Can Manchester City stop Jose Mourinho's all-conquering Chelsea?

19 September, 2014

'Fortress Etihad' it has been known for many years.

Home form has been the basis of Manchester City's two league winning seasons. In 2011/12 only Sunderland left Eastlands with any points and last season City only dropped four points at home. However, there is one manager who feels right at home at the Etihad and, unfortunately for City, that man is Jose Mourinho.

Mourinho's Chelsea were the only team to beat City on home soil last season, although Sunderland were a matter of minutes from securing an improbable win, and the Blues have continued a cycle of dominance for their manager at the Etihad. Since a 1-0 defeat to City in October 2004, the Portuguese has had an almost immaculate record in the blue half of Manchester.

In charge of Chelsea, Mourinho scored 1-0 victories in 2005, 2007 and 2014 while picking up a 1-1 draw in the Champions League while in charge of Real Madrid. The only blot on his impressive copybook was a 2-0 defeat to the Sky Blues in last season's FA Cup.

The two teams will go head-to-head again on Sunday (September 21st) with Chelsea perched on top of the Premier League with a 100 per cent record thus far. City have yet to hit top form in their start to the new campaign and have already been breached at home, losing 1-0 to Stoke City.

Both sides come into the game on the back of disappointing results in the Champions League. City battled hard against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena but were downed in the last minute by a long range effort from former defender Jerome Boateng. Chelsea also toiled on home turf against Schalke 04, only managing to secure a 1-1 draw against the German side.

While the Blues have stuttered in the Champions League, they have been imperious in the Premier League, winning all four of their opening games. Chelsea have been involved in some enthralling encounters so far winning 6-3 against Everton at Goodison Park and beating Swansea City 4-2 at home.

Mourinho and City manager Manuel Pellegrini have injury concerns ahead of Sunday's encounter. Chelsea will be sweating on the fitness of striker Diego Costa who was on the bench for Tuesday's game against Schalke. The Spaniard has been in inspired form so far this season hitting seven goals in just four games.

Pellegrini will once again be without new signing Fernando, who is ruled out with a groin injury, while Stevan Jovetic could make a return to the side. The City boss will be hoping Yaya Toure is fully recovered after looking off the pace against Bayern during the week.

The game also sees City midfielder Frank Lampard line up against his former side for the first time.

Jerome Boateng hits last minute winner to down Manchester City

18 September, 2014

A last minute strike from Bayern Munich's Jerome Boateng condemned Manchester City to a 1-0 defeat in their opening Champions League group game.

City returned to the scene of their 3-2 victory last season but were unable to repeat the result despite the heroics of goalkeeper Joe Hart.

The England number one kept the five-time European champions at bay with a string of magnificent saves but was finally beaten by former City defender Boateng in the dying minutes. Sergio Aguero had a glorious chance to equalise with seconds remaining but skewed his shot wide, handing Bayern the victory.

City arrived at the Allianz Arena hot on the heels of a pulsating 2-2 draw against Arsenal but it was Bayern who started stronger. The Bavarians flew out the blocks and could have been 1-0 up within a matter of seconds when German international Thomas Muller rounded Hart but could only hit the side netting off balance.

It became a pattern of the first half with Muller, Boateng and Mario Gotze all seeing attempts thwarted by the City goalkeeper. David Alaba was the next to see his effort denied by Hart with the Austrian driving a fierce shot from the edge of the area but was excellently parried behind.

City manager Manuel Pellegrini, banned from the touchline following a suspension picked up from the Barcelona match last season, opted to start with Edin Dzeko up front ahead of Aguero. His decision almost paid dividends when the Bosnian bent a shot just past Manuel Neuer's post. Defender Bacary Sagna saw a header saved by Neuer off the following corner.

Bayern dominated the midfield throughout with Alaba and Xabi Alonso able to take advantage of a Yaya Toure struggling with fitness. As City tired, Bayern sensed a victory and the goal eventually came from the boot of Boateng.

After City failed to clear a corner, the defender gathered a bouncing ball and sent a rasping shot, which took a slight deflection off Gotze, into the top corner of the net. It was harsh on a hard-working City but it is a lesson they must learn if they are to progress from the group.

