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.

Europa League preview: Arsenal in Serbia, Everton desperate vs. Lyon

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The twelve groups of the UEFA Europa League bring forth soccer on Thursday, with a bevy of matches dotting the continent.

[ MORE: Full Europa schedule ]

Here are the top five matches to keep an eye on.

Everton vs. Lyon — 3:05 p.m. ET

If you would’ve told Ronald Koeman his Toffees would walk into this match with just one point but sit only another behind Lyon, he’d probably tell you to take a hike. But Lyon drew 1-1 at Apollon Limassol and 1-1 at home to Atalanta, opening the door for Everton to finish the day in Group E’s top two slots.

Nabil Fekir and Real Madrid loanee Mariano Diaz have seven goals each for Lyon, while ex-Premier Leaguers Memphis Depay and Bertrand Traore are also key components of the French outfit’s attack.

Red Star Belgrade vs. Arsenal — 1 p.m. ET

Arsenal in Europa has been pretty thrilling, with 3-1 and 4-2 wins under Arsene Wenger‘s belt ahead of the first of two with the 1991 European Cup winners. It’s a nice challenge for Canadian national team backstop Milan Borjan, who should be the man to try to thwart the Gunners in Serbia.

Hoffenheim vs. Istanbul Basaksehir — 3:05 p.m. ET

The favorites to win the group are dead last in the group as they welcome the perceived group underdogs from Turkey. The Super Lig runners-up have some familiar names on the roster with Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy, Eljero Elia, Mevlut Erdinc, Gokhan Inler, Aurelien Chedjou, and Emre Belozoglu.

AC Milan vs. AEK Athens — 3:05 p.m. ET

Milan has been burying goals in Europa play, with five at Austria Wien and three in a home win over Rijeka. Enter Athens, which has scooped up four points in group play and will look for a win to put them ahead of the group-leading Rossoneri.

Nice vs. Lazio — 1 p.m. ET

The only group with a pair of 2-0 teams. Mario Balotelli is plenty familiar with his Roman opposition from his time in Serie A.

Probe finds racial discrimination by England women’s coach

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LONDON (AP) Former England women’s team coach Mark Sampson racially discriminated against two of his players, a fresh Football Association investigation has concluded after initially dismissing allegations of wrongdoing and prompting a damaging public row with striker Eni Aluko.

Sampson was cleared of discrimination by earlier FA investigations but was fired last month because of an unrelated case of inappropriate conduct toward players in a previous job.

[ MORE: Champions League at halfway mark ]

Only now has a barrister considered new evidence about Sampson’s conduct toward England internationals Aluko and Drew Spence, with the details being released ahead of a parliamentary hearing.

“I have concluded that on two separate occasions, MS (Sampson) has made ill-judged attempts at humor, which, as a matter of law, were discriminatory on grounds of race,” barrister Katharine Newton wrote in the report.

One racially discriminatory comment by Sampson in 2014 toward Aluko requested her family members from Nigeria didn’t come to a game because of Ebola.

“MS (Sampson) did treat EA (Aluko) less favorably than he would have treated a player who was not of African descent,” Newton wrote. “MS had therefore subjected EA to less favorable treatment because of her ethnicity.”

During a team meeting in 2015, Sampson also asked Spence if she had been to prison, and then suggested she had been arrested four times. Newton concluded that the comment was made “because of her ethnicity.”

[ MORE: Hamid leaving DC United ]

FA chief executive Martin Glenn apologized to Aluko and Spence before the hearing. But Aluko told legislators that Glenn’s earlier conduct toward her was “bordering on blackmail” after he threatened to withhold payments from an 80,000 pound ($105,000) financial settlement unless she published a statement saying the FA “was not institutionally racist.”

With Aluko sitting behind him, Glenn later told the hearing that the player had not been blackmailed.

Instead Glenn said that an August tweet by Aluko – “at least we now know the FA’s stance on derogatory racial remarks by an England manager. Ignore, deny, endorse” – was a “clear breach of the agreement.”

Aluko, who was part of the team that finished third at the 2015 World Cup, has not played for England since making her 102nd appearance in April 2016.

There was a more apologetic tone from Glenn in his written statement on Wednesday, saying that Sampson’s conduct was “not acceptable” and he “would like to sincerely apologize” to Aluko and Spence.

“Our ambition has always been to find the truth and take swift and appropriate action if needed,” Glenn said. “It was our decision to have the original, second and final investigation to ensure that due diligence was taken. It is regrettable that Eniola did not participate in the first external investigation as this would have enabled Katharine Newton to conduct and complete her investigation sooner.”

Report: Hamid leaving DC United to “push himself” elsewhere

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Bill Hamid is taking his talents elsewhere.

The 26-year-old has been with DC United since 2007, making an even 200 appearances across all competitions.

[ MORE: Champions League at halfway mark ]

Hamid is thrice capped by the United States and widely considering to be one of the best shot-stoppers in the league, but the Washington Post’s Steven Goff says Hamid wants to showcase himself on a new stage.

“I want to push myself and see how far I can go because I know I have the work ethic and the hunger to take myself very far in this game. I know I can make it to the next level.”

