Premier League Preview: Cardiff City

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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.

For the first time in the club’s history, Cardiff City will compete in the Premier League after winning the 2012-2013 Football League Championship title. For the Bluebirds, this season will mark the club’s first taste of top-flight football in 51 years and they’ll look to one of the brightest young managers in the game, Malkay Mackay, to follow the successful path tread by fellow Welsh side and mortal enemy, Swansea City.

With Mackay’s vibrant, attractive style of football and the financial backing of their billionaire Malaysian owner, Vincent Tan, Cardiff City will seek to avoid the jaws of relegation that snap up so many Premier League newcomers.

Transfers In: GK Simon Moore (Brentford); D Steven Caulker (Tottenham); D John Brayford (Derby County); F Andreas Cornelius (FC Copenhagen)

Transfers Out: GK Elliot Parish (Bristol City); D Ben Nugent (Brentford, loan); M Stephen McPhail (free agent); F Nathaniel Jarvis (free agent); F Heidar Helguson (free agent); F Jesse Darko (AO Episkopi Rethymno, Greece)

Key Player: If there is one spot on the field where Cardiff may lack bite, it’s in the box. Enter 20-year-old Danish international Andreas Cornelius (pictured).

source: Getty ImagesThe striker signed with Cardiff in July 2013 for a then club record transfer fee of $12.3 million (£8m). He arrives in South Wales after just one season of first team football, but what a season it was for the youngster, scoring 18 goals and notching five assists in 32 Danish Superliga matches with FC Copenhagen.

His lack of experience, however, shouldn’t come as a worry to Bluebirds supporters as Cornelius gained valuable experience playing in six Champions League qualification matches and four Europa League matches last season.

Cornelius’ strength and power should further enable him to compete well in the Premier League. The 6’4″ striker has been known to bully defenders, possesses strong aerial capabilities and is good at using his body to hold up play. On the ground he’s skilled as well, with a smooth touch, an eye for the cheeky pass and a strong left foot.

Helping Cornelius adapt to life in England’s top flight will be Craig Bellamy, the heart and soul of this Cardiff side. The Cardiff-born striker has plenty of Premier League experience – with spells at Liverpool, Manchester City, West Ham United, Blackburn and Newcastle – and at 34 years old still terrorizesdefenses with gut-busting runs, searing pace and a fiercely competitive spirit.

If Cardiff is to stay up it will be the strike partnership of Cornelius and Bellamy that paves the way.

Manager: Malky Mackay arrived at Cardiff City in June 2011 after spending the first two years of his managerial career with Watford, where the five time capped Scottish international ended his playing career.

During his first season at the helm, Mackay led Cardiff City to Championship Play-Offs and the Carling Cup Final, leading many to consider him one of the best up-and-coming managers in the game. The following season, Mackay justified the praise, guiding the Bluebirds to first place in The Championship, beating out 2nd placed Hull City by eight points.

OutlookCardiff City will find themselves in a fight to stay in the top flight, although of the three promoted sides, the Bluebirds are the most likely to succeed. Their notably strong defense has been bolstered by the recent acquisition of English international Steven Caulker, who will look to prove himself after being used sparingly during his four year stint atTottenham Hotspur. With Caulker and captain Mark Hudson leading the back line, the experience of Peter Whittingham in midfield, the play-making abilities of Craig Noone and the strike-partnership of Cornelius and Bellamy, Cardiff City have the tools to make their first Premier League campaign a successful one.

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

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.