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Mega 2014-15 Premier League preview: Ready, set, let’s go…

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With just 24 hours to go until the 2014-15 Premier League season kicks off, it is time to get ready for the greatest show on earth to return.

From title success to relegation distress, the next 38 weekends will send us all on the ride of our lives. Buckle up.

[RELATED: PL season previews]

At PST we have spent the past two weeks building up to the first day of the season. Previewing every team, the top players, the managers and everything else in between.

The storylines brewing before the season has even begun are riveting and as the madness of the PL ensues, more drama, intrigue and scandal will unfold.

Without further adieu, it’s time for the monster preview.

The battle begins

20 teams. 38 games per team. 10 months. 380 games total. One champion. Four Champions League spots. Three teams to be relegated. From August 16 to May 24 the Premier League is set to take over your life. Good news, you can watch every single game on NBC Sports. Hurrah! Lets go!

The big spenders

This summer Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea have splashed the cash on several key players as they go in search of the title. All three teams finished in the top four last season but want the PL crown bad. Spending big is perhaps the only way they can wrestle it from Man City. Arsenal have spent $95 million so far, Liverpool have spent $148 million and Chelsea $125 million. Money talks… but will it win any of these teams the title? PST’s writers have one clear favorite in their preseason predictions

| BPLonNBC TV schedule | Watch every game via Live Extra | Full PL schedule

The managers

Manuel Pellegrini is looking for a repeat of his debut season in England after he led the Citizens to the PL title. But with UEFA sanctioning City for breaking Financial Fair Play rules, it’s been hard for them to spend big this summer. Signing influential stars like Vincent Kompany, David Silva, Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero to new deals has been their mantra.

Arsene Wenger has spent plenty of cash at Arsenal and the longest serving manager in the PL is coming off FA Cup success last season, plus hammering Man City to lift the Community Shield last weekend. He has the Gunners fired up. Can they succeed?

PST predicts the Premier League standings | VIDEO: PST Extra previews the season |

Jose Mourinho’s rebuild at Chelsea has seen him wheel and deal to great success over the summer. Can he bring silverware back to the bridge this season? The special one certainly hopes so. Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool don’t have Luis Suarez anymore but they do have Champions League soccer to look forward to as last seasons’ runners up have a whole host of new players.

source: AP
Van Gaal’s arrival could spark a return to the top for Manchester United.

Mauricio Pochettino has swapped Southampton for Tottenham and will try to get Spurs into the top four. Dutch legend Ronald Koeman has arrived at St. Mary’s after Saints’ incredible exodus (selling six of their best players for $175 million over the summer) and is tasked with rebuilding them. Alan Irvine, David Moyes’ former assistant, has arrived at West Brom, while the likes of Roberto Martinez at Everton, Alan Pardew at Newcastle and Gus Poyet at Sunderland have been keeping things ticking over nicely this summer. On the eve of the season Crystal Palace are managerless, as Tony Pulis walked out on the South London club over reportedly being unhappy with the clubs lack of spending this summer. Ouch.

Oh yeah, there’s also the small matter of Louis van Gaal arriving to lead Manchester United’s charge back up the Premier League. The Dutchman is the new manager everyone is looking forward to seeing this season, as he’s set to revolutionize the Red Devils’ approach.

The new guys

Speaking of new managers, what about these new guys. The three promoted teams from the Championship are Leicester City, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers. All three have previous PL experience with QPR being promoted back to the top flight at the first time of asking, Burnley back after a one-year stay in 2009 and Leicester returning after a 10-year absence. These new clubs will all add an extra dimension to the league in their own way but as we know with any of the promoted teams, it’s so difficult to survive during your first season in the PL.

| Fans guide to picking a PL side | PL team picker | Get to know: QPR | Get to know: Burnley |

Those are the new clubs, what about the other new guys: the players. The likes of Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal), Diego Costa (Chelsea) and Ander Herrera (Manchester United) will all add extra class, style and star power to the league. With new players arriving all the time, the quality of players in the Premier League is perhaps at an all-time high. the transfer window slams shut at midnight on Sept. 1, so expect to see plenty of late deals across the league. Couple that with the numerous talented young English players switching clubs over the summer and there’s plenty of new faces in new places this season.