Hamid is likely to wind up in Europe, and Goff said Danish club Midtjylland is the favorite. He’s also been scouted by Eintracht Frankfurt.

With a new United States men’s national team coach set to be appointed and Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, and Nick Rimando all on the back end of their time with the USMNT, Hamid has to look at himself as competing with Ethan Horvath and any number of young prospects.

Horvath is 22 and starting for Club Brugge. If their season continues on its pace, he’ll have a Belgian title and a Norwegian title under his belt.

U-20 players Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha Berlin), Brady Scott (Koln), and Justin Vom Steeg (Fortuna Dusseldorf) are in German systems, while U-17 World Cup starters CJ dos Santos is at Benfica.

Age when making European debut and club
Tim Howard, 24, Manchester United
Brad Friedel, 23, Newcastle United
Brad Guzan, 23, Aston Villa
Kasey Keller, 23, Millwall
Tony Meola, 21, Brighton and Hove Albion
Ethan Horvath, 19, Molde

Surprises, disappointments halfway through Champions League group stage

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Clubs have met each of their group mates once, giving us an imperfect but workable sample size for the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League group stage.

Five groups have a side boasting a 3-0 record, while four clubs have yet to seize a single point.

[ CHAMPS LEAGUE: Tuesday | Weds. ]

Some of the strugglers, like 0-1-2 Maribor and 0-1-2 APOEL, are not surprises. And it’s no shock to see Manchester United at perfect 3-0 given its draw.

Others? Well, that’s not the case.

Status down 

While Manchester United is a perfect 3-0 in Group A, raise your hand if you figured Benfica would have just one goal and zero points through three matches. Benfica’s also played two of its three home ties, making the knockout rounds a dream.

Atletico Madrid has found the UEFA Champions League Final in two of the last four seasons, but finds itself with work to do moving forward. Atleti’s Wednesday draw at Qarabag leaves it three points behind Roma and five back of leaders Chelsea. Diego Simeone’s men still host Roma and Qarabag, so points are out there.

Serie A play has been gorgeous for Napoli, who has failed to bring that momentum to Group F. It’s worth noting that a missed penalty by red-hot Dries Mertens could’ve earned the Neapolitans a point at Man City on Tuesday, but as it stands Napoli is three points back of Shakhtar and could be six back before the Ukrainians visit on Nov. 21.

It turns out you can’t sell everyone and expect the youth to come through shining. Monaco is at the bottom of a very winnable group, having lost at home to Porto and Besiktas. Still just three points behind RB Leipzig, they’ll need to win at Monaco and/or Besiktas to have any hope of the knockout rounds.

Borussia Dortmund got a rough deal from officials when it visited Wembley Stadium, but losses to Spurs and Real Madrid can happen in a group stage. Tuesday’s draw at APOEL Nicosia, however, is close to a backbreaker.

(Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images).

Status up

Spurs draw at Real Madrid may have been aided by a huge performance from Hugo Lloris, but goalkeepers — as you know — are actual components of a team. This is in fact a group of death, but the North Londoners are holding a scythe. If Mauricio Pochettino can lead a home win over Real Madrid at a raucous Wembley on All Saints Day, well, look out!

Cenk Tosun has gone from sleepy transfer target to the tip of many gossipers’ tongues, as Besiktas is a perfect 3-0 including wins at Monaco and Porto. Anderson Talisca and… wait for it… Ryan Babel (!!) have also starred for the Turkish powers who will almost certainly see the knockout rounds.

[ MORE: JPW sits down with Ederson ]

Pep Guardiola‘s done this Champions League dance, you know, and Manchester City has weathered all storms. That includes conceded two penalties — one was saved by Ederson — as a down performance versus Napoli still ended with a home win. If City can win at the Stadio San Paolo on Nov. 1, Pep can sleepwalk into the final two matches (though that’s not his style).

Roma has a classy draw at Chelsea and has gathered five points including four away from home. Mimic that mark and i Lupi will be a challenge in the knockout rounds.

Neymar was best pals with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez last season at Barcelona, but having a less-than-perfect relationship with Edinson Cavani hasn’t hurt a thing in Paris. Paris Saint-Germain is for real, scoring 12 times and yet to concede in wins over Bayern Munich, Celtic, and Anderlecht.

Grey area

Liverpool leads its group and advancing is really the only goal, but there’s something off-putting about the home draw against Sevilla. The 1-1 draw at Spartak Moscow looks better now that the Russians hammered Sevilla 5-1, but a return visit from Maribor next should help the Reds buttress their stock.

Be careful how finely you analyze a club as accomplished as two-time reigning champs Real Madrid, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s men don’t look so hot. Still well-positioned to move on, keep a close eye on how they look at Wembley in a few weeks.

Holding pattern

Chelsea‘s 3-3 draw versus Roma today was its first real stumble of the UCL, but there shouldn’t be too many alarm bells considering their injury problems and Roma’s desperation. Consider their status even, especially given their clever win at Atletico Madrid.

Jose Mourinho is doing a fine job with Manchester United, but it’s really hard to praise the club too much for doing what’s expected in a glorified Europa League group. Clearly Sir Alex Ferguson was involved in the icing some of the draw balls again…