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World Cup Group G Preview: England, Belgium, Panama, Tunisia

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Belgium: Another European power in a top-heavy group, Roberto Martinez has one of the toughest jobs at the World Cup. Despite a roster exploding with world-class talent, a host of managers have tried and failed to get Belgium to play to its potential. Is this the year the country’s “Golden Generation” pans out, or will they disappoint yet again? READ FULL TEAM PREVIEW

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Panama: An aging squad has struggled mightily in the run-up to this summer’s big dance, and Panama heads to Russia with a monumental task of making it out of a very difficult group. Can they score enough goals to topple the giants? READ FULL TEAM PREVIEW

Tunisia: The Eagles have some bright talent ready to represent the flag, but some of the bigger names on Tunisia’s side are either injured or struggling to prove their fitness. It will be difficult for them to make any noise in Group G. READ FULL TEAM PREVIEW

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


Who’s going through: England and Belgium

 [ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

Who’s going home: Panama and Tunisia

Marquee match: England vs. Belgium, June 28 in Kalinigrad

Top 5 players to watch
1) Harry Kane — England
2) Eden Hazard — Belgium
3) Raheem Sterling — England
4) Wahbi Khazri — Tunisia
5) Romelu Lukaku — Belgium

Sterling to sign new contract, but not until after World Cup

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For all the money that Manchester City have spent to assemble this season’s Premier League champions — the records for points won and goals scored — Pep Guardiola and Co. are prepared to spend tens of millions more to keep the current squad together.

[ MORE: Neymar told PSG teammates he won’t be back next season ]

Given the relative youthfulness of the current Man City squad (average age of players who made more than 15 PL appearances this season: 26.6 years old), many of the club’s standout stars will sign two or three — maybe even four, in a few special cases — new contracts should they spend the rest of their respective careers at the Etihad Stadium.

Kevin De Bruyne was first to sign a six-year deal back in January, leaving the likes of Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane the most likely to be similarly handsomely rewarded between now and the start of the 2018-19 season in August. Ilkay Gundogan, Ederson and Bernardo Silva are pretty safe bets to sign improved contracts next summer.

[ MORE: Conte says Chelsea better off now than when he arrived ]

According to Guardiola, while Sterling, who has amassed 18 goals and 11 assists in 32 PL appearances this season, is next on the list to be rewarded for his spectacular contributions, negotiations are likely to be put on hold until after next month’s World Cup — quotes from the Guardian:

“The club, the chairman [Khaldoon al-Mubarak] and myself want him to stay a long time, renew his contract but we are going on holiday in a few days.”

Sterling’s current contract, which has just two years remaining after this season, is believed to pay the 23-year-old somewhere in the neighborhood of $230,000 per week. Don’t be surprised when his next deal crosses the $300,000 threshold.

Man City 5-0 Swans: Royal blowout

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  • Swans give guard of honor
  • Four different goal scorers
  • Fabianski saves PK

Five different players scored as Manchester City hammered Swansea City 5-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Fans flooded the pitch after the final whistle, many congregating around a surprised Benjamin Mendy in his return from injury.

Kevin De Bruyne scored the highlight reel goal, with David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, and Bernardo Silva also scoring for the Premier League champions in their first match since sealing the title through a Manchester United loss to West Brom.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Man City put together another brilliant team goal to open the scoring, with Kevin De Bruyne playing Raheem Sterling toward the end line and David Silva burying Sterling’s cutback in the 12th minute.

Sterling made it 2-0 in the 16th minute, capping off a 1-2 between Fabian Delph and David Silva with a back post tap-in.

Lukasz Fabianski caught a curling effort from Bernardo Silva as the match reached the half hour mark. He’d stop De Bruyne two minutes later.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

De Bruyne scored an otherworldly goal from 25 yards in the 54th minute.

Swansea almost had an answer through Ki Sung-yeung’s corner kick, but Alfie Mawson headed over the bar.

Federico Fernandez conceded a penalty kick to Sterling, and Jesus saw his chance saved by Fabianski. That didn’t stop Bernardo Silva from carving a rebound goal for 4-0.

Benjamin Mendy made his long-awaited return from injury with a 75th minute substitution for Delph.

Fellow substitute Phil Foden took a play started by Yaya Toure and nearly found an assist when Fabianski caught Jesus’ header.

Jesus got his goal when he popped Toure’s scooped past over Fabianski in the 88th.

Who has improved the most under Guardiola at Man City?

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Which three players have benefited the most from Pep Guardiola‘s guidance this season?

We won’t take the cheap way out and ride young players who looked set for breakout campaigns for any manager — Looking at you, Leroy Sane — though certainly Guardiola has played major roles in their development.

MORE: Ranking each Man City player out of 10
MORE: Jose Mourinho reacts to City’s title
MORE: The Opta numbers behind the title

MORE: Twitter reaction to title win

There are a few to monitor moving forward as the reach a second or third season in Guardiola’s system. Consider Kyle Walker and John Stones, English players who have had fits and starts to life in sky blue.

