Adam Johnson

Premier League Preview: Sunderland v. Southampton

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  • Sunderland haven’t lost to Southampton since 2003.
  • The clubs drew opening day at St. Mary’s.
  • Black Cats worse at home (2W-1D-7L) than on road

Really, it’s a tale of two teams who’ve dealt with controversy this week and this year to varying degrees  (Watch at 7:45am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra).. Sunderland are coming off a 4-1 win, have nearly escaped the drop zone and have League Cup success under their belts, but have already endured a manager change in addition to firing their director of football today.

Southampton started off a movie-like run in this year’s Premier League season only to have this week’s controversial departure of Nicola Cortese put a cap on recent on-field struggles. He left amidst a power struggle with the team owner, leaving Saints supporters terrified that Mauricio Pochettino would fulfill his promise to leave if Cortese departed (He didn’t).

Thanks the huddled masses at the bottom half of the table, Southampton’s recent struggles still see them in ninth place. The Saints are seven points ahead of No. 10 Hull City and just three behind Newcastle. Yes, they’re just 2-1-3 in their last six, but the losses have come against Spurs, Everton and Everton.

The controversial owner, by the way, is Katherine Liebherr and she’s said no one’s leaving in the transfer window. Wonder how much comfort that is to supporters as Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana’s names continue to be bandied about on a daily basis in the rumor mill?

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How trying has this year been for Sunderland? Poyet joked that the three-goal win over Fulham was the only time he’s not worried about stoppage time since he’s gotten the job. Adam Johnson provided the hat trick and is starting to get England talk again. Surely a strong showing against Lallana and company would go a long way for Roy Hodgson.

Sunderland’s 9 points in their last six games give them Top 8 form, and the Stadium of Light should be rocking for the Black Cats opportunity to say “Peace” to the relegation zone, at least for a week.

Look out for Southampton after the break, as Sunderland has a dreadful minus-6 goal differential from the 46th-60th minute of matches this season.

The Saints haven’t beaten Sunderland since seizing the season series in 2002/03. Sunderland went 1-1-0 when both teams were in the Championship in 2006/07, while they have a win and two draws in PL play since Southampton were promoted in 2012. Sunderland also knocked the Saints out of the League Cup on Nov. 6 at the Stadium of Light.

What They’re Saying

Sunderland manager Gus Poyet on Southampton: “ It’s a difficult game against a difficult team. They have a solid system of play, quick, technical players and some power. It is one of those games where we need to be really spot on. We need a little bit more than normal. Saying that there’s no excuses, we are in a situation where we can go and put on another good performance and get another victory, which would be amazing.”

Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino on dealing with Cortese’s departure: “It’s hard to predict what is going to be the effect on the players. It’s clear that it may affect the players as they all have varying degrees of relationship with Nicola Cortese, and of course his leaving may affect us in some way. In those situations it’s clear that maybe some minds will be focused on what happened yesterday [Wednesday] rather than on Sunderland on Saturday, but we have to be professional. We have to be fully focused on the game on Saturday and as always, to try and get a positive result.”

Prediction

Look for the Saints to give their supporters a lift at the Stadium of Light. I’m not buying Poyet’s charges just yet and Lallana has been a devastating force to oppositions in recent weeks (Imagine those fantasy footballers who bought him at 6.0 pounds to see his value at 7.5 now. Who would be so smart, so deft?). Southampton 3, Sunderland 1.

Conte not going to sell Matic, enjoys quality midfield headache

VELDEN, AUSTRIA - JULY 20: Nemanja Matic of Chelsea reacts during the friendly match between WAC RZ Pellets and Chelsea F.C. at Worthersee Stadion on July 20, 2016 in Velden, Austria. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images
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Antonio Conte feels he has a bit of an embarrassment of riches in his midfield, not that it’s a problem outside of deciding who hits the pitch.

The Chelsea boss does not plan on selling Nemanja Matic despite the acquisition of N'Golo Kante — in fact Conte thinks Matic can be one of the best in the world.

