Which EPL managers are under pressure already?

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The beach towels are packed away, the running shoes have somehow found their way out of the closet and the brand new stopwatches are ready to roll.

Preseason is here. Welcome to a soccer players nightmare.

Most English Premier League sides returned to training this week as managers, players and the coaching staff are preparing themselves for the long, hard slog between now and the end of the season in May 2014.

But it is perhaps, surprisingly, some of the managers who are already beginning to feel the strain of life in England’s top flight.

This may be crazy to talk about six weeks before the season even begins, but the odds are already out on which managers will be fired first in the EPL.

Preseason has just begun. But so has the dreaded sack race.

With the new bumper TV deal landing EPL clubs a cash windfall, last season saw intense pressure heaped upon the shoulders of managers. Some chairman actually resisted the urge to fire managers as they didn’t want too much upheaval leading to relegation.

But the upheaval has been immense since the last ball of the 2012-13 season was kicked on May 19, 2013. Of the current 20 EPL managers, 10 weren’t in charge of their current sides for the start of the 2012-13 EPL campaign.

So they’ve had their settling in period or summer of bedding in. The honeymoon is over and plenty of head coaches will be sweating in the English sun when August 17 arrives.

Let’s see who the contenders are to win the dreaded EPL ‘sack race.’

Steve Bruce (Hull City)

Yes, he just got Hull City promoted. But Bruce’s squad is in need of a major overhaul to compete in the EPL. They were the surprise package of the Championship last term and if things go pear shaped early on, expect Bruce to make a sharp exit.

Paolo Di Canio (Sunderland)

The eccentric Italian manager could guide Sunderland to the top six… or they could crash and burn. Di Canio has overhauled the squad and isn’t making many friends with the playing squad previous manager Martin O’Neill assembled. Di Canio has until Christmas to turning the Black Cats into a top ten team.

Alan Pardew (Newcastle United)

Newcastle United’s controversial appointment of Joe Kinnear as Director of Football has left Pardew in an incredibly tough position. Couple that with the Geordies relegation threatened season last-time out, and Pardew could be packing his bags by November. Plenty of new signings didn’t perform from January onwards, Pardew needs them to improve or his it out.

 Mauricio Pochettino (Southampton)

This is a bit of a long shot but the Argentine manager knows he must deliver a top ten finish for the St. Mary’s outfit. Southampton are planning to splash the cash between now and August and their ambitious chairman wants to kick on and challenge for a European spot. If they falter after a relatively easy start to the campaign, Pochettino could be packing his bags.

Martin Jol (Fulham)

Last season was a peculiar one at Craven Cottage. At times Martin Jol’s Fulham side looked like world-beaters but on other occasions they were reminiscent of an average League Two outfit at best. Jol is walking a tight-rope as fans are getting restless with the lack of progress on the banks of the River Thames.

MLS: NYCFC beat TFC in new coach Torrent’s debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jo Inge Berget scored twice and coach Domenec Torrent celebrated his New York City FC debut with a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday.

Berget made it 2-1 in the 68th minute, following Maximiliano Moralez’s direct pass up the right channel and slotting it home.

NYCFC (9-3-4) tied it at 1 in the 51st minute on Berget’s back heel from the top of the 6-yard box.

Víctor Vazquez opened the scoring for Toronto (4-8-3) in the 37th minute. Vasquez outran his defender on Auro’s long ball up the right side and sent a chip shot over the onrushing goalkeeper.

NYCFC’s David Villa left the game in the 28th minute with a non-contact injury.

Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira in New York shortly after Vieira’s departure for OGC Nice was officially confirmed. Torrent had been the right-hand man to Pep Guardiola for the last 11 years, most recently at Manchester City.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 12 — Time to settle Groups A & B

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Day 12 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Monday, and with it begins the final round of group games to decide the 16 teams headed to the knockout rounds. For the next four days, we’ll be treated to four games each day.

Also, the end of 8 a.m. ET kickoffs. Hooray for sleeping in.

