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.

LIVE, UCL – Sevilla vs. Man United, Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Roma

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Jose Mourinho has created a splash this morning by benching Paul Pogba despite utilizing a 3-man central midfield formation as Manchester United heads to Spain to take on Sevilla in their Champions League Round of 16 first leg meeting.

Pogba was left out of Saturday’s win over Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup due to illness, but having made the trip to Sevilla with the matchday squad, it seems his omission is instead due to tactical reasons. 21-year-old academy product Scott McTominay starts in Pogba’s place alongside Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera, with the Frenchman on the bench among the substitutes.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

The decision is surprising given Manchester United’s 16-point deficit in the Premier League table as they trail runaway favorites Manchester City, leaving the Champions League as the best competition remaining that the Red Devils have a shot to win.

Up front for Manchester United, Alexis Sanchez carries the creative load along with Juan Mata, with both supporting Romelu Lukaku at the striker position. Meanwhile, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof continue to work as the central defensive partnership, while Antonio Valencia captains the side as full-back, mirrored by Ashley Young on the other edge.

In the other matchup, Roma heads to the Ukraine to take on Shakhtar Donetsk, who finished 2nd in Group F three points behind Manchester City. The Ukranian side has only just returned from its winter break, with just a single game played since December 10th.

Roma, meanwhile, has pulled itself out of a rut just in time for the return of Champions League play, with three straight Serie A wins coming on the heels of a five-match winless run. They have scored eight goals over those three wins, with a pair of road clean sheets among the group. 20-year-old Turkish winger Cengiz Under is on fire over the win streak, scoring four goals over that span.


Today’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 schedule

Sevilla vs. Manchester United – 2:45 p.m. ET
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Roma – 2:45 p.m. ET

Reports: Mourinho to leave Paul Pogba out of Champions League lineup

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According to multiple reports across England, including the BBC, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is ready to leave Paul Pogba out of his starting lineup for Wednesday’s Champions League match against Sevilla despite utilizing a 4-3-3 formation with three central midfielders.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

The reports state that Pogba will be left on the bench in favor of youngster Scott McTominay, who will start alongside Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic. Mourinho has spoken highly of McTominay recently, saying three days ago, “I think Scott deserves more than what he is getting.”

“Maybe it’s because he’s this kind of kid profile: a normal haircut, no tattoos, no big cars, no big watches, humble kid, arrive in the club when he was nine or 10,” Mourinho said in what many perceived to be a thinly veiled slap at Pogba.

Mourinho has held back from publicly criticizing his $125 million midfielder in the media, but his actions on the field suggest otherwise. The 24-year-old has failed to record 90 minutes in three straight Premier League matches, seeing his manager yank him before the full-time whistle in two and failing to make the starting lineup in the other, leaving many to speculate a rift between the two.

The decision is especially surprising given Juan Mata‘s comments earlier Wednesday that suggested Manchester United is prioritizing the Champions League, given their 16-point deficit to Manchester City in the Premier League table.

Pogba missed the 2-0 FA Cup win over Huddersfield on Saturday due to illness, but it’s hard to imagine that four days later that keeps the French superstar on the bench, especially given his ability to make the trip to Sevilla with the matchday squad.

Leicester City settles Financial Fair Play dispute with Football League

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Leicester City will owe the Football League a reduced fine after coming to an agreement with the English lower-league governing body over a dispute regarding the 2013/14 season.

The Foxes, who won the Championship that season and were promoted to the Premier League, were handed an official breach of Financial Fair Play rules after accruing a loss exceeding the allowed $11 million amount. However, Leicester City argued that the deficit was due to “allowable” amounts regarding promotion and academy costs.

After talks between the two parties, the EFL announced Leicester City will owe a reduced amount of $4.33 million. They could have owed up to $18 million, the differential between the allowed amount and their actual posted loss of $20.8 million.

In an official release, the EFL announced, “The EFL acknowledges that [Leicester City] did not make any deliberate attempt to infringe the Rules or to deceive and that the dispute arose out of genuine differences of interpretation of the Rules between the parties.”

After initially receiving word of the notice back in 2014, the Foxes had legally challenged the fine, but that had been put on hold after litigation began in 2015 between the EFL and Queens Park Rangers for a similar dispute. Bournemouth was also fined after incurring a significant loss in their 2014/15 promotion season. Teams that breach rules but are not promoted face transfer bans, such as Fulham, Bolton, and Nottingham Forest received through the 2014/15 season.

Who’s to blame? A closer look at Chelsea’s blunder late vs. Barcelona

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As our very own Joe Prince-Wright explained yesterday in the aftermath of Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the Champions League Round of 16, Antonio Conte could not have set his team up better for success at Stamford Bridge.

And yet, they walked away from the first leg with a disappointing result, one that could set up Barcelona with the advantage as they head to the Camp Nou in two weeks time.

So where did it all go wrong? That pass from Andreas Christensen, obviously – the one that gifted Lionel Messi a late goal. But is Christensen to blame? Or were there other culprits?

Clearly, the pass was ill-advised. Christensen sends the ball across his own box parallel to the goal mouth, which Andreas Iniesta easily pilfers and sends to Messi for his first goal against Chelsea. It was a pass they teach 7-year-olds not to make, one that even the youngest of dedicated soccer players knows to avoid.

Christensen makes an easy target, given that he is just 21 years old, has only just recently earned his way into the Blues starting lineup, and was the most obvious culprit having made the fateful pass.

However, upon closer inspection, it may not have even been meant to reach the far side of the field.

Christensen’s exasperated reaction suggests the pass was likely intended for Cesc Fabregas who sat at the top of the box under little pressure. Christensen was closed down on the far touchline with little room to operate, and his outlet to Fabregas in the middle of the field was a good option, even if the general idea of a pass in that direction is usually frowned upon. However, Christensen’s pass was just slightly behind Fabregas, and the Spaniard ultimately decided to let the ball go instead of chasing it down, leaving it for a less populated area of the field.

Unfortunately, with his back turned to the eventual destination of the pass, Fabregas was unaware that Iniesta had anticipated its flight path and was already making a run to steal the ball. When the veteran Barcelona midfielder reached the ball, he was challenged by a sliding Cesar Azpilicueta, who completely whiffed. While Christensen and Fabregas were culpable of putting the team in a dangerous situation, Azpilicueta’s tackle was an abomination. Azpilicueta actually reached the ball first, but inexplicably failed to make contact with the ball, allowing Iniesta to easily evade the slide and still take charge of the ball.

Andreas Christensen is the clear perpetrator, but Fabregas and Azpilicueta both contributed negatively to the situation, leaving Chelsea at a slight disadvantage heading into a hostile environment despite Antonio Conte’s best efforts. Sadly, Conte will be the one to shoulder the accountability at the end of the season if Chelsea goes out of the Champions League, even though he received top marks for the match, and his players let him down.