Manchester United's Van Persie celebrates

2013-14 Premier League Preview: The greatest campaign in PL history is here

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Tomorrow it begins.

Stop salivating… the 2013-14 Premier League season is almost upon us, so consume this comprehensive preview, sensibly, between now and Saturday morning.

Here’s everything you could possible wish to know, as the most anticipated season in the league’s history is less than 24 hours away.

As you’ve probably seen on ProSoccerTalk over the past 10 days, we’ve been previewing each and every team, the top players in each position and making our own predictions on how things will pan out.

Grab yourself a cup of something, sit back, relax and read what’s in store for you during the next 10 months of Premier League wonderment. Oh, yeah, just one more thing. Is it Saturday yet?

Storylines

Where on earth do we start? Okay, well, how will Manchester United fare without legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson in charge is the first question for many. A huge fall from grace is predicted for the reigning champions. Staying on that topic, four newly appointed managers will be watched closely. As David Moyes (Manchester United), Roberto Martinez (Everton) and Manuel Pellegrini (Manchester City) all start new jobs.

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More success for Chelsea this season?

While the “Special One”, José Mourinho, returns for his second spell at Chelsea. On the pitch, Luis Suárez’ return to the field will dominate late September, while many will be watching Wayne Rooney’s situation at Manchester United as the transfer window draws closer. Elsewhere, will Gareth Bale inspire Spurs to a top four finish?

Can the promoted trio of Hull City, Cardiff City and Crystal Palace stay up? And who will be this seasons dark horse to charge up the table? Also, how will Liverpool fare this season under Brendan Rodgers and with Suarez wanting out?

All of that and much more will occupy your thoughts as you nod off to sleep tonight. This season is set to be a dream of epic proportions. Make sure you’ve got your alarm set early every Saturday morning between now and May, you won’t want to miss a kick.

Key Matchups

That being said, plenty of marquee matches are coming up in the opening few weeks of the season. Here’s a further look ahead at the big rivalry games coming up live on NBC Sports.

Liverpool vs. Manchester United (Sunday, September 1, 8:30 AM ET on NBSCN)

Arsenal vs. Tottenham (Sunday, September 1, 11:00 AM ET on NBSCN)

Newcastle vs. Sunderland (Sunday, October 27, 12 Noon ET on NBCSN)

Cardiff City vs. Swansea (Sunday November 3, 11:00 AM ET on NBCSN)

Manchester City vs. Manchester United (Sunday, September 22, 11:00 AM ET on NBCSN)

Managerial Merry-go-round

This season an influx of new head coaches sees the Premier League wide open. With new faces arriving at Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Everton, Stoke and the three newly promoted teams adding something different, plenty of new coaching philosophies will create a new identity for several PL outfits.

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Can Moyes bring success to United after Fergie time?

New Manchester United manager David Moyes has perhaps the hardest task on his hands. He has the unenviable task of replacing Sir Alex Ferguson, whoever comes after Moyes will have a much easier job at emulating Ferguson but Moyes’ has been hired for the long-run. After 28 years of Fergie time, United enter a new era under a new Scotsman. Martinez’ new style and philosophy could go either way at Everton, the same could be said for Mark Hughes taking charge at Stoke City.

While big changes at Manchester City will look to spark another title at the Etihad. They’re hoping Pellegrini — known as ‘The Engineer”  in his native Chile — can fix City’s misfiring offense.

“Preview, Preview… Read all about it”

ICYMI, we’ve been working morning, noon and night to churn out the best possible previews to the Premier League season. As you can see on your right, we have a team-by-team preview for each side competing in the league, where we break down the transfers, star player, manager, give our verdict on how they’ll do and much more.

Plus our broadcast friends with the cameras and microphones at NBC have been busy compiling these great videos showcasing “What you need to know…” about every side. Make sure you watch and read everything to be totally prepared for the marathon of a season we’re about to embark on.

Sift through them all on the table to the right in PST’s Preview central.

