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)

Full PL schedule | Watch Stoke City live via Live Extra | BPL on NBC schedule |

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.

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.

David Moyes faces FA charges after being sent off during EFL Cup

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David Moyes and Sunderland have gotten off to one of the worst starts in Premier League history.

If they fail to earn a point against Arsenal this weekend, they will tie the 1995-96 Manchester City team for the worst start ever through 10 matches with two points.

It appears those frustrations carried over to the EFL Cup for Moyes. On Wednesday, the manager was forced to leave the dugout toward the end of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss to Southampton after he protested a no-call from referee Chris Kavanagh.

Moyes was charged by the FA for his protests, saying the manager “used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official”.

It’s just another thing to add to Moyes’ plate as he looks to keep Sunderland’s hopes of safety alive in the Premier League.