Premier League 2014-15 preview: Newcastle United

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Magpies fans must simply be baffled in a good way after this summer. Owner Mike Ashley spent a pair of years doing very little besides selling off key assets — Andy Carroll, Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba were all sold for big money — and then used this summer to smartly and quietly build up a team that could again challenge for Europe.

Beleaguered boss Alan Pardew had a European contender last year before the club’s sale of Cabaye and his head butting of a Hull City player sent Newcastle into a tailspin that dropped them into tenth place. Now, he’s picked up incredible depth in the attack and offset to sale of Mathieu Debuchy with younger, cheaper Dutch star Daryl Janmaat. Life could be good on Tyneside.

[RELATED: Full PL season preview]

Transfers In: Remy Cabella (Montpellier), Emmanuel Riviere (Monaco), Siem de Jong (Ajax), Daryl Janmaat (Feyenoord), Ayoze Perez (Tenerife), Jack Colback (Sunderland), Facundo Ferreyra (Shakhtar Donetsk)

Transfers Out: Mathieu Debuchy (Arsenal), Dan Gosling (Bournemouth), Sylvain Marveaux (Guingamp), Shola Ameobi, Romain Amalfitano (Dijon)

Full PL schedule | Watch Newcastle United live via Live Extra | BPL on NBC schedule |

Last season: As stated, the Magpies were cruising through December, even picking up their first Old Trafford win in decades when Cabaye keyed the team past Manchester United. But Pardew’s head butt of David Meyler kicked a massive losing streak into gear, and many fans were started-at-best and crushed-at-worst when the manager kept his job in the summer.

source: Getty ImagesStar player: Tim Krul

Yes, the same nutcase who famously became Holland’s hero with his penalty kick antics to best Costa Rica. If you have been paying attention to Newcastle, you’ll know that Krul is among the most under appreciated goalkeepers in the Premier League. His million-save performance against Tottenham last year keyed his run to PL goalkeeper of the month, and his injury late in the year is one of the things that crippled the season. If Newcastle keeps Krul through the transfer window, the sky will be the limit.

Coaches’ Corner: Alan Pardew

The second-longest tenured manager in the Premier League is a tempestuous boss capable of sublime tactics but also questionable substitution patterns and an over-reliance on in-game tricks that worked once “so why wouldn’t they work 100 times?” Pardew knows how to set up his team for a game, but the rest almost seems up to chance. Get in his doghouse — cough, Hatem ben Arfa, Sylvain Marveaux — and no amount of fan posturing will get you out. Will be on a short leash after all the money Ashley spent this summer.

PST predicts: A top-half finish at a minimum, with the possibility for more. Newcastle’s attack will be as strong as its been in a long time, and if they could challenge for Europe if they get the defensive performances of last season from Cheick Tiote and Mike Williamson to go with a healthy Fabricio Coloccini. Still, it may not be enough this year, as the Magpies finish a strong 8th.

Club World Cup: Kashima beat Chivas 3-2, will meet Real Madrid

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AL AIN, United Arab Emirates (AP) Japanese side Kashima Antlers beat Chivas of Mexico 3-2 on Saturday, advancing to a semifinal against Real Madrid at the Club World Cup.

Ryota Nagaki canceled out Angel Zaldivar’s early goal for Chivas and Kashima took the lead when Serginho converted a penalty in the 69th minute.

Hiroki Abe assured the win with a goal in the 84th before Hugo Leonardo scored an own goal in stoppage time.

Kashima will play Madrid on Wednesday.

Madrid needed extra time to beat Kashima 4-2 in the 2016 final of the Club World Cup.

Also, Al Ain FC beat Esperance Sportive de Tunis 3-0, setting up the other semifinal with South American champion River Plate on Tuesday.

