Premier League Preview: Stoke City


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.

Stoke City have been in the top flight five consecutive seasons now, and with their reputation for the long ball, they’ve produced some of the less exciting matches during their Premier League stay.  During those five seasons, they have failed to push into the top 10 in the table, but have also not been too involved in any serious relegation battles.  Their table finishes since being promoted last have been a consistent 12th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 13th.  However, new management will look to some United States internationals to help crack the top half of the table for the first time since their automatic promotion.

Transfers in: D Marc Muniesa (Barcelona B, Spain), D Erik Pieters (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), F Juan Agudelo – January 2014 (New England Revolution)

Transfers Out: GK Carlo Nash (Norwich City, England), D Matthew Upson (Brighton Hove & Albion, England), M Rory Delap (Burton Albion, England), M Dean Whitehead (Middlesbrough, England), F Michael Owen (retired)

source: Getty ImagesKey Player: One of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League last season was Asmir Begovic (pictured), who practically kept Stoke out of the relegation battle single-handedly. Tony Pulis’s defense last season was a disaster, and Begovic was the biggest reason they gave up just 45 goals – fewer than any club finishing 8th or lower.

Stoke go as Begovic goes. The 26-year-old Bosnian was one of just four goalkeepers in the Premier League to have played every minute for the club, along with Joe Hart, Jussi Jaaskelainen, and Simon Mignolet.  By December 31 of last season, the keeper had the most clean sheets in the league with 9, which saw Stoke up to 8th position in the table.

To fix the leaks at the back, Stoke have shrewdly brought in highly-rated 21-year-old central defender Marc Muniesa from Barcelona on a free transfer, much to the surprise of many in the league.  The team also acquired young goalkeeping star Jack Butland in January after rumors flew that Begovic was on his way out to a Champions League club.  However, after Stoke warded off Arsenal and other suitors, Begovic will still be the key man for Stoke’s survival this season.

Manager: Tony Pulis stepped down after seven years in charge, an eternity in the European game these days.  Pulis was unable to get Stoke out of its stagnant bottom-half state, so by “mutual consent” the two sides went their separate ways.

Fellow Welshman, the “ambitious” Mark Hughes has taken his place, and after a tumultuous past three years, it’s probably Hughes’ last chance to prove to those in the game he can manage at a high level.  Hughes was sacked at Manchester City, but found himself amidst a successful year at Fulham.  The following summer, Hughes inexplicably left the job, proclaiming Fulham wasn’t “ambitious” enough for his liking, burning all his bridges there and creating quite a number of enemies.

He didn’t have a job in place when he left, and was passed over for jobs at Chelsea and Aston Villa.  He remained jobless for a year until being picked up by Queens Park Rangers, only to find himself sacked 6 months later with QPR bottom of the table.

Understandably, Hughes is in a position where only some serious success at Stoke could put him back on the radar of top clubs around the continent.

Outlook: Mark Hughes and the bunch have much to prove, although their findings in the transfer market (or lack thereof) don’t exactly reflect that. Hughes now has four Americans at his disposal, with Juan Agudelo joining Brek Shea, Geoff Cameron, and Maurice Edu. He needs to get moving to fill many more holes, including their difficulties last season scoring goals – they registered 34 scores, second-worst in the entire league. USMNT youngster Agudelo could help out here but that’s not until January. If they can’t find a player who wants to put the ball in the back of the net at the Britannia, it could be another long season for the Potters, and relegation could even be peeking over their shoulder come next spring.

Blatter, Platini both officially appeal FIFA suspension

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini look on during the Team Seminar ahead of the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the Corinthia Hotel on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Suspended FIFA executives Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini have both officially appealed their 90-day bans through various means in attempts to clear their names.

The pair have been forced to temporarily vacate their office due to an investigation by Swiss authorities into corruption charges based on a “disloyal payment” of around $2 million from Blatter to Platini in 2011.

