Premier League 2014-15 preview: Swansea City

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Swansea City head into the upcoming Premier League season with a clean slate having survived a tumultuous 2013/14 campaign that included a destructive Europa League stint, persistent injuries to talisman Michu and the firing of manager Michael Laudrup.

With Garry Monk firmly installed at the helm the Swans have enjoyed an active summer transfer window where Michu was loaned out to Napoli and replaced by French striker Bafetimbi Gomis, Ben Davies and Michel Vorm were effectively swapped for Gylfi Sigurdsson and Lukasz Fabianski was signed from Arsenal. Other transfers of interest include picking up speedy Ecuadorian winger Jefferson Montero to replace Pablo Hernandez and Ki Sung-Yueng returning from his loan spell at Sunderland.

[Related: Full PL season preview]

Transfers In: Gylfi Sigurdsson ($13.5 million from Tottenham), Lukasz Fabianski (free from Arsenal), Bafetimbi Gomis (free from Lyon), Jefferson Montero ($6.7 million from Monarcas), Marvin Emnes ($2.3 million from Middlesbrough), Ki Sung-Yueng (return from Sunderland loan)

Transfers Out: Ben Davies ($16.9 to Tottenham), Michel Vorm ($7.6 million to Tottenham), Michu (loan to Napoli), Pablo Hernandez ($6.7 million to Al-Arabi), Alejandro Pozuelo (loan to Rayo Vallecano), Jonathan De Guzman (return to Villareal from loan)

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Last Season: Swansea ended up 12th in the Premier League table last year, a finish best described by the saying “looks can be deceiving”. It was touch-and-go for the Swans throughout the season and while they ended up mid-table they were only five points clear of the drop.

source: Getty ImagesStar Player: Wilfried Bony

Of the few positive things to come out of last season, Bony’s impact at the Liberty definitely topped the charts. With 16 goals in the Premier League (and 26 in all competitions), the Ivorian established himself as one of the league’s most dangerous and dependable strikers. Impossible to knock off the ball, Bony devastates opponents with his pace, power and clinical finishing. Arriving in South Wales last summer, Bony wasted no time picking up the slack for the injured Michu beasting opponents and turning the heads of many clubs in the summer transfer market. This year the weight once again fall on Bony’s shoulders to produce the majority of his side’s goals although the arrival of French international Bafetimbi Gomis from Lyon should help reduce the burden.

Coach’s Corner: Garry Monk

Monk is a bit of an enigma when it comes to Premier League managers. He holds his cards tight in interviews, is well controlled during matches and generally flies under the radar. Credit is due for the manner in which he stepped into the managerial role last year when Michael Laudrup was fired. Those were big shoes to fill and the club so easily could have packed it in and tanked into relegation. But Monk kept his squad motivated and continued with the same attractive style of play for which the club has become known. It’ll be interesting to see what he can get out of them this year.

PST Predicts: With a proper footballing style well-ingrained into the club and a roster of impressive talent that includes Bony, Sigurdsson, Gomis, Jonjo Shelvey, Ki and Ashley Williams, Swansea once again will be targeting a Top 10 finish. Re-signing Jonathan De Guzman will be key to making that goal a reality, as will the impact Gomis can have in the Premier League either as a replacement for Bony or, depending on formation, a potential French-speaking strike partner.

Jonas nets 2 late goals to keep Benfica in title hunt

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Jonas scored two late goals to lead Benfica’s 3-1 comeback win at Pacos Ferreira on Saturday, keeping it close to Portuguese league leader FC Porto.

Jonas equalized in the 72nd minute and gave the defending champion the lead in the 88th.

[ MORE: Man United-Chelsea meet in giant Sunday PL clash ]

Rafa Silva added a third goal after the host was reduced to 10 men in stoppage time when Gian dos Santos was shown a direct red card.

Luiz Phellype gave Pacos Ferreira the lead in the ninth.

