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Season Preview: Can Bournemouth build on last season?

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It’s been a quiet summer in the south of England.

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Coming off a 12th-place finish in last year’s Premier League season, manager Eddie Howe has been patient in the transfer market, instead preferring to work with the players already at his disposal. Now in the club’s fourth-straight season in the Premier League, Howe has developed a side that plays free-flowing soccer at times as well as having a strong defense, with some players catching the eye of bigger clubs.

Lewis Cook is a Tottenham transfer target and with Bournemouth reportedly ready to break its transfer record to sign Colombian Jefferson Lerma, Cook could be allowed to leave. With two more friendly matches before the start of the season, Howe could put the finishing touches on his squad ahead of the August 9 deadline, as Bournemouth looks to rebound from a slightly disappointing season last year.

One good piece of news for U.S. Men’s National Team fans…Emerson Hyndman has been a full participant in Bournemouth’s preseason training and this may be his year to break into the first team for good.


Bournemouth will finish in the top ten because….Lerma, Nathan Ake, Asmir Begovic and Harry Arter play at the level that they have shown in flashes in the past. Although Bournemouth is a small club, the amount of talent on the books is impressive and if the team gels together and finds goals from new sources (with Benik Afobe off to Wolverhampton), the team can certainly push into mid-table territory, if not even challenge for the Europa League.

Bournemouth will barely survive relegation because…Jermain Defoe, who turns 36-years old in October, can’t be relied on anymore. Callum Wilson and Joshua King continue to struggle in front of net and while the defense is solid, it’s no match for the top-6 clubs. Bournemouth is in the thick of the relegation struggle but Howe manages to guide his team to safety, but only just. The lack of major signings in the summer comes back to haunt Howe, especially if the club can’t get the Lerma signing over the finish line.


Best possible XI: List the team’s strongest lineup for this season when everyone is fit

——————–Begovic———————–

—–Francis——–S. Cook————–Ake——

-Fraser—–L. Cook———-Gosling——–Daniels–

–Arter————–Wilson———–Mousset—

Transfers In: David Brooks (Sheffield United, $13 million), Diego Rico (Leganes, $14 million)

Transfers Out: Benik Afobe (Wolverhampton, $10 million), Max Gradel (Toulouse, undisclosed), Adam Federici (Stoke City, undisclosed), Lewis Grabban (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed)

Ranking their offseason: C+. It’s hard to tell so far how the new signings Brooks and Rico will do in the Premier League, with Brooks coming from the Championship and Rico from a small club in La Liga. The departures won’t hurt the club very much but if Bournemouth want to push on from where it finished last year, the current signings may not have been enough. Especially if the team loses Lewis Cook. 

(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images,)

Star player: Asmir Begovic: The Canadian-raised Bosnia and Herzegovina goalkeeper has literally saved many points for Bournemouth since joining in 2017. If Bournemouth pushes into the top ten again, it will be thanks to strong goalkeeping from Begovic. 

Coaches’ Corner: With Arsene Wenger now gone, Howe is currently the longest-serving manager with his club in the Premier League. The former Bournemouth defender has drawn praise from across the world for keeping Bournemouth in the Premier League and playing an exciting brand of soccer. At times over the last three seasons, Bournemouth didn’t back down from the Premier League giants, and against other clubs lower in the table, the team was able to express itself more freely and control possession. Howe has done a terrific job, but it will be interesting to see if he’s taken Bournemouth as high as it can go, or if he can lead the club to new heights. 

PST predicts: We predict that Bournemouth will again be fighting relegation. As things stand, the club is not much improved since last season and other than the two new signings, – and potentially others before the transfer window shuts – the squad doesn’t seem like it’s improved more than the one that recorded just 44 points last season. There’s plenty of pressure on Howe to keep the team in the Premier League this season and return the club to the top ten.

Hertha Berlin slams racist abuse of under-23 player Ngankam

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BERLIN (AP) Hertha Berlin has condemned apparent racist abuse of its under-23 player Jessic Ngankam from Lokomotive Leipzig fans during their fourth-division game on Friday.

Hertha says on Twitter that, “Ngankam was subjected to racist hostility during the game against Lok Leipzig. As a club, we are completely behind Jessic . The incident was also noted in the match report and a preliminary investigation has since been launched by the league. Lok Leipzig have already given their own statement on the incident. (hash)notoracism”

Hertha executive board member Paul Keuter says the club should have reacted sooner to the alleged abuse, “but nobody should doubt our commitment against racism.”

Hertha player Jordan Torunarigha wrote on Twitter the club is “100% against racism and one shouldn’t argue over why my club is just giving a statement now.”

The 19-year-old Ngankam, who is black, told broadcaster MDR that he was targeted with monkey chants by some fans in the visiting supporters’ block and that he was called an “ape” by an opposing player.

“Of course you’re trained not to react or show emotion. But it still hits you,” Ngankam told MDR. “Insults are unfortunately an everyday occurrence in football, and I can put up with them. But racist abuse is a no-go.”

Lokomotive criticized the abuse on its website, where it reminded its own fans that it has players within the club with roots in 32 countries.

“Only two colors interest us – (club colors) blue and yellow,” Lokomotive said. “Racism has no place among us and everyone knows that! If there are still people who call themselves blue-yellow fans and can’t comprehend that, then it must be clear that (Leipzig district) Probstheida is no place for them.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

Champions League permutations: Who needs what?

