Fernandinho

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

STREAM: Man City opens season at new boys Brighton

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The crowd at Falmer Stadium will be buoyed by big performances from Watford, Huddersfield Town, and Burnley, as Brighton and Hove Albion makes its Premier League return with a visit from title-contending Manchester City (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Live Extra).

[ STREAM: Brighton vs. Man City ]

Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, and Yaya Toure are all bench options for loaded City.

Brighton also surprisingly starts Championship hero Anthony Knockaert on the bench, while new boys Pascal Gross and Davy Propper start their lives in Brighton.

LINEUPS

Brighton and Hove Albion: Ryan; Bruno, Dunk, Duffy, Suttner; Brown, Propper, Stephens, March; Gross; Hemed. Subs: Maenpaa, Huenemeier, Rosenior, Sidwell, Murphy, Knockaert, Murray.

Man City: Ederson, Walker, Kompany, Otamendi, Stones, Danilo, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, D Silva, G Jesus, Aguero. Subs: Bravo, Bernardo, Sterling, Sane, Mangala, Foden, Yaya Toure

Is it now or never for Pep Guardiola at Man City?

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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$215 million in transfer fees last summer.

$262.5 million so far this summer.

What needs to happen at Manchester City in Year Two of the Pep Guardiola era to call him a success? And is there anything that could doom the Catalan man to life outside of the Etihad Stadium.

[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub ] 

The boss enters his sophomore campaign without a trophy, and for all of his purchases there’s a solid chance that only four of his opening day starters will come from that group (Kyle Walker, John Stones, Ederson, Danilo or Benjamin Mendy).

Heavy is the head that wears the crown as the purported top mind in football management, especially when there are Phil Jackson implications to this third go-round: Guardiola dominated at Barcelona and Bayern Munich with two of the deepest and best teams in the game, and significantly less competition on the table.

If he can’t do it this season at Man City — and we’re talking a PL win, UCL win, maybe multiple pieces of hardware — could it be two-and-out?

That seems a bit nutty, but consider what the hierarchy at Man City has seen from its managers in recent years. Manuel Pellegrini won the league in his first season. Roberto Mancini won the FA Cup in his first full season and claimed the league in his second.

Now that’s not to say Guardiola’s 2016-17 debut in blue was poor; City finished third, and looked stylish for much of the campaign. They scored three or more goals in 12 Premier League matches, beat Barcelona once in the UEFA Champions League before falling to Monaco, and came within extra time of an FA Cup Final.

But a deeper dig shows that Guardiola had a reverse-Klopp season. Whereas Liverpool’s German boss thrived against top PL competition but wilted against lesser lights, most of City’s failings came against the big boys.

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Two losses to champions Chelsea. A loss and a draw versus Spurs and the same against Liverpool. A win and a draw in the Manchester Derby and against Arsenal.

That’s 10 of 30 points from a master tactician. He undoubtedly is, but how big of a liar can the numbers be when it comes to Guardiola? One of the things we heard last season was, “Wait until he has all his guys!” Well, after another summer, it looks like Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, and David Silva are good money to keep places in the team, and perhaps Fernandinho, too.

All of this is moot if you, like me, think Man City is going to have an outstanding year, win at least one Cup, make a deep UCL run, and contend for the Premier League crown deep into the Spring. Heck, City has convincing XIs if Guardiola divided his charges for PL and UCL competition.

But that’s the rub for Guardiola. Aside from the rising level of the league’s elite, there is no reason City shouldn’t do very, very well this year. And if they don’t, would it be crazy to imagine his dismissal from the Etihad? We probably won’t have the chance to realistically see it, but the bar is high for a man who last season missed out on a league title for just the second time in eight campaigns.

Possible XIs for all 20 Premier League clubs

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ProSoccerTalk’s staff spent a good part of the last week building team previews for each of the Premier League’s 20 clubs, including proposed “Best XIs” for each member of the top flight.

While nothing is certain — especially with the transfer market still wide open and the gossip mill howling for the duration of August — feel free to use this handy guide for your fantasy team to help better understand who might be playing where for whom.

[ MORE: Premier League summer transfers, so far ]

Click on each club’s name for our full team season preview. Here’s where we landed.


