Roberto Pereyra

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Messi, Suarez both score in pre-Copa America friendlies

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Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are both in typical goalscoring form as their international sides ramp up for the imminent 2019 Copa America.

Messi bagged a quickfire brace in the first half of Argentina’s 5-1 beatdown of Nicaragua, scoring in the 37th and 38th minutes to key the win. The first was a classic Messi stunner where he dribbled past nearly the entire Nicaragua defense, skipping by no less than four defenders before depositing the ball in the back of the net with ease.

His second came as Argentina went right back on the attack with Sergio Aguero rifling a shot on net that was saved by Nicaragua goalkeeper Justo Lorente, only for it to fall right at the feet of Messi who completed a sliding finish under pressure. The Barcelona superstar was withdrawn at halftime for Juventus attacker Paulo Dybala.

Overall, it was a dominating performance from Argentina, holding 67% possession and putting eight of their 19 shots on target. Electric 21-year-old Inter striker Lautaro Martinez scored a second-half brace to double Argentina’s lead, a positive sign for the country that has searched far and wide for someone to share the goalscoring load with Messi. Roberto Pereyra completed the scoreline with a late tap-in, while the back line that consisted at times of Nicolas Otamendi, Juan Foyth, and Ramiro Funes Mori held Nicaragua to a measly two total shots with zero on target until stoppage time when Juan Berrera put Nicaragua on the board from the penalty spot.

While Messi was clowning the Nicaragua back line, his Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez was on target as Uruguay had no trouble dispatching Panama 3-0. The 32-year-old came off the bench alongside Edinson Cavani in the 63rd minute and six minutes later, he dispatched a Messi-like free-kick that found the top-left corner and left Panamanian goalkeeper Luis Mejia no chance, making the game 2-0 at the time.

The Uruguay defense looked tournament-ready as well, holding Panama to just one shot on target and five overall efforts on net. The game was a foul-fest, with the sides combining to produce 43 whistles, although only one yellow card was issued. Uruguay dominated the attacking play, holding 64% of possession and earning 10 corners while Panama did not take a single one.

Argentina will begin Copa America play next Saturday as it takes on Colombia in group stage play. Uruguay, meanwhile, gets under way a day later, set to face Ecuador before a meeting with AFC guest Japan.

Man City win FA Cup, seal historic domestic treble (video)

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  • Man City first-ever English team to win domestic treble
  • Silva, Jesus, De Bruyne, Sterling score
  • Watford miss first half chances
  • 50 wins on the season for City

LONDON — Manchester City have done something no other team has managed in the history of men’s soccer in England.

Pep Guardiola‘s side beat Watford 6-0 in the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday to win complete the domestic treble, as they added the FA Cup to the League Cup and Premier League trophies they already won this season.

The winning margin also equalled the highest-ever in an FA Cup final, as Bury beat Derby County 6-0 back in 1903.

David Silva and Gabriel Jesus each scored in the first half against a spirited Watford side who missed several chances, while Kevin De Bruyne, Jesus and then Sterling (twice) all added goals in the second half to complete the rout.

City’s fans were in party mood at Wembley, as Guardiola’s men completed one of the greatest seasons in English soccer history. A sea of sky blue celebrated throughout, as the only blemish on their campaign was their agonizingly narrow UEFA Champions League quarterfinal defeat to Tottenham Hotspur.

Enjoy this City side as long as you can, because we are witnessing history on a weekly basis with them. Monday’s trophy parade in Manchester will be quite the occasion, as Guardiola’s side get to show off their silverware.

The first big chance of the game fell to City as Bernardo Silva got to the byline but his ball into the six-yard box was cleared before Jesus could pounce.

Watford then had a glorious chance to go ahead in the 11th minute as a counter attack set Roberto Pereyra clean through on goal but Ederson stood up to the last second and made a superb stop with his legs.

City controlled the tempo of the game but Watford were dangerous on the break, as another chance fell to Pereyra and he managed to scoop the ball to Abdoulaye Doucoure. His shot was blocked by Vincent Kompany as the ball deflected on his arm but no penalty kick was given by referee Kevin Friend, much to the annoyance of Watford.

David Silva then put City ahead as Raheem Sterling caused Watford problems and won a header before Silva first won another duel, then latched onto the loose ball as his shot deflected off Kiko Femenia and into the far corner to put the Premier League champions 1-0 up.

Before the break Man City doubled their lead as Bernardo Silva’s teasing ball to the back post picked out Jesus brilliantly.

With Gomes stranded in goal after coming off his line, the Brazilian striker hooked the ball goalwards  and Sterling smashed home to make sure even though the ball had already gone over the line. 2-0 to City, who had one hand on the FA Cup trophy.

