John Stones

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Guardiola praises Liverpool; injury update

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With the Premier League games coming thick and fast as midweek action now takes center stage, Premier League managers have been giving us injury updates on Monday and Pep Guardiola has praised Liverpool.

Pep Guardiola has doffed his cap to Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool once again, as the Reds have now moved 16 points clear of second-place Man City and have a game in hand on the reigning Premier League champions.

“We can’t deny Liverpool are extraordinary,” Guardiola said. “But everyday I live thinking about what we can do better. Some games are good, we concede few. We have scored more than Liverpool. I don’t have stats here but we concede more chances and drop points.”

In short from Pep: Damn, we should have signed more, and better, defenders this summer. Oh, and the injury to Aymeric Laporte was unlucky.

Guardiola has confirmed that Laporte is close to a return to fitness after the silky French center back missed the last four months with a knee injury. He also confirmed that both John Stones and Benjamin Mendy are doubtful for the trip to Sheffield United on Wednesday (Watch live, 2:30 p.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

That starts our quick round up of injury news around the Premier League ahead of the midweek games…

  • Chelsea boss Frank Lampard said that Reece James has avoided a serious knee injury after coming off against Newcastle. He could play against Arsenal (Watch live, 3:15 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) and Marcos Alonso is also back in the squad. 
  • Mikel Arteta said that Sokratis will not play at Chelsea due to illness, while Sead Kolasinac and Reiss Nelson will both be out until early February.
  • Carlo Ancelotti confirmed that star Brazilian attacker Richarlison will miss their clash against Newcastle United on Tuesday (Watch live, 2:30 p.m. ET online via NBCSports.com) as he continues to recover from a knee injury. 
  • Newcastle’s injury woes continue as both Jetro Willems and Paul Dummett have been ruled out for the rest of the season. Willems has ruptured his ACL after falling awkwardly in the 1-0 win against Chelsea. The Magpies will have to do some business in January to patch up their squad.
  • Southampton look set to be without Jan Bednarek for their trip to Crystal Palace on Tuesday (Watch live, 2:30 p.m. ET online via NBCSports.com). The Polish center back, who has started every single PL game this season, has an Achilles injury. Palace welcome back Max Meyer as he’s recovered from an ankle injury caused by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s lunging tackle.
  • Bournemouth could have Lloyd Kelly back after his lengthy injury, as the Cherries take on South Coast rivals Brighton in a massive game at the bottom of the table.

Watch Live: Aston Villa v. Manchester City

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Manchester City bids to move back into second place in the Premier League when it visits Aston Villa on Sunday. (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Danny Drinkwater will make his Villa Park debut in a midfield with Douglas Luiz and Conor Hourihane.

[ STREAM: Aston Villa v. Man City ]

Aston Villa enters the day in the Bottom Three and will finish there without an upset of City, who passes Leicester City with a draw or win.

Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus both start for Man City, as John Stones is fit to partner with Fernandinho in the the back line.

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Aston Villa

Man City

Port Vale striker Pope got cold shoulder from Stones

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Following Manchester City’s 4-1 victory over League Two side Port Vale on Saturday, the City players invited their opponents into the locker room.

The move was a kind gesture of friendship after a hard-fought match given the gulf between the two sides, but Port Vale striker Tom Pope, who scored his side’s only goal in the match, revealed not all his interactions were cordial, including one relatively cold one.

Pope wrote on Twitter last summer about Stones, “Just watched the highlights of the England game! I know I’m a league 2 player, I know he plays for England, I know he’s on £150k a week, I know he’s a million times better player than me but I’d love to play against John Stones every week! I’d get 40 a season! #soft

That came to the forefront when Pope scored to level the match in the first half, a fabulously flicked header with his body tracking away from goal. He wasn’t directly matched up with Stones – it was actually Man City youngster Taylor Harwood-Bellis he beat on the play – but the moment was enough to send fans into a frenzy about Pope’s comments months earlier.

When asked about any potential interaction between the two in the locker room after the match, Pope confirmed his counterpart still harbors hard feelings about it all. “They all dragged me in, the Man City players, but John wouldn’t speak to me,” the 34-year-old said. “It was a little bit awkward. I shook his hand but he wasn’t too happy.”

And if you weren’t sure Pope was joking about his 40-goal comment from the summer, he’s doubled down after the match, just to pile it on.

“It was only banter and people have dug it up because we’ve drawn Man City,” Pope said after the match. “All of a sudden it’s everywhere and people have been on my case about it. He’s a world-class centre-half. I was just saying he wasn’t very physical and that’s it. If people think I’m wrong, well, I don’t care. I spoke to [Benjamin] Mendy and he said all their players had battered him for weeks about it and they got him that wound up about it, and then obviously I’ve scored and he’s probably devastated.”

Mendy, a known prankster, apparently waited for Pope after the match to take a selfie for their group chat, which Pope joked on Twitter was the “highlight of my day.”