[ MORE: New club for Pato ]

That’s not surprising, given that Matic was one of the keys to Chelsea’s 2014-15 PL title run.

Conte says he has some tricky selections to make in the coming days, as Chelsea prepares to open its Premier League season Aug. 15 at West Ham United.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“Kante is a good player and he was a target of our market. I am pleased the club took this player, it’s fantastic,” said the 46-year-old. “The players in a great team like Chelsea must know there are many players that can play. It’s important for me to have a good choice to try the best solution game by game. It’s important for me to see always the right attitude and behaviour from the players.

“When I have players like N’Golo, Nemanja, Cesc, Oscar and Chalobah, and Mikel who is in the Olympics, it is not easy to choose. I want to have this problem.”

For a manager who loves to keep it tight in the midfield, it would be far from shocking to see Matic and Kante behind two attacking mids (Willian and Hazard?) or even three.

Regardless, Chelsea’s match day tactics will be one of the more fascinating subplots of 2016, especially when Conte matches up against the Blues’ former boss Jose Mourinho (Oct. 22 at Stamford Bridge and April 15 at Old Trafford).

Spain’s Villarreal signs Brazilian striker Pato

SWANSEA, WALES - APRIL 09:  Alexandre Pato of Chelsea in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at Liberty Stadium on April 9, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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MADRID (AP) Brazilian club Corinthians says it has agreed to transfer striker Alexandre Pato to Villarreal in Spain.

Corinthians says on its club website that it has “agreed to the final administrative details of the negotiation” for Pato’s move to Villarreal.

[ MORE: MLS All Star Game preview ]

It adds that both clubs have agreed to not release the financial details of the transfer.

The 26-year-old Pato played for AC Milan from 2007 to 2013, before returning to his native Brazil with Corinthians. He played the second half of last season on loan at Chelsea in the English Premier League.

Roberto Martinez linked to Atlanta United gig by Taylor Twellman

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - MAY 11:  Roberto Martinez, manager of Everton gives instructions during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Everton at the Stadium of Light on May 11, 2016 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
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When news of Sigi Schmid’s departure from Seattle broke, there were plenty of folks wondering who could be the second coach in the Sounders’ MLS history.

One of those doing so publicly was ESPN writer Marc Connolly, who asked whether former Wigan and Everton boss Roberto Martinez could be interested in the gig.

[ MORE: Sounders, Schmid part ways ]

Fellow media member Taylor Twellman is obviously well-connected, and his reply raised some eyebrows, especially given the news that technical director Carlos Bocanegra is closing in on selecting the first manager in Atlanta United history.

Ryan is the quarterback of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, for those unaware. Martinez and Twellman worked together for ESPN this summer.

Is Martinez to MLS really a thing? He’s also been linked to the vacant Hull City job, and would be one of the highest profile coaches to make the switch in the history of the league.

Premier League preseason: Everton, Burnley win; Spurs fall to Juventus

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - JULY 26:  Muhamed Besic of Everton celebrates after scoring the third goal during the pre-season friendly match between MK Dons and Everton at Stadium mk on July 26, 2016 in Milton Keynes, England.  (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)
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Four Premier League teams were in action on Tuesday, with two picking up wins and not a clean sheet in the joint.

[ MORE: Sounders, Schmid part ways ]

MK Dons 1-3 Everton

Ronald Koeman‘s men got goals from Gerard Deulofeu, Ross Barkley and Muhamed Besic, but wasn’t entirely pleased with every facet of their game.

From EvertonFC.com:

“The team, the players, we need to press better. The pitch in some stages of the game was too long. If you press up front, it means the midfielders they need to push up as well and it’s the same for the defenders.”

Bolton 1-2 Burnley

Andre Gray will likely be a well-known Premier League entity when his career is done, and the way he’s playing it could be by the time this season is complete. The Burnley man scored for the fifth time in four preseason games, and Josh Ginnelly also scored for the Clarets.

Barnsley 2-2 Hull City

Adama Diomande and Jarrod Bowen scored as the Tigers stayed unbeaten in preseason play.

Spurs 1-2 Juventus — RECAP