The Malta Independent 27 June 2016, Monday

Aguero back scoring, leading Manchester City's Premier League charge

Associated Press Tuesday, 12 January 2016, 10:48 Last update: about 7 months ago

Look out, Premier League: Sergio Aguero is back to fitness, back scoring goals and leading Manchester City's charge to reel in Arsenal in the second half of the season.

After an injury-marred end to 2015, the Argentina striker has been eased back into prime shape in the last few weeks by City manager Manuel Pellegrini, who stepped up Aguero's playing time each game over the festive period.

Aguero, the Premier League's top scorer last season, is starting to deliver once again, either netting or assisting four of City's last five goals. On Saturday, he marked his fourth straight start with a stunning solo goal — a weaving run past three defenders before poking in a finish to set City on its way to a 3-0 win over Norwich in the FA Cup.

Next for the player nicknamed "Kun" is Everton in the Premier League on Wednesday, one of the standout games from a full midweek program in England's top division.

"When Kun continues playing games and playing more minutes, his performance always improves after he comes back from a long injury," Pellegrini said of Aguero, who missed 10 weeks of action from October to December because of two separate injuries and is still on 11 goals for the campaign.

"We know he is a top player and when he continues playing, he will arrive at his normal performance. When you have players as important as Sergio it is very important for their teammates, for the manager, for the fans to see them playing every game because he is a player that makes a difference."

Third-place City heads into the game at Etihad Stadium a point behind Leicester and three behind Arsenal in the league, after 20 of 38 matches. With Arsenal at Liverpool, there is a real possibility the two leading title contenders could be tied for points after Wednesday's games.

City is in the midst of a heavy load of matches: Seven games in 24 days across three competitions. Because City is playing Everton in the two-legged League Cup semifinals this month — Everton won the first leg 2-1 on Wednesday — the teams are meeting three times in three weeks. The second leg of the semifinals is on Jan. 27.

Here are some other things to look out for on Tuesday and Wednesday:

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UNITED CRITICISM

Manchester United may have won its last two games to end an eight-match winless streak, but it hasn't stopped the criticism from going manager Louis van Gaal's way.

After the tepid 1-0 victory over third-tier club Sheffield United in the FA Cup on Saturday, former United great Paul Scholes said: "Every time I come to Old Trafford, it's negative football. Fans are bored, even the players are bored, everyone's bored. You look at the bench and Van Gaal looks bored as well."

Thousands of fans left Old Trafford before the end of the third-round match, with United won courtesy of an injury-time penalty by Wayne Rooney.

Asked why, Van Gaal said Monday: "They are not thinking that we would score, I think, and maybe also because of the traffic that they leave the stadium a few minutes early."

On Tuesday, United visits Newcastle, which is third from last and has lost its last four games.

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LIVERPOOL'S INJURIES

Liverpool had 12 players out injured for its 2-2 draw against fourth-tier Exeter in the FA Cup on Friday, but manager Juergen Klopp's problems have eased slightly for the visit of the league leaders.

Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho are available again to give Klopp two recognized center backs to select, while midfielders Jordon Ibe, Jordan Henderson and James Milner also have a chance to return to the squad.

"The situation now is better than it was two or three days before," said Klopp, who is still without first-choice players Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Martin Skrtel.

Liverpool is in eighth place, 12 points behind Arsenal.

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KANE FACTOR

Few can have predicted that a match between Tottenham and Leicester in January would be a meeting of two teams in the top four.

But they are there on merit, summing up the erratic nature of this season's Premier League.

Leicester has failed to win any of its last three league games, suggesting a drop-off in form finally after its surprisingly strong start. Tottenham has lost only twice in the league and looks to be the real deal this season.

Harry Kane came off the bench to earn Spurs a late 2-2 draw from the penalty spot in Sunday's FA Cup match. Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino may not rest him a second time against a disciplined - and dangerous - Leicester side.

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