— Sergio Aguero — Follow us here. Yes, Aguero has long been one of the most prolific strikers in the world, but it’d be short-sighted to forget that Guardiola was talking up how much better the Argentine could be inside of his system (and was even rumored for a transfer away from City during Pep’s first season). At 29 years old, Aguero is in the midst of his best PL scoring campaign in terms of rate — 21 goals in 25 matches — and his production in all comps is his best since the 2014-15 season. Again, he’s 29 and supposed to be getting less done.

— Fernandinho — Unheralded on City’s lightning unit and derided by opponents as a hatchet man, the Brazilian is in the midst of his best season in the Premier League since his debut campaign in 2013-14. He’s currently completing more than 90 percent of his passes for the first time in his career, and owning the air with 2.7 aerials won per game (also tops for his career). His clearances are on the rise as well.

Raheem Sterling — There is question as to whether the youngster will ever be a truly elite finisher, but his electric skill set was so much more than pace this season. Sterling’s positional awareness and even his long-suffering second touch improved as Guardiola coaxed 17 goals and eight assists out of the 23-year-old. Sterling has 10 more goals and two more assists than any of his previous four PL campaigns.

BONUS: David Silva is having an incredible campaign, but it’s hard to say one of the best attackers in club and possibly country history is improving. What Pep has done, however, is supplied a system meant to open up the field for players of Silva’s ilk. It’s worked: Silva has equaled his second-best goal production numbers since 2011-12.

Top 10 moments: Man City’s PL title-winning season

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Though Manchester City clinched the 2017-18 Premier League title on Sunday, thanks to Manchester United’s 1-0 loss to West Bromwich Albion, Pep Guardiola‘s squad still strives to reach the 100-point mark before season’s end.

[ MORE: PST’s latest coverage of Man City’s title win ]

While their quest to be dubbed the best PL side of all time will continue next weekend, we stop to appreciate and relive the top 10 moments of their title-winning season (so far)…

10. 96′ vs. Bournemouth — Aug. 26 — Sterling’s late winner — Raheem Sterling scoring late, game-winning goals (all in the 84th minute or later) would become a recurring theme of the first half of the season.

9. 84′ vs. Huddersfield — Nov. 26 — Sterling does it again

8. 95′ vs. Southampton — Nov. 29 — Sterling, again… again

[ MORE: Ranking the impact of each City player this season ]

7. 16-0 in back-to-back-to-back weeks — Sept. 9-Sept.23 — An unstoppable force — Liverpool (more on that game a little later), Watford and Crystal Palace were on the wrong end of City’s most dominant, ruthless run of a the season: a three-game stretch which saw them soar by a combined score of 16-0 (it would then be extended to 24-2 over the three ensuing games, thanks in large part to a 7-2 thrashing of Stoke City three weeks later).

6. Newcastle United 0-1 Man City — Dec. 27 — 18 straight wins — City’s PL-record 18-game winning streak began on Aug. 26 and didn’t end until New Year’s Eve (a span of 127 day before points dropped). The unbeaten start would go on another two weeks before ending at 22 games with a thrilling defeat away to Liverpool two weeks into the new year.

[ MORE: Twitter reacts to City winning Premier League title ]

5. Chelsea 0-1 Man City — Sept. 30 — Title credentials established — Ahead of their trip to Stamford Bridge, City entered the weekend top of the table but level on points with Man United and only three ahead of their Week 7 foes, Chelsea. The overall performance was utterly dominant (17 shots to 4; 6 on target to 2), but the result remained in doubt for more than an hour, until Kevin De Bruyne bagged the game’s only goal, a fantastic solo effort, in the 67 minute.

4. Tottenham 1-3 Man City — April 14 — The final win — In total control from the first to final whistles, City breezed past Tottenham to move to within three points of the title.

3. Man United 1-2 Man City — Dec. 10 — Derby delight at Old Trafford — Winning away in the Manchester derby would have been the defining moment of City’s season in years and decades gone by. Now, it’s little more than a footnote in a throughly brilliant season.

[ MORE: Mourinho reacts to United’s loss, City’s title win ]

2. Man United 0-1 West Brom — April 15 — Friendly neighbors — A day after beating Tottenham, and a week after blowing a 2-0 lead against their neighbors in red (for just their second loss of the season), all Man United need was a point against last-place and all-but-relegated West Bromwich Albion, but Jose Mourinho’s men fell flat on their face. Thus, City were officially champions.

1. Man City 5-0 Liverpool — Sept. 9 — Destruction of the Reds — Liverpool looked like genuine title contenders through their first three games (the trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino had just combined to thrash Arsenal to the tune of 4-0 one game earlier, and Philippe Coutinho was yet to even make his 2017-18 debut), but the Reds’ trip to the Etihad Stadium brought about an entirely different reality: City were of another universe entirely. They did it against 10 men following Mane’s early sending-off for a boot to the face of Ederson, but they were never more ruthless than that day in early September.