Premier League Preview: Manchester City v. Everton

Premier League Preview: Manchester City v. Everton
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Everton looks to continue its upswing when Carlo Ancelotti leads his Toffees into the Etihad Stadium to meet Manchester City (Watch Live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

It’s been 3-1 in favor of Man City the previous two meetings, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin scoring the lone Everton goal in each contest.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Calvert-Lewin has scored five times in his last five matches, growing in form and confidence for the improving Toffees.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

City is a point back of Leicester City for second in the Premier League, while Everton’s 25 points are 10 back of fourth place.


Injuries/suspensions

Man City: OUT — Aymeric Laporte, Leroy Sane. QUESTIONABLE — David Silva, John Stones.

Everton: OUT — Andre Gomes, Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Alex Iwobi, Morgan Schneiderlin.


Probable lineups

Man City: Ederson, Zinchenko, Stones, Fernandinho, Walker; Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Sterling, Bernardo, Aguero

Everton: Pickford, Baines, Holgate, Keane, Sidibe, Delph, Sigurdsson, Richarlison, Iwobi, Tosun, Calvert-Lewin.


What they’re saying

Guardiola on Ancelotti’s appointment at Everton: “I was with him, it was an honor to be with him a few times, dinner and talk, Uefa meetings and private dinners. He is an incredible gentleman. He conducts one of the greatest and more experienced teams in Europe, the list is huge and when that happens it is because you are an incredible manager. I think it is incredible news for English football he is back and I think he can make an incredible job there.”

Ancelotti on Man City’s table problems: “Liverpool have won all of the games. That is why (Man City trail). It is a fantastic run but maybe Man City aren’t at the same level as last year. That’s the difference. They remain a fantastic team with fantastic players and a fantastic manager. It’ll be a tough test but we need confidence to compete and focus on our football.”


Prediction

Ancelotti’s men will be up for a fight like they were last time these two teams met under Marco Silva. We’ll shave a goal off that scoreline and say 2-1 to the hosts.

Premier League Preview: Wolves v. Man City

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  • Man City (38 points) sit 3rd in PL table
  • Wolves (27 points) sit 8th
  • Last meeting: Man City 0-2 Wolves

At this point, there is virtually no race for the Premier League title, as Liverpool should waltz to their first domestic crown since 1990. Pep Guardiola has even said so himself. If the Reds were to slip up, however, the onus would then fall on Manchester City to make things interesting.

While the likelihood of Liverpool falling short seems unlikely given their current record-setting pace, Man City can move back into second place and cut the gap between the two sides to 11 points with a win over Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux Stadium on Friday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

As for Wolves, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side can climb as high as fifth with a victory over the two-time defending champions. After starting the season slowly (no wins from their first six game — 0W-4D-2L), last season’s seventh-place finishers are back for another crack at the PL’s top-six. This time — thanks to Arsenal’s horrid struggles, Tottenham Hotspur’s regression and Manchester United’s continued mediocrity — Wolves look the best bet to become the first side to break into the top-six since Leicester City won the title in 2016.

Injuries/suspensions

Man City: OUT – John Stones (hamstring), David Silva (leg), Aymeric Laporte (knee), Leroy Sane (knee)

Wolves: OUT – Willy Boly (ankle), Morgan Gibbs-White (back)


Projected lineups

Man City: Ederson — Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Mendy — Rodrigo, Gundogan — Mahrez, De Bruyne, Sterling — Jesus

Wolves: Patricio — Dendoncker, Coady, Saiss — Doherty, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny — Traore, Jimenez, Jota


What they’re saying

Guardiola, on Liverpool’s form: “When a team has 16 victories from 17 [games], it’s unrealistic to think we are going to chase them. It’s unrealistic right now. We have to try to win our games, secure Champions League for next season and then you never know, no? ‘If they drop a couple of games, and we win and win, I don’t know. When one team lose one game in the last 53 or 54, I’m not optimistic that they are going to lose four or five in ten or eleven games because they are incredibly strong.”

Nuno, on a packed schedule: “It’s going to be very tough, I think all of the managers are concerned and rightly so. I’m particularly concerned because I’ve been saying this; the schedule doesn’t make sense, it’s absurd. For all the teams. Of course, there are teams that have three days [between matches], but I don’t know the particular reason why it’s us as Wolves who have less hours, but it’s a concern for all the managers and for all the players. We have to survive. We have to survive. Let’s see what happens. We will train tomorrow, then we prepare to play Man City, and we’ll see. Let’s try and survive.”


Prediction

After a brief period of up-and-down results, Man City looked to be back to their best in dismantling Leicester City last weekend. Now, Sergio Aguero is back in action after missing four games due to a thigh injury, which makes Wolves’ task that much taller. However, if there’s a side that’s built to react and counter against 60 percent of possession, as City will have, it might be Wolves. It’ll be a challenge for City, but they’ll come out on top in the end. Wolves 1-2 Man City.