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Final preseason games arrive, big questions remain

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There are 10 days to go until the new 2017-18 Premier League season. 10 freaking days.

[ MORE: How much has each PL club spent?

Even though the summer has dragged on, PL clubs have been working hard since May to make sure they’re in the right spot heading into the new campaign.

Below is a look at the final preseason games for each PL club, plus we ponder the main question surrounding each club.


Arsenal – Easy: will Sanchez and Ozil sign a new deal?
Aug. 6 v Chelsea (Community Shield)

Bournemouth – Can Jermain Defoe score 20 goals this season?
Aug. 2 v Yeovil Town
Aug. 6 v Napoli

Brighton & Hove Albion Is Anthony Knockaert capable of doing ‘a Mahrez’ for the Seagulls?
Aug. 1 v Girona
Aug. 6 v Atletico Madrid

BurnleyCan they cope with Michael Keane‘s departure in defense?
Aug. 1 v Celta Vigo
Aug. 6 v Hannover 96

Chelsea – Is Alvaro Morata able to carry Chelsea’s title hopes?
Aug. 6 v Arsenal (Community Shield)

Crystal Palace – Can a creaking defense survive without Mamadou Sakho?
Aug. 5 v Schalke

EvertonWhere will Wayne Rooney slot into the attack?
Aug. 3 v MFK Ruzomberok (Europa League third-qualifying round, second leg)
Aug. 6 v Sevilla

Huddersfield TownCan Wagner gel 10 new players into a team?
Aug. 1 v Torino
Aug. 4 v Stuttgart

Leicester City – If Riyad Mahrez leaves, who holds the keys to Leicester’s offense?
Aug. 1 v Burton Albion
Aug. 4 v Borussia Monchengladbach

Liverpool – Can the triangle of Lovren, Matip and Mignolet stay mistake free?
Aug. 1 v Bayern Munich
Aug. 2 v Atletico Madrid of Napoli
Aug. 5 v Athletic Bilbao

Manchester City – Will Walker, Mendy provide the defensive balance City have long-needed? (Bonus: Gabriel to start over Aguero?)
Aug. 4 v West Ham United

Manchester United – Where is the best position for Paul Pogba?
Aug. 2 v Sampdoria
Aug. 8 v Real Madrid (UEFA Super Cup final)

Newcastle United – Can Dwight Gayle score the goals to push the Magpies into midtable?
Aug. 2 v Wolfsburg
Aug. 6 v Hellas Verona

Southampton – Can Saints cope without Virgil Van Dijk?
Aug. 2 v FC Augsburg
Aug. 5 v Sevilla

Stoke City – Where will the goals come from after Arnautovic’s departure?
Aug. 1 v St Pauli
Aug. 5 v RB Leipzig

Swansea City – How can the Swans replace Sigurdsson?
Aug. 5 v Sampdoria

Tottenham Hotspur Are Spurs ready for the mental challenge of playing home games at Wembley?
Aug. 5 v Juventus

Watford Can youngsters Chaloboah and Hughes flourish in midfield?
Aug. 5 v Real Sociedad

West Bromwich Albion Will Jay Rodriguez stay fit?
Aug. 1 v Port Vale
Aug. 5 v Deportivo La Coruna

West Ham United Is experience the answer with Chicharito, Zabaleta, Hart and Arnautovic on board?
Aug. 1 v Altona 93
Aug. 4 v Manchester City

LIVE – Everton, AC Milan, Ajax in Europa League action

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Everton, AC Milan and Ajax, three of the bigger sides fighting for passage into the Europa League proper, find themselves 180 minutes from the group stage as the final round of qualifying kicks off on Thursday.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

Everton have Croatian side Hajduk Split at Goodison Park for the first leg (3:05 p.m. ET), while Milan host Macedonian side KF Shkendija (2:45 p.m. ET) and Ajax are home to Rosenborg of Norway (2:45 p.m. ET).

[ MORE: Thursday’s transfer rumor roundup | Wednesday | Tuesday ]

Thursday’s notable Europa League fixtures

Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m. ET
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET

Previewing all 10 Premier League games – Week 2 (Video)

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Week 2 of the 2017-18 Premier League season is here. Ready?

[ LIVE: Stream Premier League live ] 

Below you will find 10 preview videos on each of the Premier League games this weekend with team news, score predictions and more on each encounter.

Enjoy.


Chelsea v. Tottenham

Everton v. Man City 

Newcastle v. Huddersfield 

Arsenal v. Stoke City

Liverpool v. Crystal Palace

Burnley v. West Brom

Southampton v. West Ham 

Leicester City v. Brighton

Watford v. Bournemouth

Swansea City v. Man United

From Madrid, to Paris, to Las Palmas, to Stoke: Jese loaned again

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Spanish forward Jese will attempt to relaunch his stuttering career in England after leaving Paris Saint-Germain to become the latest Champions League winner at Stoke.