Qualification from Group E will not be straightforward with rivals Roma laying down a marker for the rest of the group. The Italians opened their campaign with a 5-1 demolition of CSKA Moscow and City will be tested to their fullest when Roma visit the Etihad Stadium on September 30th.

Manchester City prepare for Bayern Munich test

17 September, 2014

Manchester City kick off their Champions League campaign in Germany this evening (September 17th) as they renew acquaintances with Bayern Munich.

It is the third time in four seasons City have met Bayern in the Champions League group stages and they will be looking to draw inspiration from their 3-2 victory last time they visited the Allianz Arena. City finished runners-up to Bayern in last year's group stages and were eventually knocked out in the last 16 by Barcelona.

Despite their strong domestic performance, City have yet to match these heights in the Champions League. They were unable to get out of the group in both the 2011/12 and 2013/14 season and were vastly outplayed by Barcelona last campaign. However, a positive result in Munich this evening will give them confidence to top the group and avoid the big guns in knockout rounds.

Bayern have once again set off in blistering form in the Bundesliga collecting seven points from their first three games. However, the Bavarians face somewhat of an injury crisis heading into the match against City. They will be without Franck Ribery while fellow winger Arjen Robben is also a doubt.

Ribery joins World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thiago Alcantara, Rafinha and Javi Martinez on the sidelines. Centre back Holger Badstuber is also set for a lengthy spell on the treatment table after tearing a thigh muscle tendon during a 2-0 at home win over Stuttgart on Saturday (September 14th).

City have selection concerns of their own with Stevan Jovetic and right-back Pablo Zabaleta both ruled out. Assistant manager Ruben Cousillas confirmed that Jovetic has failed to recover from a knee injury sustained during the 2-2 draw with Arsenal while Zabaleta is serving a suspension after being sent off during the Barcelona match last season.

The Allianz Arena brings back both good and bad memories for City. It was the scene of the infamous falling out between then manager Roberto Mancini and striker Carlos Tevez in 2011. With City already 2-0 down thanks to two strikes from Mario Gomez, substitute Tevez defied Mancini's instructions to warm up and was subsequently frozen out of the team.

City fans will have fonder memories of their trip to the Allianz last season when goals from David Silva, Aleksander Kolarov and James Milner overturned a 2-0 deficit to give the English side a 3-2 victory.

However, the game will be remembered for manager Manuel Pellegrini's admission that he was not aware that a 4-2 scoreline would have meant City topped the group and avoided a last 16 meeting with Barcelona.

Bayern were hot favourites to retain their Champions League crown in 2014 but were unceremoniously dumped out of the competition at the semi-final stage by eventual winners Real Madrid. The Bavarians narrowly lost 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu before being embarrassed 4-0 on home soil thanks to two goals each from Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Jonathan Trott ready for England return

17 September, 2014

Jonathan Trott is ready for a return to international cricket, ten months after withdrawing from the England team with a stress-related condition.

The Warwickshire batsman has not featured for England since leaving the winter Ashes tour in November but he believes he is ready for a return. Despite not being included in the latest batch of contracts handed out by the England and Wales Cricket Board, Trott says that he has rediscovered his hunger for international cricket.

Trott has been in good form for Warwickshire over the summer. It has helped to detract from a false comeback in April which saw him once again take a break from the sport after experiencing the same anxiety condition which put him out in Australia. Since June Trott has made four centuries, two of them coming in the One-Day Cup, helping to guide the Bears to another Lord's final.

His County Championship performances have also been impressive scoring 524 first-class runs over the summer. He has maintained an average of 40.30, scoring two centuries and one 50. Thanks to 486 runs in eight One-Day Cup innings, Trott will be walking out at Lord's on Saturday (September 20th) as the Bears take on Durham looking to add another accolade to their T20 Blast title.

Trott has highlighted his form for Warwickshire as being one of the key factors in rediscovering his appetite for international cricket. He explains that he is now enjoying his cricket once again but admitted that it will depend on selection as to whether he will break back into the England team.

Speaking to BBC WM, the Warwickshire batsman said: "Whatever comes along with regards to selection, maybe. I'm not putting too much pressure on myself.

"I've been feeling good for a while now. It's been great going back to Warwickshire. The last couple of months with Warwickshire have been fantastic."

