Premier League Preview: Southampton

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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.

Southampton enter the 2013-14 season after an impressive 14th place finish in last year’s return to the Barclays Premier League. It was the first time the Saints played in the top-flight since the 2004-05 season, putting an end to a seven year hiatus that involved stints in both the Championship and League One. A founding member of the Premier League in 1992–93, the Saints are a club with high aspirations under their controversial yet beloved Italian chairman Nicola Cortese.

Transfers In: D Dejan Lovren (Lyon); M Victor Wanyama (Celtic)

Transfers Out: GK Tommy Forecast (Gillingham); D Danny Butterfield (free agent); D Frazier Richardson (Middlesbrough); D Ryan Dickson (Colchester United); D Danny Seaborne (Yeovil Town); D Vergard Forren (Molde FK); M Steve de Ridder (FC Utrecht); M Richard Chaplow (Millwall); M Ben Reeves (MK Dons);  F Sam Hoskins (Yeovil Town); F Alberto Seidi (free agent)

source: Getty ImagesKey Player: Rickie Lambert (pictured) remains the man that makes Southampton tick. The 31 year old striker has scored the goals that have taken the side from League One to the Championship to the Premier League in a matter of two years. During that time Lambert found the back of the net 46 times, earning the League One and Championship Player of the Year awards for his efforts. When pundits questioned whether he could produce at the top level, Lambert answered emphatically by scoring 15 goals in 38 Premier League appearances, tying him with Frank Lampard for top English goalscorer in the league.

A powerful forward with deceptive skill and coolness in front of goal, Lambert is also known as the best spot-kick taker in the league having never missed in 31 attempts for Southampton.

Manager: Mauricio Pochetino was hired by Southampton in January 2013 following the club’s termination of Nigel Adkins. Fans’ initial resistance to the hiring was immediately quelled as the Saints drew with Everton just five days after the hiring before going on to defeat such behemoths as Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.

Pochetino, the former boss at La Liga side Espanyol, has a reputation for developing young academy players and being extremely hard working – he is the first to arrive at the training ground and the last to leave. “I don’t have a life outside football,” the 41 year old admitted last spring.

Pochetino is known for playing a high-pressing game of football that encourages attacking freedom and creativity. One of the more underrated managers in the Premier League, Pochetino may keep a low profile but could surprise a lot of fans with his side’s results this season. Having a close relationship with Cortese, Pochetino’s job, at least to start the season, will be safe.

Outlook: After some inconsistent displays in the first half of last season the Saints settled in under Pochetino and produced some stunning displays. Consistency will remain a key this season but the Saints are good enough to steer clear of the relegation zone and if all goes well, are outside candidates to crack the Top 10.

Pep Guardiola praises Man City’s “animals”

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Pep Guardiola‘s Manchester City have set a new English top-flight record with 15 consecutive wins and, of course, comparisons are already being made as to just how good this City side are.

Runaway leaders of the Premier League with an 11-point lead heading into the busy festive period, City are being compared to the great teams in PL history.

Their winning run means they’ve accomplished something none of the other great PL teams have, and it seems like there is no stopping City.

Speaking to the media after the 4-0 win at Swansea on Wednesday which clinched the record, Guardiola praised his players for breaking the record but also their ability to not only excel when they have the ball but to hunt in packs to win it back.

“In history there have been some amazing teams – Liverpool, [Manchester] United with Sir Alex Ferguson, Chelsea with Jose Mourinho. A lot of good, good teams and we are the first ones to win 15 games in a row,” Mourinho said. “Of course that will not make sense if we do not win the title, if we don’t win the title it will just be a record. This record will be broken but it will not be easy. When (my players) don’t have the ball they go to win it like animals. At this level it’s so competitive. That means we are strong in the head.”

Guardiola’s team have made the best start in Premier League history to a season with 49 points from their opening 17 games and 16 wins from those matches.

They’ve scored 52 goals and the duo of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne are controlling the tempo of each and every game they play in, but not much has been said about the tenacity in City’s play to win the ball back.

That quality has always been a hallmark of Guardiola’s teams at Barcelona and Bayern Munich with the fabled “six second rule” mentioned time and time again as he set his players a target of six seconds to win back possession of the ball.

City did that time and time again against Swansea on Wednesday with Silva regaining possession on multiple occasions in midfield and releasing the likes of Sterling and Sergio Aguero to attack.

There is a lot more behind this ruthless City side than just breaking winning and scoring records. Their extreme hunger for success and doing the dirty work was duly noted by Guardiola.

USSF says nominations submitted for 8 president candidates

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CHICAGO (AP) The U.S. Soccer Federation says it received the required three letters of nomination for eight candidates in its presidential election, one fewer than the total of people who announced their intention to run.

The USSF is conducting background checks on the candidates whose nominations were received by Tuesday night’s deadline. The governing body said the check is to ascertain that a candidate has “no conviction or no contest plea to a felony or crime of moral turpitude” and it will announce the candidate slate after completing the process.

[ MORE: Atlanta acquires Nagbe ]

Sunil Gulati, the USSF president since 2006, decided after the Americans failed to qualify for the World Cup that he will not seek a fourth four-year term.

The nine people who announced they are running include former men’s national team players Paul Caligiuri, Eric Wynalda and Kyle Martino; U.S. women’s goalkeeper Hope Solo; Soccer United Marketing president Kathy Carter; USSF vice president Carlos Cordeiro; Boston lawyer Steve Gans; New York lawyer Michael Winograd; and Paul LaPointe, Northeast Conference manager of the United Premier Soccer League.

The election will be held in February.

Madrid rallies to beat Al Jazira, reach Club World Cup final (video)

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Gareth Bale scored an 81st-minute winner as Real Madrid came from behind to beat Emirates club Al Jazira 2-1 on Wednesday and reach the Club World Cup final.

Madrid will try to win its third world title in four seasons when its faces South American champion Gremio on Saturday.

[ MORE: Premier League Weds. roundup ]

The match had two goals disallowed by video review, one for each team.

Madrid struggled early and allowed the local league winners to open the scoring with a goal by Brazilian forward Romarinho just before halftime.

But Cristiano Ronaldo equalized early in the second half and Bale netted the winner less than a minute after entering the match as a substitute for Karim Benzema.

Paul Clement admits helplessness at facing Man City

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Swansea City manager Paul Clement may have the enduring quote of the season so far when it comes to facing the behemoth that is Manchester City.

[ RECAP – City hammer Swansea ]

The suffering Swans have had their share of poor performances this season — Clement later said January transfer spending “is a must” if the club wants to stay up — but he’s throwing his hands up in the air when it comes to Wednesday’s loss at the Liberty Stadium.

The man sounds exasperated, and sorry for his team. From the BBC:

“At times it was horrible to be on the sideline watching that, seeing my side trying but suffering for long periods. They’re not the games that will decide our season but it was hard to watch at times because they were so dominant. For me, one of the best sides I’ve ever come across. So many good athletes, so many intelligent footballers and it’s really hard to pin them down. We actually had some attempts on their goal so I’m disappointed we didn’t get on the score sheet but they were a far superior side to us. We’ve got to put it aside that game. We’ve got Everton away (next) and we’ve got to try and pick something up there.”

All that’s left is for Clement to pick up a clarinet, awkwardly blow into it, then point at Pep Guardiola and say, “He’s good.”

Free message board points to the first one to name the reference.