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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

June 12 relief for Ten Hag…to stay at Old Trafford

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Manchester United Can Still Finish Fourth, Says Erik Ten Hag -

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag will remain in the job for next season and has entered into talks with the Old Trafford club over a contract extension despite the team’s lowest ever Premier League finish of eighth, British media reported.

The decision comes after an end-of-season review by the club’s board for the 2023-24 campaign, which finished on a high with a shock FA Cup final win over favourites Manchester City.

Ten Hag’s contract runs until the end of next season, with the club having the option of extending it a further 12 months.

Former Ajax Amsterdam coach Ten Hag had come under increasing pressure after 20-times English champions United suffered their worst start to a season since 1962-63 with eight defeats in their first 15 matches in all competitions.

They ended up eighth after 14 defeats in their 38 league games and bowed out of the Champions League in the group phase.

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Ten Hag’s job security had been the subject of speculation all season and many pundits believed the FA Cup final would be the Dutchman’s last game with the team, win or lose.

But moments after their thrilling triumph, the 54-year-old insisted he had no doubt he would be back and said he had received the backing of the club’s owners all season.

“I’m in a project and we are exactly where we want to be. We’re constructing a team. When I took over it was a mess at United, and we are on our way to construct a team for the future,” he told reporters at Wembley.

“The team is developing, the team is winning and the team also plays to an identity. What you need to play is to be available, you need a strong squad in top football, and especially when you play in England, the Premier League is so competitive.”

INJURY WOES

Ten Hag pointed to United’s revolving door of injuries last term, the most of any Premier League team and concentrated in key positions such as central defence.

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He also spoke about the breakout seasons of young players such as midfielder Kobbie Mainoo, who is part of England’s Euro 2024 squad in Germany, and Argentina winger Alejandro Garnacho.

In Ten Hag’s two seasons in charge, United have played in three Wembley finals and lifted two trophies, having also won last season’s League Cup.

Media reports said that all eventualities were considered in the club’s post-season review and the clear preference was for Ten Hag to remain in charge at Old Trafford.

Among coaches linked to the job as potential replacements were Thomas Tuchel and England manager Gareth Southgate.

Ten Hag is United’s fifth permanent manager since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 as the club have searched for someone to lead them back to the heights of their glory years.

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He guided United to third in the league in his debut season

-Reuters

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Premier League

Another Nigerian blood to flow in Chelsea veins

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Carabao Cup - Quarter Final - Everton v Fulham - Goodison Park, Liverpool, Britain - December 19, 2023 Fulham's Tosin Adarabioyo celebrates after the match REUTERS/Carl Recine

Chelsea have signed centre back Tosin Adarabioyo from fellow west London club Fulham on a free transfer, the Premier League side announced on Friday.

Adarabioyo, a former England youth international is of Nigerian descent. He is the latest Nigerian linked with Chlesea after Celestine Babayaro, Mikel Obi and Victor Moses among others.

The 26-year-old Adarabioyo who will join the Stamford Bridge side on a four-year contract beginning on July 1, has made one appearance for the England Under-19s and has played 78 times in the Premier League.

He is the first player to join Chelsea since they announced the arrival of new head coach Enzo Maresca, opens new tab earlier this week, and will bolster their options at centre back following the departure of veteran Thiago Silva.

“We are delighted to bring Tosin to Chelsea,” Chelsea co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said.

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“Throughout his career, he has showcased his maturity and defensive qualities and has gained a wealth of experience in the Premier League in recent seasons.

“He is ready to make the step up to Chelsea and work alongside the talented players in our squad. We look forward to Tosin joining up with us for pre-season.”

Chelsea are looking to revive their fortunes under Maresca after finishing sixth in the standings last season.

“I’m looking forward to starting work with Enzo and I’m sure the boys are too,” Adarabioyo said.

“It’s going to be exciting. We’re going to play good football and win a lot of games. There are top players in this squad and I’m eager to play with them all.”

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-Reuters

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Nigerian-born Ogbonna leaves West Ham after nine-year stay

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Premier League - West Ham United v Luton Town - London Stadium, London, Britain - May 11, 2024 West Ham United's Angelo Ogbonna applauds fans as he is substituted REUTERS/Tony Obrien/File Photo

West Ham United centre back Angelo Ogbonna is leaving the club after nine years in east London, the Premier League side said on Wednesday.

Ogbonna was born to Nigerian parents who emigrated to Italy from Nigeria in 1983, settling in the city of Cassino in the central part of the country, but managed to obtain Italian citizenship only after his 18th birthday. He is now 36.

The  Italy international made 201 Premier League appearances for the club and was part of their Europa Conference League-winning side last year.

The former Juventus player struggled with several injuries during his time at West Ham, including a cruciate ligament tear suffered in 2021 that kept him out for almost a year.

“When he was not playing, Ogbonna was always a willing supporter of the club’s community work,” West Ham said in a statement. “He will always be a beloved member of the West Ham United family

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-Reuters

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