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Preview: Swansea City vs. Manchester United

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  • First league game in 1,046 games that Ferguson isn’t in charge at United
  • Swansea aiming to beat United for first-time in PL
  • Red Devils only won once at Swansea since 1932

The first batch of Premier League season previews are on the way, boy, it’s good to have the PL back.

And what a cracker we have in store down in South Wales on Saturday evening, as Swansea City host reigning Champions Manchester United at the Liberty Stadium. United’s last home game of last season saw them beat Swansea 2-1 thanks to a late Rio Ferdinand header. Can they repeat that performance?

Michael Laudrup’s side have bought shrewdly again over the summer as they aim to build on their ninth-placed finish last time out. While David Moyes’ team consists of largely the same set of players that won the clubs 20th league title last season.

MORE: Game schedule  |  Match finder

This game should have everything. Swansea, especially at home, will attack United and with new signing Wilfried Bony partnering Michu up front, they can cause United real trouble. But United, well, they’re United. With RVP on form and the likes of Welbeck, Wilfried Zaha and others around they will certainly be looking to get off to a flying start to their title defense.

Both teams have players missing, with Rafael and Javier Hernandez out with hamstring injuries, while Nani and Ashley Young are also out for United. Wayne Rooney is a game-time decision for Moyes, after he came through 65 minutes of action for England in midweek unscathed. For Swansea Jonathan de Guzman will miss out due to concussion and Bony has traveled from New Jersey after featuring for the Ivory Coast in a friendly with Mexico.

Can Moyes’ men send out a message to the rest of the league by comfortably dispatching the stylish Swans? You can find out by tuning in live on Saturday at 12:30pm ET on NBC to watch Swansea host Manchester United. And you can watch that game all the Premier League games live via NBC Sports Live Extra.

What they’re saying

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling: “Going into the season as champions brings that expectation. We know that when we step out onto the pitch we’re seen as the best but we know we need to show that we are, and we’re all determined to do that. We’ve got some big fixtures at the start of the season but if we can put on some really good performances then it’s going to give us a big boost if we can pick up a few points and possibly set us apart from our rivals

Swansea manager Michael Laudrup on United: “It’s never the right moment to play Man United because there is always quality. I could sit here and say it’s the best moment you can play Man United or top team like that and we lose 3-0 on Saturday. But [having] said that we know we have to play them, so I think in the beginning is not a bad moment.”

David Moyes on Wayne Rooney: “I will need to see how he is when we get back. When I get back I will try and assess him. I watched the game on Wednesday night [England vs. Scotland] and I thought for the 65 minutes or so that he played, I thought he did well. He ran around, he got himself some fitness, but it certainly was his first outing in any real competitive game.”

Prediction

I can see this one being an entertaining draw at the Liberty Stadium. The Swans have already been back in the swing of things following their Europa League qualifying campaign and Bony looks the real deal up top. However United will want to start off on a positive foot away from home. Expect plenty of end-to-end action as the champions head to Wales looking to impress.

UEFA Champions League final preview — Madrid’s finest Real or Atleti?

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 27:  Diego Simeone head coach of Atletico Madrid looks on during an Atletico de Madrid training session on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 27, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final isn’t quite the unstoppable force against the immovable object — Real’s defense is good and Atleti has plenty of attacking intent — but it’s fair if you’re expecting the Madrid Derby final to be Diego Simeone’s diligent defenders attempting to counter Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid’s potent attack.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed ]

Simeone’s built his name on tight teamwork, and La Liga teams broke Atleti down a mere 18 times in 38 matches this season. Before you crow about the weakness of Spain’s top flight from top to bottom, Real only managed a single goal against Atleti in a 1-1 draw that came at the Vicente Calderon. Atleti triumphed 1-0 at the Bernabeu to take four of six points from their derby mates.

But this is the big one, and a rematch of the late thriller we saw in the 2014 final. That’s when Diego Godin’s 36th minute goal came within seconds of being the difference, only for Sergio Ramos to net in stoppage time and Real to score three goals in extra time for a 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Torres ready for “game of my life” ]

Ronaldo will be fine to go, which is obviously bad news for Atleti. While his goal at the end of the 2014 final was just chiseled-ab window dressing, he has scored in both of his UCL finals (He scored for Manchester United in the 26th minute of their 2008 defeat of Chelsea).

(Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

The beauty of Atleti’s defense is how well it springs into the attack, with Godin and Filipe Luis both capable of providing offense.

But really, with respect to Gabi and Antoine Griezmann… that defense! Atleti allowed three goals in the group stage, and just seven across its 12 UCL matches.

How will Simeone aim to stop Real this time around? Will it be banks of four or five, with Torres and Griezmann waiting to strike on a fleet-footed counter? That could serve their disciplined unit well, but something tells me Simeone has something special cooked up for this much-anticipated rematch, and manager is a distinct edge for Atleti against a still-learning Zinedine Zidane.

As an aside, Griezmann has been fantastic, scoring 32 times this year with seven coming in the UCL. Torres is second in scoring, with 12.

Championship playoff preview: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Hull City

DERBY, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 14:  Eldin Jakupovic of Hull City celebrates as Andrew Robertson of Hull City scores their third goal during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off semi final first leg match between Derby County and Hull City at the iPro Stadium on May 14, 2016 in Derby, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
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One is hoping to rejoin the Premier League at the first time of asking, while the other to see its first top flight action since 2000 with a win in Saturday’s promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

Hull City did not make the top flight from its inception in 1904 until winning the playoffs in 2008. Since, the Tigers have spent a pair of 2-season stints in the Premier League.

Sheffield Wednesday, for its part, spent nine seasons in the top tier from 1991-2000, but fell as low as League One in the 21st century before a run to the playoffs this season.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Hull’s stingy defense allowed 35 goals this season, tied for the second-best mark in the league, while scoring the fourth-most goals (69). The Tigers finished in fourth place to Wednesday’s sixth, and the sides drew 0-0 at Hull and 1-1 in the reverse fixture.

Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez was far and away Hull’s most deadly scorer, notching 21 goals in the Championship this season, while Sam Clucas paced the club with 8 assists.

Wednesday’s scoring was paced by former Watford attacker Fernando Forestieri’s 15 goals. Veteran Gary Hooper added 13 for the Owls, who got a team-best eight assists from Ross Wallace.

It’s the “richest game in sports”, and kicks off at Noon ET Saturday.

Sturridge injured again, Rashford set for England debut

England v Norway - International Friendly
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GATESHEAD, England (AP) England striker Daniel Sturridge has picked up another injury, potentially affecting his chances of being selected for the European Championship.

England manager Roy Hodgson says Sturridge has a calf injury that has prevented him from training and is a doubt to play in the warmup match against Australia on Friday. Hodgson has until Tuesday to finalize his 23-man squad for the tournament in France.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed | Speaks more ]

Sturridge has been beset by injury problems in recent years.

His latest injury increases the possibility of 18-year-old Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford‘s fairytale season being extended to include Euro 2016.

Hodgson said Thursday that Rashford will make his debut against Australia in Sunderland – as a starter if Sturridge isn’t fit. Rashford only made his United debut in February.

Ex-Leicester boss Pearson hired by Derby County

Nigel Pearson, Leicester City FC
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Nigel Pearson lives.

The combustible former manager of Southampton, Hull City and Leicester City will now lead Derby County in the hopes of Premier League promotion.

Derby has been on the edge of promotion to the Premier League for several seasons, but neither Steve McClaren and Darren Wassall could do the trick.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed | Speaks more ]

Enter Pearson, 52, who has been hired on a three-year deal. It’s his first stop since a roller coaster ride saw him guide Leicester into the Premier League, only to be fired in the aftermath of some players being involved in a racist sex tape incident on a tour of Thailand.

This was after a bizarre season that saw him put his hands on an opposing player’s throat, call a journalist an ostrich, and ultimately save Leicester from the drop.

From Derby County’s site:

“I am honoured to be named as the Manager of Derby County, which is one of the biggest clubs in the country, a club in excellent shape and one with strong ambitions. It is firmly focused on achieving Premier League football.

“I will give absolutely everything I have to this role and do all I can to bring exciting, entertaining and winning football which our supporters can be proud of.”

At the very least, the Rams will be interesting to watch next season.