The title chasers

As we already mentioned the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea will be looking to wrestle the title from Manchester City, but if Van Gaal’s revolution gathers momentum at Old Trafford early, expect the Red Devils to be in with a shout. Outsiders for the top four include Everton and Tottenham, but with stability and a talented squad, they will be hoping to push for the Champions League. Arsenal have spent big this summer and have emerged as genuine title contenders with Sanchez on board to compliment Mesut Ozil and co. Liverpool have added Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Lazar Markovic, plus more, as they prepare for life after Suarez and being back in the UCL, while Chelsea’s rebuild has been impressive as they’e managed to churn out a profit after selling on Romelu Lukaku and David Luiz, then brought in Costa, Fabregas and Filipe Luis. In many people’s eye it is Chelsea’s title to lose but Man City and Arsenal seem to round out the top three. Then again, anything can happen. It’s the PL!

source: AP
Arsenal’s new Chilean forward could become a hero at the Emirates.

The battlers

At the other end of the table we are set for a desperate scrap to stay in the PL. New boys QPR, Burnley and Leicester will all find it tough going but the likes of West Brom, Aston Villa, West Ham, Sunderland and even Southampton have all had transitional summers. This will be a dogfight. As we all know, this battle to stay out of the bottom three will go down to the wire and the narrative will heat up late in the season. Squeaky bum time hasn’t started yet… give it a few weeks and a few losses will get chairman twitchy and supporters nervous. The dreaded ‘R’ word will soon be used rapidly in your vocabulary. Here’s how PST’s writers predicted the final PL standings will look next May, as some of the newly promoted teams are set for a season of struggle.

The stars are out to play

We mentioned some of the new guys in the league who will be stars, but the truth is there are plenty of superstars who are established in England. A ton, in fact. From Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge at Liverpool, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney at Manchester United, Aaron Ramsey and Ozil at Arsenal, Eden Hazard and Oscar at Chelsea, plus Kompany and Yaya Toure at Man City. All of those stars are out to play this season and with many coming off the back of the World Cup this summer, expect them to dazzle brighter than ever before.

| Top 5 GKs | Top 5 Defenders | Top 5 Midfielders | Top 5 Forwards

The fans

You. The fans. You guys make this league what it is. Whether you have a season ticket in the Clock End at the Emirates or you are watching the games on a Saturday morning in your underpants in New Jersey, you are a huge part of what makes this league so special. Here at ProSoccerTalk, we salute you. At NBC Sports we also developed a cool place for you to go and hear your teams chants, visit it here, and get yourself pumped up for the season. Plus, Coach Ted Lasso is now a fan after his short stint in charge of Tottenham Hotspur last season (relive that, here) and an even shorter spell as an NBC analyst this summer. Watch the video below to see what Lasso has been up to. Hilarious with a capital H.

The drama, the excitement, the passion… this is the Premier League

The pride, passion, excitement and glamour of the PL is coming your way. For the next 38 weekends of your life, the Premier League will take over. Goals, gaffs, spills, chills, screams of delight and pain, laughter, tears, savvy chants, deep breaths, joy and despair. All of that will be present… and that’s just in Week One!

Watch all 380 Premier League games live online via NBC Sports Live Extra and don’t miss a kick this season. Are you ready?

SKorean soccer club loses points over corruption scandal

JEONJU, SOUTH KOREA - MAY 24:  Besart Berisha action during the AFC Champions League Round Of 16 match between Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Melbourne Victory at Jeonju World Cup Stadium on May 24, 2016 in Jeonju, South Korea.  (Photo by Han Myung-Gu/Getty Images)
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) The South Korean soccer league deducted nine points from league leader Jeonbuk Hyundai on Friday after one of the club’s employees was convicted of bribing referees in 2013.

