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Premier League

Man City poised to tick off first part of treble

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Champions League - Semi Final - Second Leg - Manchester City v Real Madrid - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - May 17, 2023 Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola celebrates their first goal scored by Bernardo Silva REUTERS/Molly Darlington/File Photo

A few weeks ago Manchester City’s path to a treble still looked littered with obstacles but suddenly Pep Guardiola’s side have a clear run to sporting immortality.

The sky blue juggernaut has laid waste to everything in its path in a staggering run of form and they are now just three wins away from matching Manchester United’s 1999 feat.

They can tick off the first box this weekend by wrapping up the Premier League title for the fifth time in six seasons.

What had looked like being a two-horse race right to the wire now looks like being a procession after Arsenal buckled under the pressure exerted by a relentless City.

City might be crowned champions before they even kick a ball this weekend if Arsenal lose at relegation battlers Nottingham Forest on Saturday — a scenario that is more likely than seemed possible a few weeks ago when the Gunners were top of the table.

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Even if Arsenal do shake off the hangover of last week’s 3-0 home defeat by Brighton and Hove Albion, a result that all but ended their title hopes, City will seal the deal on Sunday if they beat Chelsea at home.

Should they require them, City still have two more matches, against Brighton and Brentford, to knock off the three points they require to be crowned kings of England yet again.

In truth, it would be a surprise if City do not extend their winning run in the league to 14 matches by the end of the season and then go on to claim the treble.

Guardiola’s side look unstoppable. Just ask Real Madrid’s players who were brushed off like a speck of dust in Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg.

City’s 4-0 margin of victory at The Etihad Stadium barely did justice to the gulf in class between the sides and Inter Milan will hold no fears for City in the final.

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“I don’t know what it is, whether it is our fans or the pitch, we just feel unstoppable. Even in the league we feel no-one can beat us. It is unbelievable,” City’s attacking midfielder Jack Grealish said of his side’s home form.

Guardiola’s team also have a date with Manchester United in the FA Cup final on June 3 — potentially the toughest part of their quest to complete the treble as their neighbours will be desperate to keep their epic 1999 feat unique.

While the title race may have petered out earlier than expected, the battle to avoid relegation remains very much on the boil, even if Southampton have already been condemned.

Leicester City are just about hanging on to their top-flight status but depending on results this weekend they may have to start planning for life in the Championship.

With two games left 19th-placed Leicester have 30 points, with Leeds United on 31, Everton on 32 and Forest on 34.

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Should Forest beat Arsenal and Everton win at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday, Leicester will go to top-four hopefuls Newcastle United on Monday knowing only a win will keep alive any chance of avoiding the drop.

Leeds will also be hoping that Arsenal and Wolves do them a favour before they travel to West Ham United on Sunday.

Liverpool’s late-season charge could yet see them gatecrash the top-four and they host Aston Villa seeking an eighth successive victory to keep the pressure on Newcastle and Manchester United who are away at Bournemouth.

Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Premier League

Sancho back in training with Man United after positive meeting with Ten Hag

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Jadon Sancho was back training with Manchester United for the first time in 10 months, with a club source confirming the winger and manager Erik ten Hag have resolved their differences following their public fallout last year.

Sancho and Ten Hag had a positive meeting at Carrington Training Centre and the two have decided to draw a line under last season’s drawn-out argument, the club source said.

The 24-year-old Sancho made just three appearances for United last season, spending the second half of the campaign on loan to Borussia Dortmund after his relationship with Ten Hag soured in September.

Ten Hag had left the winger out of his squad for United’s 3-1 loss to Arsenal, saying Sancho’s performances in training had not warranted a place in his team. Sancho immediately lashed out on social media, accusing Ten Hag of making him a “scapegoat.”

He was banished from the first team and trained with United’s youth squad before returning to his former club Dortmund in January, where he shone during their Champions League semi-final victory against Paris St Germain, earning praise from Ten Hag. Dortmund were beaten by Real Madrid in the final.

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“(Sancho) is a very good player… he showed why Manchester United bought him and he showed he represents a high value for Manchester United, which is good,” Ten Hag told reporters following Dortmund’s 1-0 win over PSG in the first leg.

“I’m happy for Jadon, for the performance, and we’ll see what is going to happen in the future.”

Sancho will not travel with the team to Norway for their pre-season opener against Rosenborg since he began training later than the other players but the club source said he would be available for selection after that.

-Reuters

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Another Nigerian blood replaces Ndidi at Leicester

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Wilfred Ndidi who has just left Leicester City will have another Nigerian blood replacing him.

Leicester has never been without a Nigerian since Ahmed Musa joined in 2016. Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho joined in 2017.

Another Nigerian blood, Caleb Okoli, a centre back, has just been signed from Italian  Serie A side Atalanta on a five-year contract. Born in Itali, Caleb Okoli is Igbo and Yoruba by descent.

The 22-year-old, who spent the last season on loan at Frosinone Calcio, represented Italy at the European Under-21 Championship last year.

“I think now is the right moment (for me) to make a step forward and a very big one. I’m very happy with the choice I made, so I’m very excited to start in the Premier League,” Okoli said in a statement. The clubs did not disclose financial details of the deal.

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Ruud van Nistelrooy returns to Man United

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United legend Van Nistelrooy is expected to be announced as one of Erik ten Hag's assistants

Manchester United legend, Ruud van Nistelrooy has been spotted being driven into Carrington, the training ground of Manchester United.

Ruud van Nistelrooy (left) and Rene Hake arrived at Manchester United’s training ground

Reports have it that the Dutchman is set to be appointed as one of Erik ten Hag’s new assistant coaches.

He played for Manchester United from 2001 to 2006.

Now  48, he reportedly turned down job offer from Burnley to return to his old club, having previously led PSV Eindhoven to second place in the Eredivisie and victory in the Dutch Cup.

He is being joined by Rene Hake, 52, who was persuaded to give up his job as Go Ahead Eagles manager despite leading the Deventer-based club into Europe for only the third time in their history.

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