England's form since Trott's departure has been fairly poor with the recent Test series win over India relieving a huge amount of pressure on captain Alastair Cook. Prior to the victory over India England had gone ten matches without a win, stretching back to the summer Ashes Test.

Gary Ballance has been the man to step into the void left by Trott in recent matches but the right-hander is looking to focus on his county career in the short-term. This decision could open the door for a Trott return.

Liverpool return to Champions League action against Ludogorets

16 September, 2014

Liverpool face a step into the unknown as they take on Ludogorets Razgrad in their first appearance in the Champions League since 2009.

The Reds face the Bulgarian champions at Anfield this evening (September 16th) and manager Brendan Rodgers says he will treat Ludogorets as if they were Group B rivals Real Madrid. Rodgers has already outlined his ambitions for the competition stating that he wants Liverpool to be "at the elite level" and build on their impressive European pedigree.

Liverpool have lifted the European Cup five times in their history but have failed to make the Champions League since they were knocked out at the group stages in 2009. However, a second placed finish in last season's Premier League sees them return to the competition they last won in 2005.

Their opponents Ludogorets were only formed in 2001 but have progressed dramatically in their short history. They become just the second Bulgarian side to reach the Champions League group stages, after Levski Sofia, and did so after a dramatic play-off win against Steaua Bucharest.

The game saw defender Cosmin Moti save two shootout penalties after goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov was sent off.

Liverpool will be aware of further slip ups after a stuttering start to the Premier League season which has seen lose twice already including a 1-0 home defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday.

Arsenal are also in Champions League action on Tuesday as they travel to Germany to renew old acquaintances with 2012 finalists Borussia Dortmund. The two met last season with Dortmund winning 2-1 at the Emirates before a single Aaron Ramsey goal gave the Gunners a 1-0 victory at Signal Iduna Park.

Arsene Wenger's men travel to North Rhine-Westphalia in the midst of an injury crisis. Full backs Mathieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal are both out while centre back Calum Chambers is also a doubt. Kieran Gibbs is expected to start in place of Monreal while Chambers could deputise for Debuchy if fit.

Dortmund are no strangers to injury problems themselves with the Germans without the likes of Marco Reus, Mats Hummels, Nuri Sahin, Ilkay Gundogan and Jakub Blaszczykowski. However, they have been boosted by the return of Shinji Kagawa, a deadline day signing from Manchester United. The Japanese starred in a 3-1 win over Freiburg over the weekend, scoring on his second debut.

Elsewhere, Manchester City travel to Bayern Munich and Chelsea are at home to Schalke 04 with both matches being played on Wednesday (September 17th). Defending champions Real Madrid start their campaign at home to FC Basel while last year's finalist Atletico Madrid faced an away tie against Olympiakos.

Billy Horschel wins the Tour Championship

15 September, 2014

Billy Horschel won the Tour Championship with an overall -11 score at the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia.

The American edged out Jim Furyk and Rory McIlroy to take the title along with the first prize of £880,000 and the £6 million FedEx Cup. While Horschel impressed, firing his 12th consecutive round in the 60s to claim the championship, McIlroy will be looking back on the competition as a 'what could have been' moment.

Currently the world number one and winner of both The Open and the US PGA Tour, McIlroy went into the Tour Championship full of confidence and was the overnight co-leader going into the final day. On what is described as the richest day in golf, McIlroy failed to make his advantage count and wilted in Atlanta.

His day got off to a shaky start with a double bogey on the sixth and it only got worse for the Northern Irishman with three consecutive bogeys from the ninth. He managed to pull it back towards the end as he finished his round three successive birdies and a par. However, it was not enough to match Horschel's -11 as McIlroy finished on -7.

Following the tournament, McIlroy was in a reflective mood: "It was a week too far. I was making mistakes that I don't normally make. But Billy deserved it. He played the best golf."

McIlroy has had a packed schedule of late competing in eight tournaments in the space of ten weeks. Along the way he has collected two majors and has been eyeing a Grand Slam of titles with a win at the Masters Tournament completing the set for the world number one.

For Horschel, however, it was a career defining moment. He described the win as "unbelievable" as he battled the odds to claim an unforgettable victory. The 27-year-old came into the opening play-off tournaments for the FedEx Cup ranked 60th in the world but performed well at the Deutsche Bank Championship, finishing second, before winning the BMW Championship in Denver.

