NBC analysts break down opening day

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We’re just seven matches into the 2013-2014 Premier League season, and it’s already been a bit of a wild ride. 18 goals were tallied over the course of Saturday’s matches, yet West Brom, Stoke, Cardiff City and Sunderland all failed to get on the scoresheet. Just one match, Norwich vs. Everton, ended in a draw, and that one’s four goals still keep things exciting. NBC could hardly have asked for a better day to launch their coverage of the Premier League.

The matches featured on NBC and NBCSN were some of the better ones as well, each featuring their own behind the seasons storyline. The day started off with Liverpool beating Stoke 1-0, a scoreline that belies just how out of their depth the visiting Potters looked. It seems Mark Hughes may have been too ambitious in thinking he could change Stoke’s traditional long-ball style, and if it hadn’t been for a string of spectacular saves by Asmir Begovic, Liverpool could have easily had five or six goals. And that was without Luis Suárez, who may not even have made the bench, but caused a stir by showing up in a Reds’ shirt with a smile on his face.

The next match brought the most surprising result thus far this season, with Aston Villa beating Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates. The Villa, who flirted with relegation for much of last season, were down a goal by the tenth minute, and looked unlikely to stage a comeback. But then Gabriel Agbonlahor drew a penalty to put his side even before the half, and then drew another in the second half. The Arsenal fans were outraged when Anthony Taylor sent off Laurent Koscielny in the 67th minute, but turned their anger on Arsene Wenger, and his lack of signings, after new Villa signing Antonio Luna put in a third with five minutes left to play. Rebecca Lowe, host of pre- and post-match show Premier League Live, summed up the match perfectly: “It [The Premier League] certainly is back and what a start for [manager] Paul Lambert and Aston Villa’s season.”

The final match of the day saw Manchester United beat Swansea 4-1, with the scoreline flattering United’s play just a bit.  Arlo White, NBC’s voice of the Premier League, did well to set the scene before the match:

Hello, welcome to the Liberty Stadium. We’re in the city of Swansea in South Wales, 187 miles to the west of London, and Manchester United, the champions, begin the defense of their Premier League title. This is where they begin a whole new era under David Moyes. Sir Alex Ferguson, of course, ended his 26 and a half year reign with retirement in May, and we are underway. The rain pouring from slate grey skies, Wayne Rooney on the bench for Manchester United.

In just those few sentences, it was clear this match would about more than whether Robin Van Persie could better his goal tally of last season. Robbie Earle drew attention to this on the Premier League Live segment prior to Swansea vs. Manchester United:

They lose today at Swansea, the media will start, Jose Mourinho will start, and the whole of the football world will be saying, it’s not quite the same. And that’s the pressure that’s on David Moyes and his team to get off to a good start. It’s a huge day because the eyes of the football world are on David Moyes and how he starts his reign as Manchester United manager.

Fortunately for Moyes, his side won, with a convincing scoreline at that. Yet the focus remains on Wayne Rooney, who came in for Ryan Giggs with around 30 minutes left to play. Rooney played a crucial role in van Persie’s second goal, timing his run to draw away Swansea players and allow the Dutchman space to run into, and provided the assist on Danny Welbeck’s second, the fourth and final goal of the match. Yet questions about his future are still ever present. In the final Premier League Live segment of the day, Robbie Mustoe had this to say about forward: “It’s all business for Wayne Rooney. When he’s out there, he’s going to play the game, but we all know he doesn’t want to be at this football club.”

With less than two weeks remaining in the transfer window, there’s not much time for Rooney to make a move. The saga will still be a talking point whenever Moyes speaks to the media, but at least the new United manager has three points and the spot at the top of the table to point to.

LVG would only return to club football to get at Man Utd

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Leave it to The Daily Mirror to find that last bit of juice when it comes to Manchester United and former manager Louis Van Gaal.

Well, probably the last bit.

The Dutch manager said he does not expect to return to club football, unless one of the big boys in the Premier League offered him the chance to take a run at United. The Red Devils, of course, fired him shortly after an FA Cup title in order to hire Jose Mourinho.

[ MORE: WBA 1-2 Man Utd | Bournemouth 0-4 Liverpool ]

From The Mirror, quoting LVG at a Sunday night function in Rotterdam.

“I will probably not manage a club anymore,” Van Gaal said. “I would make one exception: If a big English club comes for me, than I would do it. Because then I can get the chance to get one over on Manchester United.’’

Could you see him getting a run at any of the Top Four contenders, even on a caretaker basis? Could Liverpool come calling if they tired of Jurgen Klopp one season, or might Arsenal or even Everton need a stopgap (should the Toffees spending come good)?