The K-League also fined Jeonbuk 100 million won ($90,600). The club, which saw its 14-point lead over second-place FC Seoul reduced to a five-point margin, issued an apology and vowed to take measures to prevent it from happening again.

A court in Busan on Wednesday sentenced a Jeonbuk scout to a suspended prison term of two years for paying referees in exchange for favorable decisions in several league matches in 2013.

An official from Jeonbuk said the scout has been suspended by the team and it will soon make a decision whether to terminate his employment. He refused to be named, citing office rules.

The K-League had vowed reforms after being rocked by a massive match-fixing scandal in 2011, when 52 players were indicted for taking bribes in return for trying to manipulate the outcome of matches or betting their own money on the games.

Mangala replaces Mathieu in France squad

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 03:  Kolbeinn Sigthorsson of Iceland and Eliaquim Mangala of France compete for the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 quarter final match between France and Iceland at Stade de France on July 3, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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PARIS (AP) Barcelona defender Jeremy Mathieu has been removed from the France squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers for an unspecified reason.

[ MORE: What’s Arsenal’s best XI in the Arsene Wenger era? ]

The French football federation gave no explanation for coach Didier Deschamps’s decision to replace Mathieu with Eliaquim Mangala, only saying he made the move “following a discussion” with the Barcelona player. Mangala is currently on a season-long loan at Valencia from Manchester City.

France takes on Bulgaria on Oct. 7 at the Stade de France before traveling to Amsterdam to play the Netherlands three days later in Group A.

EXCLUSIVE: Michael Bradley on Toronto FC’s long-awaited renaissance

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Michael Bradley #4 of Toronto FC heads over to take a corner kick during the first half of an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Times have changed in Toronto for the local football club. The Reds are no longer, to put it bluntly, the bad club that failed to deliver results to a passionate fan base expecting so much more.

A club that missed the playoffs in each of its first eight seasons has clinched a postseason berth for a second-straight season. And this year, for the first time ever, TFC will finish this season with more wins than losses.

You read that right. For the first time ever. Yes, it was that bad.

[ MORE: JPW talks with USMNT prospect Gooch ]

It would overstate things to say Bradley showed up and fixed things for the Reds, turning them from a bad big club to a big, bad one overnight; For one thing, TFC missed the playoffs during his first season and Bradley only netted twice in a return to MLS which was expected to be dominant (though he was, per 90, one of the best possession players in the league that season).

Yet as time as gone on, in an organization that frankly had not seen much winning at all, Bradley has not just led the way as a battler emerged from BMO Field; The 29-year-old TFC and USMNT captain now leads a winner, one he’s quick to point out comes from an organization, not any single personality.

“I’ve tried every day since I got here to spill my heart and soul into it and to try to help in every way that I can,” Bradley told ProSoccerTalk.

“For a lot of people who have been here for the last years to see the way that things have continued to move forward and progress, there’s a big sense of pride. We’re by no means where we want to be. There are big goals around here in terms of continuing to turn this into a team and a club that can compete and win on a regular basis.”

Yep, times have changed for the better. And at the center of it all, whether he admits it or not, is the steely reserve of an American in Canada.


[ MORE: Wisconsin sophomore set to face Mexico, USMNT ]


Michael Bradley is deliberate in his choice of words, and pauses several times to make sure his point is clearly made.

The train powers along once he finds the right track, however.

It’s fitting, because Greg Vanney’s defensive system with Bradley works in a similar way. Patiently wait for the right time to take the ball, then surge forward and take no prisoners. Find Sebastian Giovinco. Find Jozy Altidore. Find Jonathan Osorio, or another attacker… or just fire away.

“On our best days, we have a team that plays in a real good way,” Bradley says. “When we have our best group on the field, our football is good, the ball moves quickly, we’re a team that is able to put the game on our terms with the ball but not do it in a way that’s not just needless possession.

“We circulate the ball, but also do it with an eye toward playing forward and make sure we get it to our dangerous attacking players quickly and in good moments. Defensively we’re able to tighten things up and found a way to make it very hard on other teams to play against us.”