TV Schedule, all the details

And you can watch every single game of the Premier League season right here on NBC Sports Live Extra. So here’s where and how you can watch every single Premier League game this season. For the first-time in US history, all 380 PL games will be shown live across the NBC Sports Group platforms. In case you hadn’t noticed we’re pretty pumped about it.

MORE: Game schedule  |  Match finder

Star Players everywhere, take your pick

With so many World Class players on show during every single Premier League game, it’s hard to single out a few. But the supreme talent of Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney, Gareth Bale, Sergio Aguero, Juan Mata and Robin van Persie will light up the league.

Many of those names mentioned have been embroiled in summer-long transfer sagas; with their futures still uncertain, new stars may replace them during the 2013-14 campaign. Let the young pretenders rise to the top, with Wilfred Zaha, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Stevan Jovetic and many others on the cusp of greatness.

Prediction Time

Our six writers at ProSoccerTalk had a tough time predicting the final standings for the Premier League season. Do you agree?

But Chelsea and Manchester City are the overwhelming favorites to clinch the title and the three promoted teams look like going straight back down. A few surprises in there, so check it out.

Verdict

This season has been described as “the most interesting Premier League season in history.” And it’s hard to argue with that. With managerial changes at the league’s biggest clubs and teams spending to big to push up the table, this season is so hard to call. Everyone is in with a shout for the title.

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Will RVP lead the way again?

The 2013-14 PL season will be the most competitive season in history, across the board, as teams aim to win the league, qualify for Europe and stay away from the relegation zone.

Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United all begin new eras under new managers and the eyes of the world will be on those powerhouse clubs to see which transition will be the smoothest. I think Chelsea have the edge here. José Mourinho has worked at Chelsea before, delivering Premier League titles and plenty of other trophies. He has a young, talented squad and plenty of experienced heads who’ve won plenty of titles.

Pellegrini’s new stars at Manchester City will be eager to prove their worth to City’s loyal fans, who are desperate for more successful after finishing in the top three during the last three seasons. However, with many people writing off Moyes at Manchester United, you just can’t rule out the reigning champions. Expect United to get it together around Christmas time, after a tough start to the season.

With so much up in the air, Arsenal and Tottenham will fancy their chances to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League. But on the eve of the season, all we can do is speculate, predict and debate.

But this time tomorrow, the talking will be over. Let’s go.

Burnley’s Andre Gray charged by FA over Twitter posts from 2012

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Andre Gray of Burnley during the Premier League match between Burnley and Cardiff City at Turf Moor on  August 13, 2016 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)
Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images
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A Premier League player is set to be punished by English football authorities for discriminatory comments he made on social media more than four years ago.

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The comments made by Burnley striker Andre Gray between Jan. 9 and March 11, 2012 appeared anti-gay. They came to light on Saturday, when they were retweeted by other people after he scored his first Premier League goal for Burnley in the team’s 2-0 win over Liverpool. Gray released a public apology after the match.

Gray was charged with misconduct on Tuesday by the Football Association, which said the alleged comments “were abusive and/or insulting and/or improper and/or brought the game into disrepute.”

Gray said in his apology “the tweets were posted four years ago when I was a completely different person to the man I am now.”

“I have experienced a lot over the past four years and have had to take responsibility for a number of things in my life which has enabled me to mature and grow as a person since that time,” the 25-year-old Gray said.

“I have a lot of regrets regarding a number of things I’ve done in the past and realize I have made some big mistakes, none more so than these tweets, but I would like to stress that I’ve worked incredibly hard to completely transform my life since that time.”

[ MORE: Champions League roundup — Roma self-destruct; Celtic sneak in ]

Gray said he wanted to clarify that he was “absolutely not homophobic” and to “ask for forgiveness to anyone I offended.”

The FA said Gray had until Aug. 31 to respond to the charge.

“He has moved a long way in life,” Burnley manager Sean Dyche said Tuesday. “He’s made that clear with an apology and also to remind the club, `It’s four years ago, I’m a different person.’