Blatter’s appeal was lodged within FIFA on Friday, with the president’s lawyer confirming he has “requested additional proceedings before the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Ethics Committee and filed an appeal with the Appeal Committee.”

Blatter’s American lawyer Richard Cullen said he is “very hopeful” the suspension will be lifted on appeal, while his lawyer team back on Thursday argued in a statement that the FIFA Ethics Committee “based its decision [to suspend Blatter] on a misunderstanding of the actions of the attorney general in Switzerland, which has opened an investigation but brought no charge against the president.”

The New York Times obtained a copy of the appeal, in which Blatter’s lawyers demand to see the case file which the Ethics Committee reviewed upon its decision to suspend the 79-year-old. It also asks that he receive a full opportunity to argue his innocence in front of the committee; previously, he was only afforded a short interview with Swiss investigators.

Meanwhile, Platini’s appeal came through Saturday morning and is filed with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. His case has received official, legal backing from the French FA as his home nominating association for the upcoming presidential election. Using the French FA’s support, Platini can bypass the FIFA appeals system which he individually must exhaust before moving to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

CONMEBOL has also publicly supported Platini, issuing a statement that says it “does not agree” with the decision to suspend him, calling it “untimely and disproportionate” while stating, “The presumption of innocence is a fundamental right that has to be considered. Mr. Platini has not been found guilty of any charge, therefore the provisional ban jeopardizes the integrity of the electoral process to the FIFA presidency, of which Mr. Platini is a candidate.”

Platini has not been replaced at his UEFA presidential post, with no interim leader named. “This is because the UEFA executive committee is aware that the UEFA president will immediately take all necessary steps to appeal the decision of the FIFA ethics committee to clear his name,” UEFA said in a statement. They confirmed he will not continue his duties while under punishment.

The FIFA Executive Committee has announced it will hold an emergency meeting on October 20 to discuss the situation. Among the topics that will be considered will be a decision on whether to postpone the February 26 presidential election.

Emerson Hyndman says he wishes to leave Fulham amid contract standoff

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 28: Emerson Hyndman of Fulham celebrates after scoring the team's second goal during the FA Youth Cup Final: First Leg match between Fulham and Chelsea at Craven Cottage on April 28, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
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Emerson Hyndman is stuck in an endless circle at his home club Fulham, and the only way out he sees would be to leave.

With his contract set to expire in the upcoming summer, Fulham has been pushing hard for the 19-year-old to lock down a long-term deal as many of his teammates have done in the recent months. Unfortunately, due to reported interest from abroad from teams like Borussia Dortmund, plus others in La Liga and the Dutch Eredivisie, Hyndman has been unwilling to do so thus far.

As a result, the USMNT prospect has seen little playing time, with manager Kit Symons understandably unwilling to let him see the field while he refuses to commit his future to the club. Hyndman has just eight minutes of League Cup play to his name so far this campaign.

Hyndman blames the lack of action as the main reason why he wants to depart, telling American Soccer Now’s Brian Sciaretta that he would like to move on.

“It’s a little difficult right now,” he said. “I’ve told them in the past that I think it’s time for me to move on. There are clubs out there that are interested and that I am excited about, so it’s difficult for me right now, and I can’t see myself getting too many first-team minutes. I feel that I had a good preseason, and I thought I might get a chance, but I am really looking forward to the future more than anything.

Unfortunately, that seems a bit unfair to his club. Why would a Championship club looking to build from within give significant minutes to a player who refuses to sign a long-term deal and looks set to leave in the summer? Then he tags the lack of playing time as the reason he wants to leave. It all seems to be a never-ending cycle.

Hyndman joined the Fulham youth setup at age 15 and flourished last season, making both his club first-team debut and earning a cap with the senior national team. He is currently with the U-23 Olympic team leading the charge for Rio 2016 qualification.

There is no doubting Hyndman’s abilities on the field, but for his sake, he needs to sort out his club situation as quickly as possible to further his growth as a midfielder.