Heading into Saturday night’s home match with DC United, TFC has won seven of its last 12 MLS matches. That stretch has seen Toronto lose just once, and the Reds have weathered an injury to reigning MLS MVP Giovinco with a win and three draws.

TORONTO, ON - MAY 10: Michael Bradley #4 of Toronto FC during an MLS soccer game against the Houston Dynamo at BMO Field on May 10, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Bradley’s deliberate expression of feeling comes into play again when he considers the challenges of TFC’s summer, injuries not withstanding. The captain is thrilled with how the Reds have found contributions from all over the field, but would love to see their best XI for a sustained stretch of action.

Finding chemistry with a team during the MLS season, where a club can lose its best players for weeks at a time thanks to the unorthodox calendar, is a massive challenge. Bradley knows it’s not just Toronto who’s troubled by it, but he also senses how good the team could be with a season’s worth of build-up.

The excitement ratchets higher and higher in his voice as he contemplates the complementary pieces in a healthy, non-international break hampered Greg Vanney lineup. TFC went 1-2 during the Copa America, losing to the Red Bulls and Orlando City. Those points loom with Toronto in a three-way battle for the top of the East.

“We feel like we’re on a very good team, and I mention the other stuff because it’s a shame that over the course of a 34-game season there are so many other things that go into it,” Bradley said. “Which means you are not able to play your best team on as consistent a basis as you’d like.”


[ MORE: LA’s Dos Santos gets Mexico call-up ]


The conversation turns, briefly, to the United States men’s national team.

The leader of the unit, Bradley has been through the highs and lows of wearing the stars and stripes since a very young age.

KANSAS CITY, KS - MAY 28: Michael Bradley #4 of USA directs a header away from the Bolivia forwards in the first half of an international friendly match between Bolivia and the United States on May 28, 2016 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)

The captain has 121 caps and 15 goals, a journey that began when he was capped at age 18. He’s seen the improbable Confederations Cup comeback run, the thrills of the 2010 World Cup, and several Dos a Ceros. He’s also seen the 2015 Gold Cup failure, the disheartening loss to Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup, and more positional banter than any player in U.S. history.

Given his lofty status within the federation, and his early start, he’s the right person to ask about the USMNT’s teenage sensation Christian Pulisic. And he’s happy to talk about the kid, though not about the big picture, and mentorship. Yeah, he talks to the kid about soccer. No, that’s not for media consumption. So stop asking.

“Christian is a really good kid,” Bradley said. “He’s smart, he’s into it, he’s talented, motivated.

“(But) Everybody needs to stop asking what kind of advice to give him. The most important thing for him is, and I said this to somebody last week, is to continue to find the most joy every day in playing, in training, in improving, in stepping on the field on Saturday and competing and trying to be as good as possible. As long as he never loses the joy of what it means to step on the field and play football, then he’s going to continue to improve and take himself to great places.”

You get the sense that, consciously or not, Michael Bradley has ushered these thoughts from personal experience.


The captain of America loves his adopted hometown north of the border.

And Bradley isn’t exactly measuring Toronto against a one-light city in the sticks. After leaving New Jersey as a teenager in 2005, Bradley has lived amongst the abbey and villages of Monchengladbach, the Dutch windmills of Friesland, and the many wonders of the Eternal City, Rome.

But there’s something in the fourth biggest North American city that works for Bradley.

“It’s a city that is so incredibly diverse,” Bradley begins. “When you get around different parts of the city, the types of people you meet and see who come from all over the world, that part is special. Since the first day that my family and I got here, this has felt like home.

“Our daughter was born here. Our son goes to kindergarten here now and comes home; He’s an American, he was born in Rome, but goes to kindergarten in Toronto and comes home every day singing, “O Canada”, because at the beginning the day that’s what they do. It’s an amazing city, and a place we’re proud to call home.”

Bradley is signed through the end of 2019, and Toronto has turned down several overseas pleas for the midfielder.