The 24-year-old Jese joined Stoke on a season-long loan after failing to settle at PSG following his move from Real Madrid for a reported $29 million in August 2016. He spent the second half of last season on loan at Spanish team Las Palmas.

Stoke, a team from central England that is a perennial mid-table finisher in the Premier League, has become a haven for former high-profile players or one-time prodigies whose careers have stalled.

Since 2014, forwards Bojan Krkic and Ibrahim Afellay have joined from Barcelona while ex-Bayern Munich winger Xherdan Shaqiri has arrived from Inter Milan. They all have Champions League winners’ medals, as does ex-Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher, who was an offseason signing from West Bromwich Albion.

Most were back-ups for their clubs in their Champions League-winning campaigns, with Jese an unused substitute for Real in its victory over Atletico Madrid in the 2016 final.

“Jese was a man in demand when PSG made it clear they would allow him to leave on loan and we’re delighted he has chosen to join us,” Stoke chief executive Tony Scholes said. “He hasn’t had the happiest of periods in his career in Paris, but he’s still only a young man and is hungry to make a big impression in the Premier League.”

Jese will play out wide and is viewed as a replacement for Marko Arnautovic, who left Stoke this offseason to join West Ham. Stoke also sold Spanish striker Joselu to Newcastle for an undisclosed fee on Wednesday.

Stoke announced the arrival of Jese in a tweet that included audio clips from pundits in the British media saying the club lacked ambition and would struggle in the Premier League this season.

The team managed by Mark Hughes lost 1-0 at Everton in its opening league game of the season on Saturday.

Jese was a highly rated youngster at Real Madrid and made his La Liga debut under coach Jose Mourinho in 2012. He mostly played for Real’s reserve team and sustained a serious knee injury in March 2014, ruling him out for nine months.

He signed a five-year deal with PSG last summer but started only one league game, with another eight appearances as substitute.

Although technically skilled, Jese has not played so far this season and does not figure in coach Unai Emery’s plans — although the deal with Stoke does not include an option to buy him. At Las Palmas, Jese scored three goals in 13 games.

Jese is Stoke’s sixth signing of the summer transfer window.

First female ref set to take charge in Bundesliga

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BERLIN (AP) After a decade in Germany’s second division, Bibiana Steinhaus will make Bundesliga history this season by becoming the first woman to referee in the country’s top flight.

The 38-year-old police officer is among four referees to have been promoted by the German football federation (DFB) into the league’s elite group of 24.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s transfer rumor roundup | Tuesday | Monday ]

“For every referee, whether man or woman, the dream is to be able to referee in the Bundesliga. I worked very hard toward that goal and had some setbacks over the past few years, so I’m very happy about the referees’ commission’s confidence,” Steinhaus said when her promotion was announced in May. “It shows that the performance-principle also applies in the field of referees.”

The daughter of a referee, she began by officiating women’s games for the DFB in 1999. Steinhaus then became a FIFA referee in 2005 and earned her place in the second division in 2007, as the first female referee in German professional football, before securing her latest promotion.

During that time, Steinhaus has handled women’s World Cups and European Championships, along with the gold medal match between the United States and Japan at the 2012 Olympics in London. Last June, she took charge of the women’s Champions League final between Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain.

[ MORE: Diego Costa releases statement — “I must return to Atletico Madrid” ]

Of her 80 matches in Germany’s second tier, all but one went off without a hitch for Steinhaus. After sending off Kerem Demirbay in 2015, the then-Fortuna Duesseldorf midfielder reportedly told her: “Women have no place in men’s football.”

Demirbay was roundly criticized for the remark and handed a three-game ban with two further games suspended. Duesseldorf also made Demirbay referee a girls’ game to ensure he understood the message.

Demirbay apologized both publicly and to Steinhaus directly for his comment, and said he was “very happy that she accepted my apology.” The 24-year-old player is likely to meet Steinhaus again this season if she takes charge of any games involving his current club, Hoffenheim.

However, Steinhaus is already aware that she may be treated differently to other referees. During Bayern Munich’s game against Chemnitzer FC in the German Cup last Saturday, she had one of her bootlaces untied by Bayern winger Franck Ribery as he pretended to put the ball in place for a free kick.

[ MORE: Luis Suarez out for a month with knee injury ]

She laughed it off by giving Ribery a couple of playful punches in response, but it is debatable whether the France winger would have untied the bootlace if he had been dealing with a male referee.

“She laughed, that’s positive,” Ribery told broadcaster ARD afterward. “It was a joke, but you always have to respect the other.”

It wasn’t Steinhaus’ first run-in with someone from Bayern. As the fourth official during a league game in 2014, she shrugged off Pep Guardiola‘s hand from her shoulder as the then-Bayern coach got animated over a decision.