Watford started brightly in the second half but Man City then hit them on the break as Gomes denied fellow Brazilian Jesus to keep the Hornets in the game.

From the resulting corner Jesus headed home but he was in an offside position, and then Watford continued to press to find a way back into the game. After Aymeric Laporte had headed wide the Hornets broke free but Deulofeu scuffed his shot harmlessly wide as it was that kind of day for Watford.

City then completed their historic feat by launching a rapid counter attack as Jesus won the ball and was then played in by Sterling before setting up De Bruyne to slot home.

De Bruyne then returned the favor as he set Jesus free and he waited until the last moment to slot home under Gomes and wheel away in delight.

Watford kept trying to push forward and that left gaps for City to exploit, as Bernardo Silva then crossed for Sterling to slot home a fifth goal.

Sterling then scored his second and City’s second as he reacted to his own shot which hit the post.

John Stones was denied a seventh late on as Gomes produced a fantastic save down low.

City could have scored a few more late on, as Guardiola’s boys completed the domestic treble with minimum fuss.

Season Review: Burnley, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Crystal Palace, Watford

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After looking over the bottom five finishers in the Premier League this season, we look through the next five teams, a smattering of clubs both happy to avoid the relegation scrap and looking to use this finish as a launching pad for the coming campaign.

[ REVIEW: Huddersfield, Fulham, Cardiff, Brighton, Saints ]

Managers in this group also could find themselves candidates for jobs down the road, and teams like Burnley, Bournemouth, and Watford may end up in a battle to keep one of their most prized possessions. How did these five teams perform this year?

Burnley

Finishing position/points total: 15 / 40pts
High point
: Eight straight unbeaten through January.
Low point
: Sitting 19th in early December with just 2 league wins

Our opinion: Burnley had a roller coaster ride this year, but Sean Dyche managed to pick the club up from 19th in early December to finish without worry over the last few months. Nailing the magic 40-point total on the nose, it’s hard to argue with where they finished given the rough first half.  
Star player
: Chris Wood
Most memorable goal
: Ashley Barnes‘ finish off an exquisite Johan Berg Gudmudsson delivery capped off an eight-match unbeaten run that defined Burnley’s season. They’d go on to lose their next four, but that stretch combined with a solid finish to the campaign gave them life and avoided a relegation battle.


Manager grade: Sean Dyche: B
Hopes for next season
: Keeping Burnley up will be the consistent goal until the club can build a financial base to challenge for a top half finish. Sean Dyche managed to meet the goal relatively comfortably this season after a rough start to the campaign, but how much longer can they keep hold of him?

Bournemouth

Finishing position/points total: 14 / 45pts
High point
: Sitting 6th in mid-October with 6 wins in the first 10 games
Low point
: A 7-game stretch through the holidays conceding 20 goals and earning just 4 points

Our opinion: It was a solid season for Bournemouth, although without the fabulous start to the season, things may have ended quite differently. After the first 11 games where lost just twice, the club picked up 25 points over a 27-match span, a relegation-type pace. Eddie Howe is a good manager who may end up at a bigger club sooner rather than later, but Bournemouth’s consistent inability to defend despite good back-line talent will give a potential suitor pause.
Star player
: Ryan Fraser
Most memorable goal
: This strike by David Brooks from outside the box helped Bournemouth to a big 2-0 win over Brighton when the Cherries were beginning to nosedive down the table.


Manager grade: Eddie Howe: C
Hopes for next season
: Bournemouth is about where they’re going to be, and survival is the perennial goal. They may be a candidate for the drop once again, but with as much firepower as they have, it shouldn’t be on the cards for them. An improvement at the back would be helpful over the summer.

Newcastle United

Finishing position/points total:
High point
: A 2-1 win over eventual champions Man City in late January, Pep Guardiola‘s final loss of the season.
Low point
: No wins in the first 10 matches of the season.

Our opinion: Rafa Benitez stumbled early after another summer of penny pinching from Mike Ashley, but he recovered enough to lift Newcastle out of the relegation battle, and convinced Ashley to splash the cash for Miguel Almiron in the winter, a move that proved positive until Almiron got hurt. Benitez is arguably the most valuable asset at the club and he did well to keep this squad out of the bottom three.
Star player
: Ayoze Perez is the team’s star goalscorer but Matt Ritchie is the man who makes the team tick.
Most memorable goal
: Matt Ritchie’s late penalty to beat Man City gave Newcastle its most famous win of the season, but Fabian Schar’s absolute howitzer to take the lead over Burnley in February is easily the stunner of the year for Newcastle. That win capped off a 6-match stretch that included four wins and just three goals conceded.


Manager grade: Rafa Benitez: A-
Hopes for next season
: If Benitez is to be believed, Newcastle has European potential, but it will take a few years to realize that potential. Should they keep Benitez around, Newcastle should be a top half contender if Ashley can be convinced to open the wallet this summer.