Orlando City's Kaka, center, battles with Toronto FC's Michael Bradley, right, as Amando Cooper looks on during the first half of a soccer game, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016 in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
(Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

And TFC should be good for a long time. Only two rostered players are over 30: outstanding back Drew Moor and Benoit Cheyrou. This on a team that has won the joint-most road games in MLS, allowed the second-fewest goals, and ranks third in goal differential (plus-12).

“We’ve in some ways have such a high standard for ourselves that when you get home and you have a few games at home and you’re not able to find the winner, you’re not able to make that final play to win the games and take all three points, when you’re only able to come away with a tie, that people — and we include ourselves in this — are disappointed,” Bradley said.

“The feeling inside our group on certain days, lately even when we’ve tied a few of these games at home has been disappointment and frustration, and feeling like there was more there for us. That’s a positive thing. We’ve gotten ourselves to the point where we expect to step on the field every weekend and compete to win. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing against, and where we’re playing. That’s the mentality that we have.”


[ MORE: MLS Playoff picture — Who can clinch? ]


To sum it all up, a personal angle that might underscore the impressive turnaround in Canada’s largest city.

Living in Buffalo and loving the sport the way I do, my friends and I got in on TFC season tickets in 2008, Toronto’s second season. We’d make the 90-minute or 3-hour drive, depending on the city’s unholy, construction-driven traffic, and revel in the soccer paradise created by the Red Patch Boys.

Visits by River Plate, Pachuca, and Real Madrid sustained interest in the team, but in a way we became numb to names: Amado Guevera, Torsten Frings, and Danny Koevermans were trotted out and left without a playoff run. Taking a dozen or so day trips to watch losses that made the average at-best Maple Leafs look like 1980’s Oilers became too much to justify the cost.

Oddly enough, TFC went from hot new Toronto property to one that started to feel like just another entity. When Jermain Defoe and Julio Cesar didn’t spur a playoff run, morale seemed at an all-time low. As a soccer writer now with no true allegiance, it was more with a sigh of “Wouldn’t it be cool if they were good?” when Altidore, Vanney, and Giovinco joined Bradley. When Clint Irwin, Will Johnson, and Drew Moor joined mainstays Justin Morrow and Jonathan Osorio, there was even more legitimate reason for hope.

But hope is different from getting the job done, and that’s something for which Bradley and Vanney deserve a ton of credit. There are more Toronto demons to overcome — there’s little doubt a sports teams’ playoff stench can linger over a town once the postseason hits (Again, I’m from Buffalo) — but for now it’s worth lauding a club which has found its forward-thinking despite the skeletons in their Ontarian closet.

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07: Michael Bradley #4 and Jozy Altidore #17 of Toronto FC celebrate a goal by teammate Tsubasa Endoh #9 during the first half of an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Report: FA chief reveals Allardyce could be charged in scandal

TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA - SEPTEMBER 04:  Sam Allardyce manager of England looks on prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group F qualifying match between Slovakia and England at City Arena on September 4, 2016 in Trnava, Slovakia.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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While England continues its search for the country’s next manager, Sam Allardyce‘s troubles with the FA roll on as well.

[ MORE: Redknapp was reportedly aware of former players betting ]

On Friday, FA chief executive Martin Glenn revealed that “it is realistic [Allardyce] could be charged” by the football governing body for his alleged role in an English corruption scandal.

Allardyce was relieved of his duties as England manager on Tuesday following a release of information from the Telegraph.

“The newspaper that made the revelations are releasing the full transcripts to the police, which is what has to happen,” said Glenn. “Once we get full access to them, we’ll pass them to our Integrity Unit. We’ve dealt with Sam as an employee. Sam’s role as a participant in the game will be part of this next process, if there is one.

“The decision will be based on the merits of the evidence. Bringing the game into disrepute might be a possible charge.

“A potential sanction could range from a fine to a ban. That’s what history shows. But that is for a tribunal to decide.”

Additionally, Glenn stated that interim England manager Gareth Southgate could be in consideration for the permanent job pending how he and the national team fare with its upcoming fixtures.

“I think Gareth is a genuine contender, but this isn’t an audition,” Glenn stated.