“A lot has gone on in his life to get him where he’s got to, I think he made that clear. It was authentic what he said (in the apology).”

Gray was the top scorer in the second-tier League Championship last season, helping Burnley achieve an immediate return to the Premier League.

Arsenal, Stoke target Jones part of Mourinho’s plans, will stay at Man United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 19: Wes Hoolahan of Norwich City and Phil Jones of Manchester United compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Norwich City at Old Trafford on December 19, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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Other Premier League clubs might be interested in Phil Jones, but Jose Mourinho has no intentions of letting the 24-year-old future England captain Manchester United center back leave anytime soon.

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Mourinho and Man United have received multiple approaches for Jones this summer, but never entertained the idea of selling, according to the Guardian. Arsenal were said to have been interested earlier in the summer, while Stoke City are presently trying to pry the Blackburn Rovers academy product away from Old Trafford, as confirmed by Mark Hughes’ assistant, Mark Bowen, earlier this week.

Jones moved to Man United in the summer of 2011 for a fee believed to be north of $20 million. While he’s endured his share of hard times in his five seasons at the club, Jones would easily be a 30-$35 million player giving fees paid for comparable center backs in recent transfer windows.

[ MORE: Champions League roundup — Roma self-destruct; Celtic sneak in ]

While Jones is yet to see the field early in the 2016-17 season, he remains a viable option, along with Chris Smalling, behind $40-million summer signing Eric Bailly and midfielder-turned-defender Daley Blind. Over the course of a 38-game PL season, the UEFA Champions League Europa League, FA Cup and EFL Cup, a busy schedule and injuries will provide plenty of chances to impress the new manager and reclaim a regular place in the first team.

MLS preview: Galaxy, Sounders, Toronto FC hit the road midweek

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against Colorado Rapids during the first half of the MLS soccer game in Toronto on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. (Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP)
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Previewing the biggest games across Major League Soccer on Wednesday…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Orlando City SC vs. Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. ET (MLS Live)

Quick quiz: Which is the hottest team in MLS right now? Answer: It’s TFC, who are unbeaten in their last six games, a stretch which includes five wins and an aggregate score of 16-4. OK, so how are they doing it? Don’t ask silly questions. In those six games, Sebastian Giovinco, who’s again running away in the MVP race and will become the first back-to-back winner in league history (only Preki has ever been a two-time winner), has scored eight goals and notched four assists. He’s been even better this year than he was in 2015. His 2016 season tally currently stands at 16 and 11. He’ll likely be the first player in MLS history to notch multiple 20-goal seasons, if Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has 15 this season, doesn’t get there first.

It’s not only Giovinco, though, but the return Jozy Altidore which has allowed the Italian superstar the freedom, the space, and the hold-up play to thrive as he’s done. Giovinco has been given a free role by head coach Greg Vanney, and Altidore’s ability to occupy two center backs at once, along with his ability to hold the ball up and draw the opposing defense toward him, has resulted in Giovinco scoring a number of easy chances no player of his quality should ever be allowed to see. It’s amazing what happens when you build a team and system around your best player, rather than try to make that player fit into something predetermined. Three points on Wednesday would vault the Reds into first place in the Eastern Conference having finally pulled level on games played with New York City FC.

[ MORE: NYCFC’s Jack Harrison on meteoric rise — “It can only get better” ]

Chicago Fire vs. LA Galaxy — 8:30 p.m. ET (MLS Live)

After rattling off four straight wins over the majority of July, the Galaxy are suddenly winless winless in their last four, though they’ve managed to salvage three points during that period. During the current four-game stretch, the attacking trio of Robbie Keane, Giovani dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes have combined to contribute just one goal and three assists, all but one assist of which have come from GdS.

No team in the Western Conference has won more points away from home (14) than the Galaxy this season, while no team in MLS has won fewer home points (17 — or points, period, 22) than the Fire. All signs point toward a Galaxy victory, but this is a Fire side that has steadily improved bit by bit in recent weeks, culminating in their first road victory in 25 months last weekend. The Vancouver Whitecaps await the Galaxy on the weekend — can you say, “trap game?”