He continued this form at Atlanta taking the Tour Championship title as well as a cheque for £6.2 million for winning the FedEx Cup bonus.

Elsewhere, England's Justin Rose finished fourth with an overall score of -7 while Chris Kirk and Australia's Jason Day claimed fifth and sixth spot respectively after rounds of -6. Ryan Palmer and Rickie Fowler made up the rest of the top eight.

Premier League Preview: Welbeck in line for Arsenal debut, Man Utd signings eager to shine

12 September, 2014

Danny Welbeck could be in line to make his Arsenal debut against Premier League champions Manchester City at the Emirates in Saturday's lunchtime kick-off.

The 23-year-old completed a surprise £16 million move from Manchester United on deadline day and impressed while on international duty on Monday, bagging both goals in England's 2-0 win over Switzerland.

That performance may well hand the striker a place in the starting line-up for Arsenal as they look to keep in touch with the early title pacesetters.

They welcome a Manchester City side looking to return to winning ways after a limp and uninspiring performance saw them fall to a shock 1-0 home defeat to Stoke City before the international break.

The last time the two sides met, Manuel Pellegrini's men were convincingly beaten in the Community Shield, although onlookers are unlikely to read too much into that result as the Chilean's player selection is expected to be very different to the one at Wembley.

Manchester United were also busy in the summer, capturing Colombian forward Radamel Falcao on deadline day to add to an impressive haul of new talent for Louis van Gaal's men.

The Dutchman looks to have all the tools in place to employ his favoured 3-5-2 formation, which was used to good effect during his spell as Netherlands boss.

And he will need everything to click for him on Sunday as his side continue their search for a first win of the season at home to QPR.

The 100 per cent record of either Chelsea or Swansea will come to an end when the two sides meet at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, while a Mario Balotelli-inspired Liverpool will look to continue building their title challenge at home to Aston Villa in the day's evening kick-off.

Liverpool silenced many of their critics with a resounding 3-0 win over Tottenham at White Hart Lane last week, handing the North Londoners their first defeat under Mauricio Pochettino.

The former Southampton boss will undoubtedly be looking for a reaction when they travel to Sunderland, who have only beaten Spurs once in their last 11 attempts and are still searching for their first league victory of the season.

It's a similar story for north-east rivals Newcastle, with Alan Pardew taking his side back to the scene of a disastrous 4-0 defeat at the hands of his former club last season.

The Magpies have only registered one league win in 11 games and Pardew will be desperate for a result to ease some of the pressure from the fans.

Those thoughts are likely to be echoed by West Ham boss Sam Allardyce, whose side were booed off after their 3-1 defeat at home to Southampton and will look to make things right when they travel to Hull City on Monday night.

Elsewhere, West Brom take on Everton, Crystal Palace host Burnley, while Stoke entertain Leicester City.

NFL Preview: Ravens v Steelers

11 September, 2014

The Baltimore Ravens will be hoping to be in the headlines for all the right reasons this week, when they take on bitter rivals Pittsburgh in what promises to be a fiery AFC North clash at M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday (September 11th) night.

Both franchises have a reputation for fielding hard-hitting defensive squads, making any encounter between the two all the more intense, while the last five games and ten of the last 12 have been settled by three points or less, meaning there is often little to separate the two teams and their hard-talking coaches.

The rivalry is expected to be taken up a notch given both teams' respective starts. The Ravens come into this match on the back of a defeat to Cincinnati, while the Steelers survived a second-half fightback that nearly saw them blow a 24-point lead to claim victory over Cleveland.

It means that this match could, despite being in just the second week, prove to be a season-defining contest. A win for Pittsburgh would give them a perfect 2-0 start, while handing a substantial setback to Baltimore's play-off ambitions.

Much of the build up to this match has been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding Baltimore's star running back Ray Rice.

Rice was fired earlier this week after the release of a video that appeared to show him striking his wife inside a lift at an Atlantic City casino.

Baltimore will therefore have certain degree of shuffling to do within a running attack that struggled to make any early impact during last week's loss.

Despite being replaced by Justin Forsett after a second-quarter fumble, Bernard Pierce is expected to remain in contention for a start, as well as rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro.

