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.

U.S. U-20s awaken in 2nd half vs. Haiti, keep WCQ hopes alive

USMNT U-20 team (Photo credit: U.S. Soccer)
Photo credit: U.S. Soccer
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With many thanks to the hat trick scored by Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake, on loan from Liverpool), the U.S. U-20 national team’s hopes of qualifying for the 2017 U-20 World Cup remain intact.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

After dropping all three points in their opening group-stage game against Panama on Saturday, Tab Ramos’ young Yanks faced elimination from CONCACAF’s U-20 Championship in Costa Rica with a defeat to Haiti on Tuesday. After 15 minutes, the Americans found themselves a goal down, the prospect of winning zero points from their first two games a terrifying possibility.

Then, Lennon struck from the penalty spot. A draw wouldn’t be enough, realistically, though, as they’d still trail Haiti by three points ahead of the final group game, against Saint Kitts and Nevis, with the top two sides from each team advancing to the classification stage.

The score remained 1-1 until halftime, after which point the Yanks roared to life with three goals in a seven-minute span. Luca de la Torre (Fulham) scored the first of the bunch, an empty-net finish after a failed punch by the goalkeeper. Lennon quickly followed suit with two more to make it 4-1.

With three points from two games and a goal differential that now sits at +2, the Yanks are second in Group B, just ahead of Haiti on goal differential (+1). Panama sit atop the group with six points and a +5 goal differential. A U.S. victory over Saint Kitts and Nevis, to go with a Haitian upset of Panama, would see the Americans finish top of the group go into Group E in the classification stage, which would see them accompanied by a pair of second-place sides. The first-place side in each classification group qualifies for May’s tournament in South Korea.

Guradiola “so happy” to see Man City “achieve another step” as a club

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Josep Guardiola manager of Manchester City reacts as Leonardo Jardim head coach of AS Monaco looks on during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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In the past, when faced with adversity in the UEFA Champions League, Manchester City could do little more than wilt and crumble as their European dreams when up in smoke year after year, typically in embarrassing and/or heartbreaking fashion.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

On Tuesday, when faced with 2-1 and 3-2 deficits late into the second half of their round-of-16 first leg against Monaco, deja vu was quickly setting in for anyone who’s followed Man City’s rise from middling afterthought to mega-rich conglomerate with aspirations of world domination. Then, something strange (based on years of recent history) happened: Sergio Aguero fired City back to level at 2-2 in the 58th minute. Sure, more shocking defending saw the deficit restored three minutes later, but again, Aguero dissented.

For this reason, and perhaps this reason alone considering the putrid defensively display over the course of 90 minutes, first-year City manager Pep Guardiola should be heartened by Tuesday’s events at the Etihad Stadium. In his mind, it was a massive step forward in the club’s psyche — quotes from the BBC:

“I am so happy for the result, we are still alive. These kind of things help this club to achieve another step. We attacked in small spaces. That’s why they wanted me to come here. Everybody has to be congratulated.

“We are going to fly to Monaco to score as many goals as possible. If we don’t score in Monaco we will be eliminated.”

UCL: Aguero, Falcao bag braces as Man City edge Monaco, 5-3

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City (C) celebrates with John Stones (L) and Leroy Sane of Manchester City (R) as he scores their third goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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  • Sterling gives Man City an early lead
  • Falcao hits back with a brace
  • Aguero’s brace breathes life back into City

Radamel Falcao and Sergio Aguero bagged dueling braces, while the defenders and/or goalkeepers from their respective sides engaged in dueling disasters, resulting in a bonkers UEFA Champions League round-of-16 first leg for the ages: Manchester City 5, Monaco 3.

Leroy Sane, David Silva and Raheem Sterling combined to put Man City in the lead after 28 minutes (WATCH HERE). Sane danced brilliantly and effortlessly past four defenders before playing Silva to the endline. The cross was simple for Silva, with Sterling arriving into acres of space in the goalmouth.

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]

That’s as good as the first half would get for City, though, as their annual Champions League meltdown commenced six short minutes thereafter (WATCH HERE). The Nicolas Otamendi-John Stones-Bacary Sanga triangle of deadly defending fell asleep in unison, which allowed Falcao all the time and space in the world to size up and head home his 23rd goal (in 29 games — all competitions) this season.

Eight minutes later, everyone else in sky blue joined the aforementioned trio for nap time. Fabinho, who also whipped in the cross for Falcao’s goal, dropped the most delicate of long balls onto the foot of Kylian Mbappe, and the 18-year-old fired his first-time shot past Willy Caballero without a single defender five yards from him in any direction.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

The second half began just as disastrously for City as the first ended. Otamendi tripped Falcao inside the penalty, and after discussing with his assistant on the endline, referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz awarded Monaco a penalty kick — City felt hard done by after Aguero wasn’t awarded a clear-cut penalty in the first half — which Falcao then proceeded to hit weakly into the waiting arms of Caballero. The tide had turned back in City’s favor.

Ageuro fired City back onto level terms just short of the hour mark, with many thanks to the horrendous howler of Danijel Subasic. Aguero’s effort on goal was tame, and right at the Croatian international, but the ball went right through his hands and found the back of the net to make it 2-2, a scoreline which lasted all of three minutes.

Stones tried his very best Otamendi impression, which looked like halfhearted defending as Falcao left him for dead and chipped Caballero in the 61 minute. The renaissance of Falcao will almost certainly result in a summer full of transfer stories linking him with a move back to the Premier League.

Aguero brought City back to level terms again in the 71st minute, unleashing a stunning volley from David Silva’s corner kick. Stones tapped home at the back post six minutes later to put City 4-3 ahead, and Sane completed the epic comeback with an empty-net finish in the 82nd minute.

In the end, City still have plenty of work to do in the second leg, having conceded not one, not two, but three away goals. One thing is a near certainty: no extra time shall be needed.

UCL: Atletico Madrid blitz Bayer for 4 away goals, win 1st leg 4-2

Atletico's Antoine Griezmann, front, is congratulated by his teammate Saul Niguez after scoring their side's second goal during the Champions League round of 16 first leg soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and Atletico Madrid in Leverkusen, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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  • Four away goals for Atleti
  • Niguez, Griezmann, Gamerio, Torres on the scoresheet
  • Bellarabi, Savic (OG) give Bayer a lifeline

If you spent your Tuesday glued to Manchester City’s thrilling 5-3 victory over Monaco in the UEFA Champions League, you may now direct your attention to the day’s other first-leg festival of goals: Bayer Leverkusen 2, Atletico Madrid 4.

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]

Saul Niguez opened the scoring with a stunning curler after 17 minutes (WATCH HERE), and Antoine Griezmann doubled Los Rojiblancos‘ advantage eight minutes later to put Diego Simeone’s side in a commanding position with two early away goals.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

Karim Bellarabi pulled one back for Bayer just three minutes into the second half, but Kevin Gamerio converted from the penalty spot to restore Atleti’s two-goal lead just before the hour mark. Stefan Savic gave one back to Bayer in the form of an owl goal in the 68th minute, before Fernando Torres brought the visitors’ away-goals haul to four in the 86th minute.