[ MORE: U.S. teen skipping college, heading to La Liga ]

Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders — 9 p.m. ET (MLS Live)

If TFC are the hottest team in MLS, the Sounders are the second-hottest and without a doubt the hottest team in the West. Since firing Sigi Schmid four weeks ago, the bunch in Rave Green are unbeaten in four games, now having won three straight. The signing of Nicolas Lodeiro has been the spark that breathed life into a dying season, but one could reasonably argue that Cristian Roldan’s emergence deep in midfield has meant just as much to a Sounders side that, for the first time all season, has found a strong base between the attack and defense.

Osvaldo Alonso is no longer being ask to play the box-to-box role in which he thrived for a half-decade, instead acting as the organizer and director in front of the backline, with Roldan, the 21-year-old with many miles left in his legs, covering large swaths of space in midfield. The biggest difference between Roldan and your typical defensive midfield in MLS? He can see a pass in the final third, and he can hit it when it’s on. Lodeiro creates plenty of space for Jordan Morris and Clint Dempsey with his unbelievable range of passing, and that’s been a huge part of the eight goals the Sounders have scored in those three wins, but Roldan’s presence alongside Alonso has been just as important in allowing just four goals in four games.

EFL Cup roundup: Chelsea, Liverpool advance; Watford, WBA lose to League 1 sides

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 23:  Michy Batshuayi of Chelsea celebrates scoring the opening goal during the EFL Cup second round match between Chelsea and Bristol Rovers at Stamford Bridge on August 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images )
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Watford and West Bromwich Albion were beaten by third-tier opposition in the English League Cup on Tuesday, while fellow Premier League sides Liverpool and Everton enjoyed big wins in the second round.

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Chelsea was pushed hard by third-tier Bristol Rovers before also advancing to the third round with a 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge.

Watford lost 2-1 to Gillingham after extra time and West Brom was beaten 4-3 on penalties by Northampton after they finished 2-2 after 120 minutes.

Northampton famously ousted Liverpool in the 2010-11 competition, but the Reds easily avoided a so-called “giant-killing” this time round by thrashing Burton Albion 5-0. Daniel Sturridge came off the bench to score two goals and wrap up victory over the second-tier side managed by former Liverpool forward Nigel Clough.

Divock Origi and Roberto Firmino also scored for a full-strength Liverpool team, and there was an own goal.

“Very serious, very professional performance by my side,” said Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp, who added that second-half injuries to Emre Can and Origi were not serious.

Everton also had a substitute striker scoring a late double, with Arouna Kone’s goals sealing a 4-0 home win over fourth-tier Yeovil.

[ MORE: Champions League roundup — Roma self-destruct; Celtic sneak in ]

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte‘s decision to field a team largely made up of reserve players nearly backfired. Belgium striker BatshuayiMichy Batshuayi scored two first-half goals as Chelsea took a 3-1 lead into halftime, before Rovers scored a 48th-minute penalty and struck the crossbar as they went in search of an equalizer.

Devoid of European football this season, Liverpool and Chelsea will likely take the League Cup seriously. They are two of the most successful clubs in the competition’s history, having won it 13 times between them.

Stoke, Swansea, Hull and Crystal Palace were the other Premier League teams to progress to the third round, when clubs involved in Europe enter the draw that takes place Wednesday.

Peter Crouch scored a hat trick – including one goal from a scissor kick – in Stoke’s 4-0 win at Stevenage, Oliver McBurnie scored twice on his debut for Swansea in a 3-1 win at Peterborough, Hull beat Exeter 3-1 away and Palace was a 2-0 winner at home to Blackpool.

Palace gave a debut to new record-signing Christian Benteke, who played the first half before being substituted.

Derby beat Carlisle 14-13 on penalties to equal the most goals scored in a shootout in the competition’s history.