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.

source: Getty Images
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.

Chelsea-Man City: Five stars who shone (and five more who went dim)

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03:  Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea celebrates his team's third goal scored by Eden Hazard (not pictured) during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea at Etihad Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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Selecting Chelsea’s best from an all-around strong game was a struggle, certainly harder than identifying the men who hurt Manchester City’s chances of going atop the Premier League in a 3-1 match at Stamford Bridge on Saturday .

City had a lot of passengers, to be sure, as Antonio Conte got the better of Pep Guardiola in their first ever match-up (one that tactically delivered even if City’s players didn’t hold up their end of the bargain).

[ MORE: Match recap | Chelsea’s decisive goals ]

Forgive us for not going 22-deep with the player ratings this fine American morning, but here are 10 players who sincerely impacted the match for better or worse.

Stars who shone…

Diego Costa — Chelsea’s big forward was an absolute force, and would deserve his shine on the basis of his goal alone. His classy chest trap of Cesc Fabregas’ fantastic long offering allowed him the moment to boss Nicolas Otamendi, and the finish past Claudio Bravo was no problem. Then he turned well to play Willian in for the second goal, completing his day with an assist before walking off injured.

N'Golo KanteWe’re unsure the Chelsea engine has truly poor games, to be honest, and the French midfielder again showed his class (even if there’s some debate as to whether his risky but successful first-half tackle on Ilkay Gundogan could’ve been ruled a penalty). This is the sort of player who bears watching off the ball, because he’s likely going to where the opposition is trying to place it.

Cesc Fabregas — Set up Costa’s opening goal, and could’ve easily had a second assist when Eden Hazard darted around Bravo only to opt for a pass rather than a tight-angled shot on goal. Conte’s inspired decision to start him will be lauded in the fallout.

Cesar Azpilicueta — The least heralded of Chelsea’s backs was lively in the win, and had spells in which he was in charge of his side of the field. Well done, Dave.

Kevin De Bruyne (for 89 minutes and 59 seconds) — Hear me out… Can one moment quash a match with plenty of bright moments? The Belgian star was very good for Chelsea, apart from missing a sitter on the doorstep. De Bruyne’s lunging effort could’ve made it 2-0, as KDB was inches from scoring but couldn’t keep his body forward enough during the lunge. He’s gotta slide, unfortunately, and doesn’t (doubly so).


 

…And those who went dim

Nicolas Otamendi — He’ll need to turn the page on this one in a hurry. Otamendi was victimized by Costa on the first goal, and then caught in no man’s land on the second. A rough day for a strong player.

Gary Cahill — Yeah, it’s a bit easy to call out a man who scored an own goal, especially one who cleared a later effort off the line, but the Englishman’s finish behind his keeper was a poor decision to use the wrong foot. And it put his team down a goal.

Sergio Aguero — Far too little to like from the Man City man, who added a heaping of injury to his insulting night when he committed a horror tackle on David Luiz late. Sent off, this means a chance for Kelechi Iheanacho to shine in perhaps several matches. A striker of his quality has to find a goal in matches like this, or face criticism.

Fernandinho — On the same note, here’s a man who didn’t have a poor match on the pitch but cost his team big with a hands to the throat of Fabregas and a shove over the advertising boards that made the red card unavoidable for Anthony Taylor. These next few games will be difficult for City.

Claudio Bravo —  Perhaps a bit harsh, but City wants to win the Champions League and Premier League. A top-end goalkeeper has to find a way to stop that second goal. Dare-we-say that Joe Hart is a better shot-stopper than the Chilean?

Follow @NicholasMendola

Three things we learned from Chelsea’s win vs. Man City

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Chelsea beat Man City 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday with Antonio Conte‘s men putting down a big marker in their title push.

[ MORE: Recap as Chelsea win ]

Diego Costa, Willian and Eden Hazard scored Chelsea’s goal as the Blues have now won eight-straight games and in turn they put Pep Guardiola and City in their place.