La Liga: Atleti pull level with Barcelona; Real two points back

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ SERIE A: Cristiano Ronaldo scores winner in his first Turin derby ]

Real Valladolid 2-3 Atletico Madrid

Despite a largely indifferent run of form from superstar Antoine Griezmann (just four goals in the first 15 games) to start the season, Atleti managed to hang around in the title race thanks to their league-best 12 goals conceded. Griezmann was always likely to experience something of a World Cup hangover before eventually breaking out and resuming regular service as one of La Liga’s most prolific goalscorers.

Saturday might have been Griezmann’s re-emergence, as the 2018 World Cup winner bagged a brace, including the game-winning goal in the 80th minute, to help Atleti to a 3-2 victory over Real Valladolid.

Nikola Kalinic put the visitors 1-0 ahead before halftime and Griezmann converted from the penalty spot to make it 2-0 as soon as the second half began, but a goal conceded followed by an own goal capped off a dreadful six-minute spell for Diego Simeone’s side. Griezmann was there to save the day, though, popping up at the right place at the right time when Valladolid failed to clear a corner kick and gave Los Rojiblancos three clear-cut chance from inside 10 yards.

Real Madrid 1-0 Rayo Vallecano

Real Madrid scored their game-winning goal nearly 70 minutes earlier than their capital rivals, but their victory wasn’t anymore comfortable as Santiago Solari’s side held on for dear life — and were out-shot 11-9 — by Rayo Vallecano.

Karim Benzema bagged the game’s only goal in the 13th minute before he was forced off with an ankle injury in the 77th minute. Madrid were without Gareth Bale due to an ankle injury of his own. Los Blancos will now depart for the United Arab Emirates where they’ll face Japanese side Kashima Antlers in the semifinals of the Club World Cup on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Getafe 1-0 Real Sociedad
Eibar 1-1 Valencia

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Sevilla v. Girona — 6 a.m. ET
Espanyol v. Real Betis — 10:15 a.m. ET
Huesca v. Villarreal — 12:30 p.m. ET
Levante v. Barcelona — 2:45 p.m. ET

Serie A: Ronaldo scores winner in his first Turin derby

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ PL PREVIEW: Liverpool v. Man United at Anfield; Chelsea, Arsenal in action ]

Torino 0-1 Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo marked his Turin derby debut by scoring the game’s only goal, from the penalty spot, to extend Juventus’ winning streak to seven league games and open up an 11-point lead in the scudetto race.

Torino held strong for more than an hour, despite being forced to sub off starting goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu in the 20th minute. It was Sirigu’s replacement, Salvador Ichazo, who gave away the penalty when he brought down Mario Mandzukic in the 70th minute. Ichazo nearly made the save to preserve the scoreless draw for the home side, but Ronaldo’s powerful strike got past the Uruguayan to take his season tally to 11 goals (to go with five assists) in 16 appearance in league play.

Inter Milan 1-0 Udinese

Inter ended a seven-game winless skid (all competitions) with a narrow home victory over Udinese. Luciano Spaletti’s side left it even later than Juve, waiting until the 76th minute before Mauro Icardi converted from the penalty spot.

Despite the prolonged period of poor results, Inter have a six-point lead on fourth-place AC Milan, who have yet to play this weekend, but have tumbled to 14 points back of the runaway leaders.

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

SPAL v. Chievo — 6:30 a.m. ET
Fiorentina v. Empoli — 9 a.m. ET
Frosinone v. Sassuolo — 9 a.m. ET
Sampdoria v. Parma — 9 a.m. ET
Cagliari v. Napoli — 12 p.m. ET
Roma v. Genoa — 2:30 p.m. ET

The 2 Robbies: Gabriel Jesus puts Man City back on top of PL

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Robbie Earle braves it alone without Robbie Mustoe for this one, but is joined by members of NBC’s Premier League crew — Jen Calhoun, Mike Wolosz and Jorge Bustamante — to discuss Manchester City’s win over Everton (0:45), Tottenham’s last-gasp victory against Burnley (12:00) and hear from a true Bournemouth fan after their defeat to Wolves (19:15). Plus a look ahead to Liverpool v. Manchester United — can Jose Mourinho pull off one more special upset? (31:10)

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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