months.

On the other side, it’s been more than two months since Saints last won a league game (Sept. 1), their only victory in PL play this season. What’s worse, it’s been nearly as long (more than five full games) since they last scored a goal. On the bright side, a pair of 0-0 draws have seen Saints pick up a point in back-to-back games. Manager Mark Hughes is hoping that defensive solidity will be a foundation to build upon on Sunday.

“It’s back to back clean sheets, which reinforces our feeling that defensively we’re in better shape than we have been,” he said this week. “That will help us and give us confidence at the top-end of the pitch to really go for teams because we should know that we have got good defensive capabilities.”

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Kevin De Bruyne (knee), Claudio Bravo (achilles), Eliaquim Mangala (knee) | Southampton — OUT: None

Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace — 11 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Maurizio Sarri is yet to taste PL defeat as Chelsea manager, and he’ll look to continue his fine start to life in England when 14th-place Palace visits Stamford Bridge. While his side performed well on one end of its League Cup victory over Derby County this week, he wasn’t all too pleased with how they defended against the Championship side.

“In the last match I have to say Derby played a very good match,” he said. “We played well in the offensive phase, but a lot of mistakes in the defensive phase. It’s clear we need to improve. I am used to having problems like this in the first months. In Burnley I saw a very good performance in the defensive phase. Three days after I saw a lot of mistakes. It means we are a not a continuously solid team at the moment. It’s dangerous.”

Palace are yet another side starving for goals ahead of the weekend, as they’ve played 395 minutes (Oct. 1 – all competitions) without finding the back of the net, and are winless (two draws) in their last five league games. Sunday will see Ruben Loftus-Cheek up against his former loan home, for whom he excelled and earned himself a place in the regular rotation at Chelsea.

INJURIES: Chelsea — OUT: None | Crystal Palace — OUT: Christian Benteke (knee), Scott Dann (knee)

PL Preview: Manchester City vs. Brighton

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  • Manchester City has never lost to Brighton at home
  • Brighton has not kept a clean sheet this season
  • Manchester City has dropped four points in its last 12 matches

Defending champions Manchester City don’t currently own the top spot in the Premier League standings, but Pep Guardiola just needs one slip, one stumble, one opening by Liverpool to take control. In order to do so, City needs to take care of business.

The next bit of business is a home date with Brighton & Hove Albion Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

[ WATCH LIVE: Manchester City vs. Brighton & Hove Albion ]

Manchester City has rattled off three straight wins by a combined 10-1 score since drawing with Wolves back in late August. Guardiola is still missing Kevin De Bruyne, but the Belgian will return to training soon and is expected to return to the lineup in the near future. Benjamin Mendy, Eliaquim Mangala and Claudio Bravo are all still missing, but otherwise Manchester City is at full strength.

Meanwhile, Brighton sits in the crowded bottom half of the standings and has just one win on the season, earning just two points over its last four matches. The Seagulls are missing playmaker Pascal Gross who suffered an ankle injury against Fulham, plus Dale Stephens who came off midway through Saturday’s loss to Tottenham with a hamstring injury.

Each of Brighton’s last five matches have been either draws or decided by one goal. Before this past weekend’s 2-1 loss, Brighton had staged a pair of late, two-goal comebacks.

What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on Brighton: “It’s a really good side, a good manager and they were together for a long time. They know exactly what they have to do. They are really well organized. It will be a really tough game, but we know that and we will try to do a good game.”

Brighton manager Chris Hughton on playing Manchester City: “Along with playing Liverpool away, I would say that this is the toughest game. We did okay in the Liverpool one and might’ve got a result there, so you always have to be positive going into games like this. No-one expects us to get anything from it, so that’s normal and that pressure is taken off, but we want to do as well as we can.”

Prediction

Brighton has put in a few very good performances and look a formidable opponent for anybody in the Premier League, but their defensive frailties have cost them numerous points over the last few games, and that will prove deadly against Manchester City. A few mistakes will turn into a multi-goal deficit, and this isn’t a team you can exploit late in games for a messy comeback. Pep Guardiola will earn a comfortable 2-0 victory.