The fine margins separating the two franchises was perhaps best demonstrated by the week one performances of quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger, with the stats suggesting the success of either player could be decided by the performance of their team's respective receivers.

Pittsburgh's Roethlisberger looked comfortable for long periods of his side's win over Cleveland, while an 80-yard touchdown from Baltimore's Steve Smith helped improve Flacco's stats in a game that saw his team's wideouts drop six passes.

Flacco will certainly need better support this time around, although he does have an impressive record against the Steelers, winning four out of the last six games.

His team will be hoping that record continues on Thursday as they look to kickstart their season and lay down an early marker in the race for Super Bowl XLIX.

Leicester Tigers captain Ed Slater out for 9 months

10 September, 2014

Leicester Tigers captain Ed Slater has seen his dream of a full England international call-up shattered after being ruled out for up to nine months with a knee injury.

The lock/flanker had been impressing for England's Elite Player Squad but picked up an injury playing for the midweek side on a tour of New Zealand. While it was initially hoped the prognosis would be positive, it has been confirmed that Slater will be out for seven to nine months ruining his chance of playing for the full England squad in the near future.

Slater has been in good form over the past few seasons and was handed the captaincy at Leicester after the retirement of Geordan Murphy in 2013. During his time with Leicester he has picked up two Aviva Premiership winners medals and starred in the final. However, an injury in the final promptly put him out of a first senior England call-up.

It seems the bad luck has continued for Slater and it could potentially put his hopes for competing in the 2015 World Cup in jeopardy. He has already undergone surgery but the rehabilitation process is expected to be lengthy and will rule him out of the start of the 2014/15 Aviva Premiership season.

Speaking to BBC 5 Live, director of rugby Richard Cockerill confirmed Slater's injury: "The likelihood is seven to nine months and that's probably his season over. It's pretty horrific for Ed and pretty average for us."

Cockerill explained that Slater was expected to compete with Joe Launchbury in the lock position in the coming internationals. He described it as being a "good contest" and offered his sympathies to the Leicester captain after he was once again ruled out with injury. However he tipped Slater to return bigger and better.

The director of rugby added: "He's had some really, really bad luck. We'll look after him, get him right, and no doubt he will push for England honours again.

"He'll come back fitter and fresher than ever, hopefully that will be by this time next year."

Marin Cilic wins first Grand Slam title at US Open

9 September, 2014

Marin Cilic has won the first Grand Slam title of his career after beating Japan's Kei Nishikori in the final of the US Open.

Cilic convincingly overcame Nishikori winning the title in three straight sets 6-3 6-3 6-3. He becomes the first Croat since his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, to win one of the four tennis majors and he did it in style. Cilic commanded the final, barely giving his opponent room to breathe as he coasted through in just one hour and 54 minutes.

The final was a tale of two underdogs. Both Cilic and Nishikori had upset the odds in the semi-finals knocking out Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic respectively. The Croat was in inspired form against Federer, stunning the multi-Grand Slam winner with a straight sets win to progress to the final.

Nishikori's encounter with Djokovic was a pulsating affair with the number ten taking a one set lead before Djokovic returned with a dominant 6-1 second set. The turning point came in the third set when Nishikori won on 7-6 on a tie break before completing the win in the fourth set 6-3.

The underdog victories set up an intriguing final and would mean that a new name would be carved into the famous trophy. In the end, however, Cilic proved far too strong for his Japanese opponent.

Cilic carried on his dominant form from the semi-finals into the showpiece event at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Serving a total of 17 aces, Nishikori barely broke the Croat's stride and when Cilic was challenged by a break point in game one it was dispatched easily and countered with a surging forehand winner.

He attacked Nishikori's serve throughout the match and completed a first set victory in just 33 minutes. He continued his offensive through the second set, breaking the Japanese player in the third game and managed to hold his own going into the third set. He finally claimed the title with a backhand into the open court and fell to his knees in celebration.

Speaking after the match, Cilic said: "I don't know how I did it. It was hard work over the last few years and especially this last year. My team has brought something to me, especially Goran [Ivanisevic].

"We're all working really hard but the most important thing he brought to me was enjoying tennis, and always having fun. I think I played the best tennis of my life."

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