Here’s what we learned from a gripping, absorbing encounter.


WING BACK BATTLE

Both teams opted for wing backs and the result was a bit chaotic.

For Man City they had attacking wingers in Jesus Navas and Leroy Sane in the wide position and they just looked so uncomfortable in those defensive positions. Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses grew in stature as the game wore on, although they had plenty more defensive work in the first half than they’ve had in recent months since Chelsea switched to a 3-4-3 formation.

Guardiola has switched between a three-man central defense and four at the back and it’s quite clear his players aren’t comfortable with either as of yet.

After making uncharacteristic mistakes in the first 50 minutes, Conte’s Chelsea looked very comfortable in the second half and Moses and Alonso both surged forward and looked much more adept defensively.

Guardiola’s gamble to match Chelsea’s wing backs backfired. Out of the four wing backs on the pitch, there’s no doubting that Chelsea’s two prevailed.


COSTA PUTS CHELSEA ON HIS BACK

With Chelsea trailing 1-0 at half time and barely having a sniff at goal in the first half, plus struggling defensively, it was time for Diego Costa to step up. He did. Big time.

The Spanish striker chased, harried and bullied his way into the game and Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones had no answer for his clever movement, persistent pressure and rambunctious behavior.

Costa has quality too.

The 28-year-old latched on to Cesc Fabregas’ perfect through ball (is this the 2014-15 season!?) and chested down before finishing to make it 1-1 and less than 10 minutes later he played in Willian to put Chelsea ahead. Costa has now scored 11 goals and added five assists this season as he continues to be Conte’s main man.

Late on Costa had to come off injured with what looked like an injured lower back and the Spanish international will be nursed back to fitness as his importance to Chelsea is clear.

If Costa goes down injured or gets suspended — he’s been on four bookings for quite some time and a fifth will mean a suspension, but he seems more controlled and mature this campaign — Chelsea will be struggling. If he stays fit and in form, they will continue to be favorites to win the league.


CITY NEED NEW CENTER BACKS

Quite simply, Man City were all over the place in defense.

With Otamendi, Stones and Aleksandar Kolarov pushed to play from the back by Guardiola, they never looked comfortable on Saturday and with two wingers playing at full back, they didn’t have the cover they needed when they pushed forward into midfield when on the ball.

Tactically, Chelsea got at City’s defense in the second half and with Otamendi on a yellow card for scything down Costa in the first half, he was walking a tightrope for the rest of the game. Stones was subbed out with 15 minutes to go and without Vincent Kompany in central defense, City couldn’t stop Chelsea flooding forward and getting in-behind them.

This game had everything. City could’ve scored more goals with Kevin De Bruyne somehow hitting the bar from four yards out and Sergio Aguero being denied by Thibaut Courtois and goal line clearances, but the biggest issue for Guardiola is sorting his side out defensively.

With all of their spending on forwards and midfielders over the summer, it’s clear City need to spend big in January on a center back (or find a better solution from within) if they’re going to finish in the top four and challenge for the title. City are just four points off the top but they’ve lost to Tottenham and Chelsea this season in a very similar fashion.

Man City 1-3 Chelsea: Eight-straight wins for table-topping Blues

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  • Cahill own goal gives City the lead
  • Costa, Willian, Hazard scores
  • City finish game with nine-men
  • Chelsea win eight-straight in PL

Chelsea passed their biggest test yet as Antonio Conte‘s side fought back from 1-0 down to beat nine-man Manchester City 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday to seal their eighth-straight Premier League win.

An own goal from Gary Cahill right on half time gave Man City the lead but two goals in 10 minutes from Diego Costa and Willian turned the game on its head as City squandered chances and Chelsea put in a perfect away display with Eden Hazard adding another in stoppage time, plus Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho were both sent off in stoppage time as tempers flared.