The double increased Jonas’ league-leading tally to 27 goals.

Benfica moved to within two points of Porto before the pacesetter visits Portimonense on Sunday.

Sporting Lisbon is third at five points behind Porto. It hosts Moreirense on Monday.

Orlando City trades defender Jose Aja to Whitecaps for allocation money

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The Vancouver Whitecaps have struck a deal with an Eastern Conference side to help solidify their back line.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Johannsson leads Werder Bremen to win ]

On Saturday, the Cascadia club finalized a deal to acquire Orlando City defender Jose Aja in exchange for $125,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) for 2019.

Additionally, Orlando could receive another $100,000 in TAM if Aja remains on the Whitecaps roster next season and a 2021 second-round MLS SuperDraft pick if Aja is in Canada for the 2020 campaign.

Aja has made 25 appearances for Orlando since coming to MLS in 2016 from his native Uruguay.

The timing of the deal is intriguing, given Tim Parker’s willingness to exit the Whitecaps ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

PST reported on Thursday that Parker is seeking a move back to the East Coast, and the New York-native is being tracked by several Eastern Conference sides, including the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United and the Montreal Impact.

Parker is considered one of the top American defenders in MLS, and is actively seeking a massive pay raise ahead of the new season, after making just under $100,000 in 2017.

PL Sunday preview: Red Devils battle Chelsea at Old Trafford

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It will surely be one of the biggest fixtures of the season when Manchester United and Chelsea get together on Sunday, and for both clubs a victory could be vital in projecting their form for the rest of the 2017/18 campaign.

Meanwhile, a crucial meeting at Selhurst Park pits teams on opposite ends of the table against one another. Crystal Palace enters the weekend levels on points with 18th-place Swansea, while Tottenham could leap Chelsea for fourth if results go in favor of Spurs.

[ MORE: Liverpool continues to score at lightning pace against West Ham ]

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The injury bug has hit Palace hard as of late, with a total of 12 senior team players being left out of Roy Hodgson‘s squad. The list includes Wilfried Zaha, Yohan Cabaye and Mamadou Sakho, which won’t make things easy against a talented Spurs side.

Tottenham have had a ton of success in this fixture recently, winning the last five encounters and only allowing one goal in the process.

Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have hit the ground running in the second half of the season thus far, picking up a league-high 15 points in the Premier League since the start of 2018.

If there is a saving grace for the Eagles though, it is that Palace has been solid at home this season, and gone unbeaten in nine of its last 10 fixtures at Selhurst.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN

After a pair of draws from the PL sides kicked off their Champions League Round of 16 campaigns midweek, United and Chelsea can now focus their attention back to England; at least for the time being.

Jose Mourinho’s team came away from Seville with a crucial scoreless draw after the hosts tested goalkeeper David De Gea on numerous occasions, while Chelsea were close to pulling out a victory against Barcelona had it not been for a big-time mistake from Andreas Christensen late in the match.

Nonetheless, this is a fixture that always garners significant attention, especially from the Blues, who tend to have a better go of it. United has won just once against Chelsea in their last 14 fixtures, with the lone victory coming last season.

That said, Antonio Conte and his side have failed to exemplify consistency this year, and that includes road matches. The Blues have just two road wins in their last nine attempts across all competitions, which bodes well for the Red Devils.

The good news for Chelsea is the recent form of attacking duo Willian and Eden Hazard. The Brazilian was constantly in dangerous positions up the pitch against the Blaugrana in their recent UCL encounter, nabbing the lone goal for the Blues, while Hazard has scored six times in his last six PL matches.

The 2 Robbies: Unstoppable Liverpool, Man United-Chelsea and more

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In today’s episode, Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe discuss Liverpool’s emphatic win over West Ham (0:17), breakdown an extremely complicated relegation situation where nearly half of the league is in jeopardy of going down (10:05), before closing the show with a preview of tomorrow’s Man United v. Chelsea match (28:10).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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