Arsenal

—– Cech —–

— Mustafi — Koscielny — Monreal —

—- Bellerin —- Xhaka —- Ramsey —- Kolasinac —-

—– Ozil —– Sanchez —–

—– Lacazette —–


Bournemouth

—– Begovic —–

— Francis — Ake — Cook — Daniels —-

—- Arter —- Gosling —- Pugh —- Gradel —-

—– King —– Defoe —–


Brighton and Hove Albion

Ryan

Bruno — Dunk — Duffy — Suttner

 Stephens — Gross — Propper

Knockaert — Hemed — Brown


Burnley

—– Heaton —–

— Bardsley — Long — Tarkowski — Mee — 

—- Gudmundsson —- Cork —- Defour —- Brady —-

—– Vokes —– Gray —–


Chelsea

Courtois

Azpilicueta — Luiz — Rudiger

Moses — Bakayoko — Kante — Alonso

Willian — Morata — Hazard


Crystal Palace

—– Hennessey —–

—- Ward —- Dann —- Reidewald —- Van Aanholt —-

—- Zaha —- Milivojevic —- Puncheon —- Schlupp —-

—– Cabaye —–

—– Benteke —–


Everton

—– Pickford —–

—- Jagielka —- Keane —- Williams —- Baines —-

—- Schneiderlin —- Gueye —-

—- Klaassen —- Davies —- Rooney —-

—– Ramirez —–


Huddersfield Town

—– Lossl —–

—- Smith —- Heffele —- Schindler —- Lowe —-

—- Ince —- Williams —- Mooy —- Palmer —– Kachunga —-

—– Mounie —–


Leicester City

Schmeichel

Simpson — Morgan — Maguire — Fuchs

Iborra — Drinkwater — Ndidi 

Mahrez

Vardy — Iheanacho


Liverpool

Mignolet

Milner — Matip — Lovren — Clyne

Henderson — Can

Salah — Coutinho — Mane

Firmino


Manchester City

Ederson

Walker — Stones — Kompany — Mendy

Toure — Fernandinho

David Silva — De Bruyne — Sterling

Aguero


Manchester United

De Gea

Valencia — Bailly — Lindelof — Shaw

Matic — Herrera

Mata — Pogba — Rashford

Lukaku


Newcastle United

Elliott

Yedlin — Lascelles — Lejeune — Dummett

Shelvey — Diame

Ritchie — Perez — Murphy

Gayle


Southampton

—– Forster —–

— Cedric — Van Dijk — Yoshida— Bertrand—

—- Clasie —- Romeu —-

—– Tadic —– Ward-Prowse —– Redmond —–

—– Gabbiadini —–


Stoke City

—– Butland —–

—– Zouma —– Cameron —– Indi —–

—- Diouf —- Imbula —- Fletcher —- Pieters —

—- Shaqiri —- Allen —-

—– Berahino —–


Swansea City

Fabianski

Naughton — Fernandez — Mawson — Olsson

Fer — Mesa — Carroll

Ayew — Llorente — Abraham


Tottenham Hotspur

Lloris

Trippier— Vertonghen — Alderweireld — Rose

Dier — Wanyama

Lamela — Alli — Eriksen

Kane


Watford

Gomes

Janmaat — Kaboul — Britos — Holebas

Doucoure — Chalobah

Amrabat — Cleverley — Pereyra

Deeney


West Bromwich Albion

Foster

Dawson — Evans — McAuley — Nyom

Livermore — Yacob

Phillips — Morrison — Chadli

Rondon


West Ham United

Hart

Fonte — Reid — Ogbonna

Antonio — Noble — Lanzini  — Kouyate — Arnautovic

Carroll — Hernandez

Premier League 2017-18 preview – Manchester City

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Pep Guardiola gets his second go-around with Manchester City, hoping to improve on a third-place finish that came down to the wire. The Spaniard has done much work this summer to overhaul the roster and get significantly younger in key areas.

[ LIVE: Stream Premier League live ]

Last season’s acceptable finish eased some of the pressure that was mounting on Pep Guardiola, but another finish in the same spot this season won’t be taken so lightly. This team expects much more after such a massive summer investment, and anything less than a title will probably seem like a disappointment.

Best, worst case scenarios – Best-case scenario is clear: win the Premier League championship. With such a prestigious manager plus over $280 million spent this transfer window, there’s a clear target. Should those moves gel quickly, they could be one of the most dangerous teams not just in the Premier League but in all of Europe.

However, should it take Pep Guardiola time to mesh the new players together, an early-season sputter could scuttle the season before it even truly begins. Worst-case, this team finishes outside a Champions League spot, and Guardiola likely wouldn’t last long enough to see it come to a disappointing close.