With the win Chelsea remains top of the PL table on 34 points, while City remain on 30 points after they suffered a second defeat of the season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

City had a penalty shout early on as David Silva tried to squirm free of Cahill and the Chelsea defender knocked the ball with his arm, but referee Anthony Taylor waved away the claims.

Chelsea then went close as Hazard curled a low shot just wide and moments later the first booking of the game arrived as Nicolas Otamendi clattered into Costa and received a yellow card.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Aguero then went close as he took two touches to settle himself and smashed a high effort in on goal but Thibaut Courtois pushed the effort over.

The game then exploded into life as Fernandinho finished Kevin De Bruyne‘s free kick but he was in an offside position and the flag went up. Seconds later Hazard raced clear and took the ball past Claudio Bravo but instead of shooting into an empty net from a slightly tight angle, he instead tried to pick out a teammate and City cleared.

A controversial moment than arrived as Aguero and David Luiz collided with the Chelsea man the last line in defense but Taylor didn’t award a foul. Aguero was denied from close-range by Cesar Azpilicueta’s block and before the break City were ahead.

Jesus Navas’ cross from the right was hooked towards his own goal by Cahill as he tried to clear with his right foot and it flew into the opposite top corner of the net. 1-0 to Man City.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

At the start of the second half City had a good chance to double their lead as Leroy Sane surged forward and set up De Bruyne but his shot was blocked down low by Courtois. Then at the other end a mistake by Sane allowed Costa to run into the box but his shot went wide of the near post.

At the other end Aguero nipped in to seize on a moment of hesitation between Cahill and Courtois but Cahill then cleared Aguero’s effort off the line. De Bruyne then somehow hit the crossbar from four yards out with the goal gaping after a flowing City move and that miss was to prove costly.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

In the 60th minute Chelsea were level as Cesc Fabreags (only in the team because Nemanja Matic was injured) sent through a perfect long ball which Costa chested down and fired home. 1-1.

Aguero was denied by Courtois once again soon after the scores were level as Chelsa continued to make uncharacteristic mistakes at the back but they broke with pace and punished City to take the lead.

Costa’s hold up play was sublime, once again, and Willian raced clear drilling home a low shot to put Chelsea 2-1 ahead.

Chelsea continued to live life on the edge in defense with Luiz and others making blocks and last-ditch tackles in the box. However, Conte’s men held on comfortably for the win and added to the scoreline as Marcos Alonso‘s long ball forward set free Hazard who raced clear and finished emphatically. 3-1.

Late on Aguero was red carded for a horrible challenge on Luiz and in the melee which ensued Fabregas was pushed into the stands by Fernandinho who was also sent off and City finished the game with nine-men.

All of that nonsense aside, this was a stunning second half display from Chelsea which keeps them top of the Premier League and underlines their title credentials, plus it left Guardiola and his players with plenty of work to do.

WATCH: Brazilian-born Chelsea stars score, honor Chapecoense

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03:  Diego Costa of Chelsea celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea at Etihad Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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A day that began with a unified moment of silence for the victims of the Chapecoense plane crash was finished by Chelsea’s Brazilian-born stars.

Diego Costa pointed to his black “Forca Chape” arm band after scoring his equalizer against Manchester City, before David Luiz and Willian held theirs high after putting the Blues ahead.

[ MORE: Cahill’s own goal ]

Here’s the first, supplied by a pinpoint diagonal ball from Cesc Fabregas. Costa chests down the ball before taking care of Nicolas Otamendi to finish past Claudio Bravo. The forward was born in Lagarto, Brazil, and represented the country twice before switching allegiances to Spain.

Then came another terrific bit of service combined with Otamendi problems.

Then Costa sprung his national teammate Willian, whose blaze of speed set him 1v1 with Bravo.

The keeper probably could’ve done better, but the goal set up a poignant moment from the two members of Tite’s Canarinho.

Follow @NicholasMendola