Premier League Preview: Hull City AFC

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Each day from now until the beginning of the Premier League season, we will preview two teams from England’s top flight. You can view them all here at PST Preview central. Don’t forget, the 2013-14 PL season begins on August 17th, and for the first-time ever you can watch every game live on NBC Sports.

Hull finished second in last year’s Championship (England’s second tier), securing Premier League promotion on final, dramatic match day. (The video of the wild, heartwarming celebration went viral.) The Tigers enjoyed a brief two-year Premier League stay from 2008-2010. They finished 17th (one spot out of the drop zone) in their Premier League debut, the 2008-09 season. Until 2008 promotion into the bigs, a 1930 FA Cup semifinal appearance was Hull City’s moment to remember. Leeds United, just West on the M62, is Hull’s top rival.

Transfers In: Ahmed Elmohamady (Sunderland; had been on loan to Hull),  Maynor Figueroa (Wigan), Allan McGregor (Besiktas, Turkey), Yannick Sagbo (Evian, France), Curtis Davies (Birmingham), George Boyd (Peterborough; had been loan to Hull), Danny Graham (Sunderland).

Transfers Out: Corry Evans (Blackburn Rovers), Tom Cairney (Blackburn Rovers).

source:  Key Player: Hull climbed the hardest rung last year behind a midfield that could pass it’s way around the competition, sometimes even stylishly so. But the clear weakness was finding ultimate production off that flourish in the middle third.

In fact, 61 goals scored represented the second lowest total among the last 30 sides gaining Premier League promotion. So finding a capable striker is critical to Hull’s next stab at “staying up.”

They need Sagbo (pictured) to be the guy. He generated some excitement by finding goal in his Hull debut over the weekend in Germany. He’s got pace, which is always a good starting point, although the inability to strike more than six times last year in France looks worrisome as the level of defending and goalkeeping is about to improve.

He really does need to find goal 12-14 times this year, because the forwards around him don’t look up to it. If Graham shines, put it down as a “huge surprise;” he was a $7.5 million flop last year at the Stadium of Light, failing to score in 13 appearances with the Black Cats.

Manager: Steve Bruce has become something of a promotion specialist, twice seeing Birmingham City safely into the land’s top flight before guiding his Tigers there last year. Once into the Premier League, his stays have not been quite as happy, although we could say he was fighting with the shorter sticks with Birmingham City, Wigan and Sunderland.

The former Manchester United player had Hull sporting a dynamic style last year, although the lack of reliable strikers produced only pedestrian offensive totals.

Outlook: Welcome back to the Premier League, you Tigers! Fate has arranged a nice, opening afternoon at Stamford Bridge against enlivened Chelsea straight-away for you, to remind you of the tough slog ahead. Good luck!

Clearly, “staying up” will be the main mission. (It’s more or less the starting point from every promoted club.) But it won’t be easy, not until Bruce, with more summer shopping to do, can add more quality to a roster that still looks too much like a Championship assembly. Hull looks especially thin in midfield at the moment; a failed pursuit of Stoke midfielder Wilson Palacios was the latest blow.

MORE: Read all the Premier League previews for each team here

Jonas nets 2 late goals to keep Benfica in title hunt

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Jonas scored two late goals to lead Benfica’s 3-1 comeback win at Pacos Ferreira on Saturday, keeping it close to Portuguese league leader FC Porto.

Jonas equalized in the 72nd minute and gave the defending champion the lead in the 88th.

[ MORE: Man United-Chelsea meet in giant Sunday PL clash ]

Rafa Silva added a third goal after the host was reduced to 10 men in stoppage time when Gian dos Santos was shown a direct red card.

Luiz Phellype gave Pacos Ferreira the lead in the ninth.

The double increased Jonas’ league-leading tally to 27 goals.

Benfica moved to within two points of Porto before the pacesetter visits Portimonense on Sunday.

Sporting Lisbon is third at five points behind Porto. It hosts Moreirense on Monday.

Orlando City trades defender Jose Aja to Whitecaps for allocation money

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The Vancouver Whitecaps have struck a deal with an Eastern Conference side to help solidify their back line.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Johannsson leads Werder Bremen to win ]

On Saturday, the Cascadia club finalized a deal to acquire Orlando City defender Jose Aja in exchange for $125,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) for 2019.

Additionally, Orlando could receive another $100,000 in TAM if Aja remains on the Whitecaps roster next season and a 2021 second-round MLS SuperDraft pick if Aja is in Canada for the 2020 campaign.

Aja has made 25 appearances for Orlando since coming to MLS in 2016 from his native Uruguay.

The timing of the deal is intriguing, given Tim Parker’s willingness to exit the Whitecaps ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

PST reported on Thursday that Parker is seeking a move back to the East Coast, and the New York-native is being tracked by several Eastern Conference sides, including the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United and the Montreal Impact.

Parker is considered one of the top American defenders in MLS, and is actively seeking a massive pay raise ahead of the new season, after making just under $100,000 in 2017.

PL Sunday preview: Red Devils battle Chelsea at Old Trafford

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It will surely be one of the biggest fixtures of the season when Manchester United and Chelsea get together on Sunday, and for both clubs a victory could be vital in projecting their form for the rest of the 2017/18 campaign.

Meanwhile, a crucial meeting at Selhurst Park pits teams on opposite ends of the table against one another. Crystal Palace enters the weekend levels on points with 18th-place Swansea, while Tottenham could leap Chelsea for fourth if results go in favor of Spurs.

[ MORE: Liverpool continues to score at lightning pace against West Ham ]

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The injury bug has hit Palace hard as of late, with a total of 12 senior team players being left out of Roy Hodgson‘s squad. The list includes Wilfried Zaha, Yohan Cabaye and Mamadou Sakho, which won’t make things easy against a talented Spurs side.

Tottenham have had a ton of success in this fixture recently, winning the last five encounters and only allowing one goal in the process.

Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have hit the ground running in the second half of the season thus far, picking up a league-high 15 points in the Premier League since the start of 2018.

If there is a saving grace for the Eagles though, it is that Palace has been solid at home this season, and gone unbeaten in nine of its last 10 fixtures at Selhurst.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN

After a pair of draws from the PL sides kicked off their Champions League Round of 16 campaigns midweek, United and Chelsea can now focus their attention back to England; at least for the time being.

Jose Mourinho’s team came away from Seville with a crucial scoreless draw after the hosts tested goalkeeper David De Gea on numerous occasions, while Chelsea were close to pulling out a victory against Barcelona had it not been for a big-time mistake from Andreas Christensen late in the match.

Nonetheless, this is a fixture that always garners significant attention, especially from the Blues, who tend to have a better go of it. United has won just once against Chelsea in their last 14 fixtures, with the lone victory coming last season.

That said, Antonio Conte and his side have failed to exemplify consistency this year, and that includes road matches. The Blues have just two road wins in their last nine attempts across all competitions, which bodes well for the Red Devils.

The good news for Chelsea is the recent form of attacking duo Willian and Eden Hazard. The Brazilian was constantly in dangerous positions up the pitch against the Blaugrana in their recent UCL encounter, nabbing the lone goal for the Blues, while Hazard has scored six times in his last six PL matches.

The 2 Robbies: Unstoppable Liverpool, Man United-Chelsea and more

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In today’s episode, Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe discuss Liverpool’s emphatic win over West Ham (0:17), breakdown an extremely complicated relegation situation where nearly half of the league is in jeopardy of going down (10:05), before closing the show with a preview of tomorrow’s Man United v. Chelsea match (28:10).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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