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

First up, the conclusion of Group A, where both the hosts, Russia, and Uruguay have already advanced with wins in their first two games. Now, the two meet in the southwestern city of Samara to determine who’ll go through to the round of 16 as the group winners, and who’ll be the runners-up. Most likely awaiting either of them will be Spain and Portugal, pending the order in which they finish in Group B.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Speaking of Group B, Spain will finish group play against fourth-place and points-less Morocco, while Portugal have a tricky meeting with third-place Iran, who sit just a point behind the reigning European champions. The winner of Group B will face the runners-up of Group A, and vice versa.

Below is Monday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Monday, June 25

Group A
Uruguay vs. Russia: Samara, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt: Volgograd, 10 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group B
Spain vs. Morocco: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Iran vs. Portugal: Saransk, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Transfer rumor roundup: Emery raiding Sevilla; Wilshere’s suitor(s)

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Unai Emery has reportedly been in contact with at least one former player, Ever Banega, in an attempt to convince the Argentine midfielder to join him at Arsenal.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

Banega, who’ll turn 30 on Friday, played two seasons under Emery at Sevilla — where they won back-to-back Europa League titles (Banega was only at the club for the second and third of three straight from 2013-2016).

With Banega reportedly on the fence about whether or not to leave Sevilla again — he only just returned last summer after one season at Inter Milan — Emery is said to have made a personal call after Arsenal’s bid of roughly $23 million triggered the release clause in Banega’s contract. Sevilla will join Arsenal in the Europa League next season after finishing seventh in La Liga.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Jack Wilshere announced last week that he will leave Arsenal this summer — thus opening up the handful of games for which he was healthy and fit to play each season, perhaps for Banega — which leads us nicely to the final bit of transfer talk for Sunday: West Ham are interested in the 26-year-old, but are reportedly only willing to offer him a one-year contract.

The Hammers’ hesitancy is, of course, a response to his years-long battle with injuries — he’s made just 66 appearances over the last four PL seasons (three with Arsenal, one on loan to Bournemouth).

Two other clubs to keep an eye on, as they’ve reportedly indicated interest in Wilshere and/or been in contact already: Everton and Juventus.

Durmaz condemns Sweden fans’ racist abuse after World Cup loss

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KRASNODAR, Russia (AP) — Sweden midfielder Jimmy Durmaz says the racist abuse aimed at him over social media following the 2-1 loss to Germany at the World Cup has been “completely unacceptable.”

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

After coming on as a substitute, Durmaz gave away the free kick that led to Toni Kroos curling in an injury-time winner in Saturday’s group game. Durmaz has since been subjected to online abuse, including threats to his family.

Before a training session on Sunday, Durmaz — standing in front of the rest of the Sweden squad and beside coach Janne Andersson — read out a statement to the media from a mobile phone.

“When you threaten me, when you call me ‘Arab devil,’ ‘terrorist,’ ‘Taliban,’ then you have gone far beyond the limit,” Durmaz said in the statement, which was published on the Swedish Football Association’s website.

“And even worse, when you go after my family, my children, threaten them. Who does such a thing? It is completely unacceptable.”

Durmaz was born in Sweden to Assyrian parents who emigrated from Turkey.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“I am Swedish and I am proud to play in the Swedish national team. That’s the biggest thing you can do as a football player,” he said in the statement. “I will never let any racists destroy that pride. We must all stand against all forms of racism.”

The Swedish FA has reported the abuse toward Durmaz to police.

“We do not tolerate a player being exposed to threats and violations,” said Hakan Sjostrand, secretary general of the Swedish FA. “It is unpleasant and very upsetting to see the treatment that Jimmy Durmaz has suffered. Completely unacceptable.”

The loss to Germany left Sweden tied on three points with its opponent. Both countries are three points behind Mexico with one game left. Sweden plays Mexico in Yekaterinburg on Wednesday, with Germany taking on South Korea at the same time.