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Here’s a quick reminder of how many teams from each group have already reached the last 16:

Group A: Paris St-Germain (winners), Real Madrid (runners up)
Group B: Bayern Munich (winners), Tottenham (runners up)
Group C: Manchester City (winners)
Group D: Juventus (winners)
Group E: None
Group F: Barcelona (winners)
Group G: RB Leipzig
Group H: None

And here’s what teams in each group need to do to advance:

Group C
Shakhtar Donetsk will reach the last 16 if they win at home against Atalanta, while both Atalanta and Dinamo Zagreb can still reach the last 16 with wins.

Group D
Atletico Madrid will secure their spot in the last 16 if they beat Lokomotiv Moscow at home, but if they draw or lose and Bayer Leverkusen win at home against group winners Juventus, the German side will go through.

Group E
Red Bull Salzburg will reach the last 16 if they beat Liverpool at home, while the reigning UCL champions need just a point to make it to the knockout rounds. However,  if Liverpool lose they will be out unless Napoli lose at home to Genk too or if Liverpool score four away goals or more and only lose by one goal (eg a 5-4 loss) combined with a Napoli defeat they will go through. Napoli need a point in their final game at home against Genk to reach the last 16.

Group F
Inter Milan will make the last 16 if they beat Barcelona at home but if they don’t win then Borussia Dortmund will go through by bettering Inter’s result. Dortmund host Slavia Prague at home.

Group G
Leipzig have already qualified and will finish top of the group with a win. Zenit will reach the last 16 if they win away at already eliminated Benfica, while Lyon can qualify if they better Zenit’s result from the final game.

Group H
Chelsea know they will reach the last 16 with a win at home to already eliminated Lille. Ajax only need a draw to make the last 16, while Valencia need a win at Ajax to advance. Chelsea will also reach the last if they draw against Lille and Ajax beat Valencia.

Champions League score predictions: Matchweek 6

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The sixth and final matchday of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League group stage is here, and two of the four Premier League clubs needing to avoid defeat to go through.

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Fans of Liverpool and Chelsea will both be sweating ahead of their group stage finales.

Below we predict the scores for all 16 UCL games taking place over the next two days, with Tottenham heading to Bayern Munich able to rest players,  while reigning champions Liverpool head to Jesse March’s Salzburg needing a draw to advance but the hosts will go through with a win.

As for Chelsea, they host Lille needing a win to secure their route to the last 16 and a draw could be enough if Valencia lose to Ajax, while Man City travel to Dinamo Zagreb already confirmed as group winners.

Feel free to make your own predictions in the comments section below, too.


Tuesday

Group E
Red Bull Salzburg 3-5 Liverpool
Napoli 3-1 Genk

Group F
Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Slavia Prague
Inter Milan 2-2 Barcelona

Group G
Lyon 2-1 Leipzig
Benfica 0-2 Zenit

Group H
Chelsea 1-1 Lille
Ajax 2-2 Valencia


Wednesday

Group A
PSG 3-0 Galatasaray
Club Brugge 1-2 Real Madrid

Group B
Bayern Munich 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Olympiacos 3-1 Red Star Belgrade

Group C
Shakhtar Donetsk 1-3 Atalanta
Dinamo Zagreb 1-3 Man City

Group D
Bayer Leverkusen 2-2 Juventus
Atletico Madrid 2-1 Lokomotiv Moscow

MLS teams learn opponents for CCL last 16

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The draw for the last 16 of the CONCACAF Champions League took place late Monday and some intriguing clashes have been set up to kick off the knockout rounds.

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2019 Supporters’ Shield champs LAFC face Liga MX’s Club Leon, while NYCFC fave San Carlos from Costa Rica, 2019 MLS Cup champs Seattle Sounders square off with Honduran side Olimpia, the Montreal Impact face Costa Rica’s Saprissa and Atlanta United also have Honduran opponents in Motagua.

Fans of MLS teams will not need reminding that Liga MX have dominated this competition, with a team from Mexico winning this competition each season since 2006.

Below is the schedule in full for the knockout rounds of the tournament, which begin in mid-February.


2020 CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 schedule

Leg 1: Feb. 18-20; Leg 2: Feb. 25-27. First team listed hosts Leg 2.

  1. Atlanta United (USA) vs. Motagua (HON)
  2. Club America (MEX) vs. Comunicaciones (GUA)
  3. Cruz Azul (MEX) vs. Portmore United (JAM)
  4. LAFC (USA) vs. Club Leon (MEX)
  5. Tigres UANL (MEX) vs. Alianza (SLV)
  6. NYCFC (USA) vs. San Carlos (CRC)
  7. Seattle Sounders (USA) vs. Olimpia (HON)
  8. Montreal Impact (CAN) vs. Saprissa (CRC)

Quarterfinals

Leg 1: March 10-12; Leg 2: March 17-19. Winner of odd-numbered Round of 16 game hosts Leg 2.

  • Winner 1 vs. Winner 2
  • Winner 3 vs. Winner 4
  • Winner 5 vs. Winner 6
  • Winner 7 vs. Winner 8

Semifinals

Leg 1: Apr. 7-9; Leg 2: Apr. 14-16. Hosting determined by performance in prior rounds.

  • Winner 1/2 vs. Winner 3/4
  • Winner 5/6 vs. Winner 7/8

Final

Leg 1: April 28-30; Leg 2: May 5-7. Hosting determined by performance in prior rounds.

  • Winner SF1 vs. Winner SF2