Suspended Villar says Spain in danger of missing World Cup

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The suspended president of the Spanish soccer federation, who is under investigation for corruption, tried Monday to stoke up fears that the country could be kicked out of the World Cup because of government interference.

Angel Maria Villar, who is free on bail, spoke at a news conference in Madrid and again denied any wrongdoing. He also blamed the government for meddling in the federation’s affairs by suspending him.

“This government is putting Spain’s participation in the World Cup at risk,” the 67-year-old Villar said in his first news conference since being arrested in July along with his son, Gorka Villar, and two other officials.

[ BLANC: I turned down USMNT talks ]

“The risk is serious,” Villar said. “The only party responsible for Spain not going to the World Cup will be the Spanish government.”

Villar spoke three days after FIFA said it was concerned about the independence of the Spanish soccer federation and that it would soon send a delegation to analyze the situation. FIFA made no mention of a possible suspension of the federation, which could keep Spain out of next year’s World Cup in Russia or even knock Real Madrid and Barcelona out of the Champions League.

Villar, who has spent time behind bars to impede the possible destruction of evidence, and the other three officials are being investigated for alleged improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

Villar resigned his vice presidencies of both FIFA and UEFA following his arrest. But he tried to stay on as the head of Spanish federation, a post he held for three decades.

His refusal to listen to pleas for him to step down led the Spanish government to suspend him from the post for one year pending the outcome of the investigation. Court documents allege that besides misappropriated funds, Villar is suspected of corrupting several regional federations by offering favors in exchange for votes.

Villar fired back at the government, saying his suspension had broken FIFA rules since it represented interference in the federation’s management.

“It’s easy to see that the source of concern was my arbitrary and unjustified removal from the presidency of the federation and for not respecting the presumption of innocence,” Villar said, adding that other teams are ready to take Spain’s place at the World Cup.

“Be careful. There are other powerful countries that didn’t qualify like Italy that are waiting to pounce and take our place,” Villar said.

Spain, which won the World Cup in 2010, is considered to be among the favorites for next year’s tournament.

Blanc: I turned down USMNT talks

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U.S. Soccer has not been inactive when it comes to the USMNT coaching search, despite its uncertainty with an impending presidential election.

Le Parisien has an interview with Laurent Blanc in which the ex-Bordeaux, France, and Paris Saint-Germain boss says he was approached by the United States Soccer Federation, but was not interested in the gig.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

Blanc said an international job would have to touch his roots, and he’s most certainly not American. The tall 52-year-old had a glittering playing career with Saint-Etienne, Barcelona, Marseille, Inter Milan, and Manchester United amongst other stops.

More important, it shows that Sunil Gulati and his men have to some degree moved forward with keeping their imprint on the national team.

That’s a little worrying on any team: A hierarchy that may not be around much longer may be working to fill a position arguably more important than its own. It’d be nice to have them commit to not hiring anyone until after February’s election.

Premier League Preview: Everton vs. Swansea City

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  • Everton leads all-time 15W-9D-3L
  • BUT Swans unbeaten in 7 vs. Toffees
  • Toffees go ninth with win
  • Swans four back of safety

Everton hopes its up-turn in form can end three seasons of futility against visiting Swansea City when the two sides meet at Goodison Park on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Gylfi Sigurdsson gets a chance to face his former club for the first time, while longtime Swans man Ashley Williams may also feature for Sam Allardyce.

Swansea has no time to focus on the past, as Paul Clement‘s men sit deep in the drop zone. The last place Swans are four points shy of safety.

What they’re saying

Everton’s Ashley Williams on facing his former club (again)“The game is a little bit more important to me, I would be lying I said it wasn’t. You always want to play against your old teams and it’s a fixture you always look for.  I have been looking forward to this one and it will be nice to see old faces and old friends. It is a game we want to win and to keep a clean sheet in, especially at home, in order to keep our momentum going.”

Swansea City’s Roque Mesa on the match“This is a massive game for us. We need to pick up points because we are bottom and we need to improve our position. Everton have a new manager and their players have done very well under him – you can see their confidence has grown since he joined. But we did well against West Brom and picked up three points, which was very important. Then we faced Manchester City and they proved too good for us. They are the best team in the league, and unfortunately, we couldn’t match them on the night.”

Prediction

Swans need to move past that Man City loss and build on a 1-0 win over West Brom a few days previous. That may not be possible at Goodison, and the Welsh side would be thrilled to escape with a draw. It seems unlikely. Everton 2-1.