Crystal Palace

Finishing position/points total: 12 / 49pts
High point
: Five wins in seven to end the season, including a 3-2 win over Arsenal
Low point
: Eight games without a win through October and November

Our opinion: Aside from the brutal start to the year which saw Palace gain just nine points from their first 13 games, Crystal Palace had a very good campaign – it would have likely featured a top-half finish with a better start to the year. Ugly losses still dot the season occasionally (this is the Premier League, after all, nothing is guaranteed), but Hodgson has built this side into a consistent performer week in and week out.
Star player
: Wilfried Zaha
Most memorable goal
: Andros Townsend scored a ripper against Burnley (who seem to have been victimized plenty by great goals this season) but there is no question that his volley against Manchester City is Crystal Palace’s best of the campaign and maybe the entire Premier League this season.


Manager grade: Rod Hodgson: B-
Hopes for next season
: Crystal Palace always has the potential to end up sucked into the relegation scrap with a bad run of form, as the start to this season showed, so staying up should always be priority #1. However, with that in hand, the club should be challenging for top-half finishes if they would like to continue growing. 53 goals conceded is less than all but one club below them in the table, meaning the defense performed well, and if they can attack like they did during the run-in this season (11 goals scored against Arsenal, Cardiff, and Bournemouth) they’ll be poised to make that happen.

Watford

Finishing position/points total: 11 / 50pts
High point
: Beating Tottenham for its fourth straight win to start the season.
Low point
: Losing six of nine to finish the season.

Our opinion: At its best, Watford is a fantastic group that absorbs pressure and counters with vicious intent. At its worst, it gives up four goals to Bournemouth or West Ham. Overall, Watford did quite well this season, and while the four straight to start the season set lofty expectations that were unsustainable, finishing 11th in the Premier League is a laudable accomplishment even with the disappointing finish to the campaign.
Star player
: While Troy Deeney, Andre Gray, and Gerard Deulofeu shared the goalscoring this season, defender Craig Cathcart logged more minutes than anyone on the squad this season and bagged the winner against Tottenham early in the season.
Most memorable goal
: Watford bagged a host of good goals this season, but this brilliant solo run from Roberto Pereyra is the best of the bunch.


Manager grade: Javi Gracia: B+
Hopes for next season
: Somehow, Watford made finishing 11th appear disappointing, proof that they were strong for most of the long season. Watford even challenged for a spot in Europe before being outlasted by Wolves, so fans will hope that next season they can finish the deal and earn a top-7 spot.

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.

PL Friday Preview: West Ham, Watford looking to stay in top ten

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European competition next season may be out of reach, but a top-ten finish for West Ham and Watford is a distinct possibility as we head towards the home stretch of the regular season. This week of Premier League action is kicked off with a London derby between West Ham and Fulham and Watford visiting Cardiff City.

[READ: The 2 Robbies discuss Man City and Liverpool in the Champions League]

West Ham v. Fulham — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

One notable name that has been missing from West Ham’s lineup all season could finally be back in the gameday squad. Manager Manuel Pellegrini revealed that Argentine international Manuel Lanzini, along with Samir Nasri, could both feature in West Ham’s match against Fulham on Friday. The 26-year-old midfielder has been out ever since suffering a devastating ACL injury while in World Cup training camp with Argentina.

Whether he’s ready to go 90 minutes is unclear, but West Ham certainly needs him. The squad has lost five consecutive matches in all competitions, with just four goals scored. The strikers haven’t been able to finish very well recently, but the lack of a creative midfielder has really hurt the Irons in the most important sectors of the field.

Fulham meanwhile are in serious trouble with just 12 matches remaining. Fulham is eight points behind Cardiff City in the top spot outside of the relegation zone.

INJURIES: West Ham —  OUT: Jack Wilshere (ankle); PROBABLE: Samir Nasri (calf) | Fulham — OUT: None; PROBABLE: None


Cardiff City v. Watford — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Watford enacted a little bit of revenge last week after defeating former manager Marco Silva and Everton. This week, it’s arguably a tougher task.

Cardiff City supporters have helped will their team to three-straight victories, after the tragic plane crash carrying footballer Emiliano Sala. Cardiff has poked its head out of the relegation zone, and will be desperate for another home victory. Watford, meanwhile, is looking to solidify a place in the Premier League’s top ten.

Interestingly, all ten of Watford’s wins this season have come with Abdoulaye Doucoure in the starting eleven.

INJURIES: Cardiff City —  OUT: None; PROBABLE: None | Watford — OUT: Kiko Femenia (hamstring); PROBABLE: Roberto Pereyra (hamstring), Isaac Success (hamstring), Sebastian Prödl (hamstring and knee)