Oleksandr Zinchenko

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Rodri, Zinchenko out weeks as Man City hosts Aston Villa

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An injured champion and an under-the-radar promoted side promise intrigue as Aston Villa visits Manchester City on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium (Watch Live at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Pep Guardiola announced that Rodri will be out until at least the international break in mid-November, while knee surgery for Oleksandr Zinchenko means the Ukranian will be out for 4-5 weeks.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Those are the latest blows for City, who is already missing influential center back Aymeric Laporte until the new year.

City has lost to Norwich City and Wolves this season, so they won’t be sleeping on a Villa side which has shown itself capable of challenging anyone.

Dean Smith‘s men have been within a goal of every team that’s trumped them this season, and influential midfielder Jack Grealish has come into his own as a crafty Premier League midfielder.


Injuries/suspensions

Manchester City: OUT —  Oleksandri Zinchenko, Aymeric Laporte, Rodri.

Aston Villa: OUT — Jota, James Chester.


Probable lineups

Manchester City: Ederson, Mendy, Otamendi, Stones, Cancelo, Gundogan, De Bruyne, D. Silva, B. Silva, Sterling, Jesus.

Aston Villa: Heaton, Targett, Mings, Engels, Guilbert, Nakamba, McGinn, Hourihane, Grealish, El Ghazi, Wesley.


What they’re saying

Guardiola on thriving City star Raheem Sterling: “All the credit is to Raheem. We talk as a group, the quality of everyone helps the rest of the players. The credit is to him and the rest of the players. We dream of players getting better, month by month, season by season.”

Dean Smith on Villa’s homegrown hero Jack Grealish: “People thought that maybe [the captaincy] would be a burden for him, being a Villa fan, but from what I’ve seen he likes the responsibility and he thrives on it as well. He said to me that I haven’t seen the best of him yet.”


Prediction

On another day at another location, maybe you peg Villa to get a point or better. This City teams seems up for the challenge and the fully fit (aside from a black eye) John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi should show the way as long as they kicked the rust off at midweek. City 3-1.

Four things from the Manchester Derby

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Three more wins.

That’s all Manchester City needs to guarantee a second-straight Premier League title under Pep Guardiola following a 2-0 defeat of Manchester United on Wednesday at Old Trafford.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 0-2 Man City ]

How did City get there? A gritty first half stepped aside for a clear gulf in class.

That pregame fouling banter was more than a subplot

On Tuesday, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed that City is a kicking foul machine to limit counter attacks and Pep Guardiola responded by, and I’m paraphrasing, “We aren’t, but let’s talk after the game, bruh.”

Well, City snapped into those tackles with a little more vigor on Wednesday, willing to take yellow cards in exchange for some angry staredowns with United and its bench.

Sometimes the Manchester Derby doesn’t get the true derby vibe because neither side is known for snapping into the other with tackles, but Vincent Kompany‘s NHL-style open-ice hit to earn a first half yellow served notice that the physical play wasn’t going away.

Gundogan steps up at both ends, helps Bernardo open scoring

German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan was not at his best when City fell to Spurs in the UEFA Champions League, but he was versatile and vigorous on Wednesday at Old Trafford.

Neither David De Gea nor Luke Shaw covered themselves in glory on Bernardo Silva‘s opener, but Gundogan cued it up with a tougher-than-it-looks pass to the right side of the 18.

And with key piece Fernandinho on the bench with injury, Gundogan put forth a strong performance as a combination holding/defensive midfielder.

Zinchenko as Pep’s safer Sane

Follow me here: Twenty-two year old Oleksandr Zinchenko is not the elite-level threat presented by an in-form Leroy Sane, but he doesn’t have to be when Pep Guardiola wants to play it a little safe.

Sane attacking from the left was the key to Guardiola’s 2017-18 masterpiece, but the winger has been a less important piece given the MVP-level season of Raheem Sterling.

A capable center midfielder turned left back, what Zinchenko gives Guardiola is a relentless engine up-and-down the left who can dribble to start plays and pass as well as most on the pitch.

Just look at the matches when Zinchenko has not been available to Guardiola and witness the struggles at left back. The Ukrainian was linked with a move away from the Etihad before the season, but it seems more likely he’ll be choice A for Pep moving forward.

Pogba not enough, Rashford still stuck in rut

Both Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford are remarkable talents, but neither delivered on Wednesday relative to ability.

Pogba hit a delightful pass that could’ve been an assist if Jesse Lingard has his legs correct, and also won a few tasty free kicks, but was not the world-class talent we’ve seen so many times.

And Rashford will be a fine forward in the Premier League for a long time, but was again not the consistent force we’ve seen Romelu Lukaku be more often. Rashford has to get that experience to get there, but this was a big spot for him and he was not able to deliver the goods.

Extra things

— Raheem Sterling’s assist on the Leroy Sane insurance goal is a perfect illustration of how much he’s grown as a player. He saw the pass before we saw it on television, and still waiting that extra moment to give Sane time and the perfect weight. He’s my Player of the Year if City wins the title (Otherwise, Virgil Van Dijk).

— Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a good tactical move out of halftime to harry Man City in possession near the halfway line, but never found an answer to the introduction of Sane and Gundogan’s more than capable answer to Fernandinho’s injury.

— Jesse Lingard could’ve scored a handful of goals but his technical skills didn’t reward his utility and intelligence. He’ll sleep poorly tonight.

Man City has left back problem ahead of FA Cup, UCL, league congestion

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Pep Guardiola‘s left back options are limited for a crucial stretch which includes matches across three competitions.

Oleksandr Zinchenko limped off the pitch in Wednesday’s win over Cardiff City, and Guardiola says “it doesn’t look good” for the Ukranian’s chances to feature in this weekend’s FA Cup semifinal against Brighton and Hove Albion.

[ MORE: Weah scores Celtic winner ]

Benjamin Mendy‘s been out for much of the season and Fabian Delph is also unavailable. And, really, Guardiola has favored Zinchenko in his system. Zinchenko has gone 90 minutes in each of City’s last six Premier League matches (which is odd considering the manager appeared ready to move him).

“He is important for us,” Guardiola said. “He knows the way we want to play but it is what it is. … It happens during the season and he plays a lot of minutes, but we will find a solution. Danilo fought a lot in that position, but it is not his natural one. We will find a solution.”

It could be Aymeric Laporte, who’s played a few times at left back for City, but Guardiola loves to use the Frenchman in the middle of his defense.

City is 9-0 when Zinchenko starts this season, and the reigning champions follow up the FA Cup semi with three matches against Tottenham and a fourth versus Crystal Palace.

Insane finish sees Man City win League Cup in penalties

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  • Man City wins sixth League Cup
  • Chelsea fails to put shot on target
  • Kepa refuses to sub off before PKs

After 120 minutes of scoreless play, the League Cup Final between Chelsea and Manchester City went down to penalty kicks.

A series of penalties with chaos embedded in them due to a bust-up between Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri and goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga after the latter refused to sub out of the match in extra time.

Raheem Sterling‘s penalty ultimately clinched Manchester City’s sixth League Cup.

[ MORE: Lineups, play-by-play, box score ]

The start was tame, save a Sergio Aguero shot that was stopped by Kepa Arrizabalaga but headed wide of the goal.

The play lived in Chelsea’s end, but the Blues dealt well with the danger en route to a pair of late free kicks. Nicolas Otamendi nearly turned one inside his own goal, and a corner on the last breath of the half was blocked by Oleksandr Zinchenko.

[ MORE: Man Utd-Liverpool recap | 3 Things from OT ]

Eden Hazard earned a breakaway early in the second half only to be caught and tackled by Otamendi.

Aguero had the ball in the goal but was offside in the 56th.

Hazard blazed down the left wing again in the 66th minute, meeting a Willian and long ball and cooking Vincent Kompany before cutting back for N'Golo Kante. The Frenchman flew his chance over the goal.

Chelsea kept coming. Willian set up Ross Barkley for a curling effort with a bit too much loft to threaten Ederson.

Antonio Rudiger was fortunate to see yellow after a pair of fouls helped Man City to a 73rd minute free kick, the latter a scissoring tackle of the ball.

Hazard cued up Pedro for a prime 76th minute chance, but the Spaniard chose to pass rather than shoot and Zinchenko cut it out.

Ederson stopped a whipped Willian free kick in stoppage time, and Chelsea had a corner kick to avoid extra time. City handled it well enough.

Extra time was tame into the second frame, when Sterling danced down the end line and Chelsea defended desperately to force just a corner kick.

A sloppy sequence in the 117th minute allowed Aguero a shot from 20 yard that Arrizabalaga dove to control.

Then, with penalty kicks looming and Arrizabalaga twice down injured, Maurizio Sarri went apopletic when the keeper refused to come off for Wily Caballero. The sub board was up, but Arrizabalaga wouldn’t leave!

To kicks.

Jorginho‘s tame first effort was saved by Ederson. The next shots were goals.

Arrizabalaga then guessed correctly on Sergio Aguero, but the Argentine’s shot went through his gloves. After Emerson finished for Chelsea, Arrizabalaga saved Leroy Sane’s hit.

Then David Luiz hammered the goal post.

Kompany: Liverpool among “those games you live for”; Pep on KDB status

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The whistle’s echoes at St. Mary’s had hardly given way to applause when Manchester City turned its attention to a monumental match of this Premier League season.

[ RECAP: Saints 1-3 Man City ]

The reigning champions, seven points off of first place, meet league leaders Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

“It is one of those key games you live for,” said City captain Vincent Kompany. “Every living soul that comes into the stadium on Thursday has to be ready to fight and give it to them, and we should be able to pull everything out of the locker for that game.”

Kompany said City “bounced back brilliant” from losses to Leicester City and Crystal Palace, and that the side is playing with something it rarely has a legit claim to: a chip on its shoulder.

“Our pride has been hurt over the last few weeks but we have everything to play for and it depends on us.”

Man City boss Pep Guardiola said Kevin De Bruyne‘s absence was injury-related and that it won’t be long-term. That said, KDB may not be available for Liverpool.

He also credit Oleksandr Zinchenko for not folding after committing a horrible pass leading directly to Saints’ only goal.