Best possible XI is…

Bravo

Walker — Stones — Kompany — Mendy

Toure — Fernandinho

D Silva — De Bruyne — Sterling

Aguero


[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub ] 

Transfers In: Benjamin Mendy (Monaco, $68 million), Kyle Walker (Tottenham, $60 million), Bernardo Silva (Monaco, $59 million), Ederson (Benfica, $47 million), Danilo ($35.5 million), Douglas Luiz (Vasco de Gama, $14 million),

Transfers Out: Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, $32.8 million), Enes Unal (Villareal, $17 million), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield, $10.8 million), Nolito (Sevilla, $10.6 million), Fernando (Galatasaray, $6.2 million), Aleksandar Kolarov (Roma, $6 million), Joe Hart (Loan, West Ham), Jesus Navas (Sevilla, Free), Gael Clichy (Basaksehir, Free), Pablo Zabaleta (West Ham, Free), Willy Caballero (Chelsea, Free).

Last season:

— 3rd place in Premier League
Champions League Round of 16 (lost to Monaco)
— League Cup 4th Round (lost to Manchester United)
FA Cup semifinals (lost to Arsenal)

Star player: Kevin De Bruyne — Sergio Aguero’s rocky relationship with Pep Guardiola and the arrival of Gabriel Jesus has seen the Belgian playmaker rise to the top as Manchester City’s most influential star. He played the most minutes of anyone on the squad last season across all competitions, and he was involved in 30 goals (7 scored, 23 assisted), one fewer than Raheem Sterling‘s team lead. One a team bursting at the seams with both creative and finishing talent, de Bruyne is the glue that holds it all together.

Coaches’ Corner: Pep Guardiola — Despite a solid third-place finish in his first season taking over an aging squad, Guardiola’s first season in charge had largely a disappointing feel to it. The Spaniard brought in players like John Stones and Leroy Sane who either struggled or failed to make a significant impact. After his success at both Barcelona and Bayern Munich made Guardiola one of the most sought-after managers in the world, he must prove he can navigate the Premier League or he may run out his welcome in Manchester.

PST predicts: This team is just flat out too talented to struggle two seasons in a row. Guardiola will figure out how to piece the attacking talent together, rotating Jesus and Aguero through the numerous competitions and working Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sane, and Bernardo Silva into the rotation behind them. The central defense is still this team’s weakness, but for all of John Stones’ struggles last season, City still managed the fourth-best defensive record in the English top flight. Kyle Walker is a fantastic addition despite his high price, and Guardiola has managed to get this team significantly younger since he arrived. This is a top-two team, and will challenge for the title.

Manchester United beats City 2-0 in preseason Derby

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Manchester is Red, at least for the preseason.

Manchester United used quickfire first-half goals from Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford to topple Manchester City 2-0 in Houston as part of the International Champions Cup.

The first half-hour saw plenty of action, but nothing in terms of goals. New Manchester City full-back Kyle Walker made a great run to cut down Rashford before he could shoot, while goalkeeper Ederson was required to keep out Paul Pogba.

On the other end, Chris Smalling was active often, nearly conceding a penalty with a pull on the shirt of Patrick Roberts, while also cleaning up after a high City press caught United in their own defensive third.

[ MORE: West Ham signs Chicharito ]

Just before halftime, United went in front thanks to their prized new striker. Pogba launched an absolutely brilliant long-ball, and Lukaku streaked to meet it, heading past a charging Ederson before cutting from a tight angle into the empty net before defenders could recover.

Immediately after, Rashford put United 2-0 up on a cool finish from the right with space after a ball from Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The score is Rashford’s third goal of the United States tour.

After a host of changes at halftime that saw City keep just four players on the field, it didn’t help as United kept on the pressure. Rashford almost scored an accidental long-range chip as his long-ball to the far post nearly went in, but Ederson tipped it over. Moments later, Lukaku thundered a howitzer into the crossbar.

United made a host of changes past the hour mark, and they nearly had another if not for the offside flag raising on Phil Jones after a double-save by Ederson. City had a big chance in the final 10 minutes, as a great ball from Samir Nasri found Gabriel Jesus, but the Brazilian put it well over.

Ederson had a solid game in net for Manchester City despite the loss, while Kyle Walker and 17-year-old City youth product Brahim Diaz also stood out. For United, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was bright as were Paul Pogba and goalscorer Marcus Rashford.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea (Romero 45′); Valencia (Fosu-Mensah 77′), Lindelöf (Bailly 45′), Smalling (Jones 45′), Blind (Darmian 45′); Herrera (Fellaini 62′), Pogba; Rashford (Martial 62′), Mkhitaryan (Carrick 62′), Lingard (Pereira 78′); Lukaku.

Manchester City: Ederson; Adarabioyo (Otamendi 45′), Kompany (Mangala 45′), Fernandinho, Yaya Toure (Sane 45′), Walker, Foden (Zinchenko 74′), De Bruyne (Diaz 45′), Sterling (Jesus 45′), Aguero (Stones 45′), Roberts (Nasri 45′).