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)

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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.

FOLLOW LIVE – Tunisia and Nigeria in AFCON third place game

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The appetizer to the main course takes place today as Tunisia and Nigeria meet in the third place match of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

Both sides fell in the semifinals on last-minute goals, with Tunisia dropping to Senegal on an extra-time own-goal while Nigeria was pipped by a Riyad Mahrez 95th minute winner.

[ LIVE: Africa Cup of Nations scores ]

While this match is obviously a chance for both sides to finish the tournament on a high note, also notable is the race for the Golden Boot. Odion Ighalo is in the lead with four goals and could look to tack on to that total with Mahrez, Adam Ounes, and Sadio Mane all on three goals and playing in the final.

Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr will want to save face after a disappointing tournament, and while he received the dreaded vote of confidence from the Nigerian federation, he still will want something tangible to take home. The Super Eagles came into the tournament as the third-highest FIFA ranked African nation, but after a shaky group stage performance and a pair of narrow one-goal knockout stage wins before the loss to Algeria, the need for a quality outing is great.

Five of the six previous matches between these two teams have ended in draws, so something has to give this time in Cairo.

Guardiola to Leroy Sane: only “happy” players will see the field

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Leroy Sane has been the subject of some uncertainty this summer, and it might be getting to Pep Guardiola.

After Sane came off the bench and helped Man City pummel West Ham 4-1 in the preseason Premier League Asia Trophy, Guardiola was asked about his future with the club after reports this summer that Bayern Munich was interested in snatching him away from the Etihad.

“The club made him an offer last year,” Guardiola said. “So, I have said many times, we only want people happy to be here. We are going to help him to be the best, we know his potential and what level he is. He has a special quality that is difficult to find around the world. He knows, they all know, all the forwards, all the midfielders, how difficult it is to play, it’s difficult because of the quality we have.”

“But, at the same time I spoke to the club ten times and I want people here to be happy, if they don’t want, they go. The desire to have him be with us is always there.”

Sane was spectacular at times last season as Manchester City won the Premier League title, but he played a shrinking role as the end of the campaign pressed on, forced to come off the bench as a substitute four times after February and left as an unused substitute five other times down the stretch as well. Sane played just two full 90 minute appearances in Premier League play in the 2019 calendar year.

With that in mind, it has proven difficult to convince Sane to sign a new contract at Manchester City, with his current deal set to expire in two years. That caught Bayern Munich’s attention, and the German side has been persistent in hoping to attract the 23-year-old to Allianz Arena.

Once Guardiola made his comments about happy players, he was asked bluntly if he thinks Sane will be with the team at the start of the season. He did not want to go into the situation further, saying, “I have already answered that question really well.”

Argentina women’s team players critical of coaches after roster changes

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The Argentine national team is facing controversy after making a host of changes to its roster for the 2019 Pan American games despite a solid showing in the World Cup earlier this summer.

Most notably, 29-year-old Estefania Banini, who captained the side at the World Cup, was left off the roster. She lashed out on social media, claiming on Instagram that she was left off after making internal comments critical of the coaching staff and trying to improve the team’s ability to compete.

“No rest, not injured, permission from my club, I have enough to be in the national team,” she wrote. “From 5 years old I trained to defend the blue and white, fighting for my place equally without discrimination. The coaching staff decided to leave me out…because we have our differences, they decide to put an end to my dream of defending the shirt.”

Banini goes on to explain that she wants coaches “with enough experience we can learn from” and who can help grow the game in their country. She said what they don’t want is something they experienced at the World Cup – “being told ‘just defend because we don’t want to concede 11’ when going out to play.”

Other players left off the roster for the Pan American games are Ruth Bravo and Lorena Benitez, both of whom were starters at the World Cup less than a month ago. Bravo, along with Belen Potassa, posted similarly critical comments on their own social media accounts after being left off the roster, with much of the content word-for-word to what Banini wrote.

Argentina performed well in the group stage of the World Cup, nearly advancing in the final seconds of the group stage before a 3-3 draw with Scotland saw them fall just short of passing Japan into a qualifying spot. They managed a 0-0 draw with Japan in the opening match and fell to England by a close 1-0 scoreline.

Banini has been outspoken in the past, criticizing the Argentinian federation back in 2014 for not supporting the women’s game enough. With her most recent comments potentially costing her a place in the team, some of her teammates had her back. Soledad Jaimes and Florencia Bonsegundo, also both starters in the World Cup, resigned their places on the Pan American Games roster in solidarity with their teammates, believing them to be unfairly treated.

“While 18 teammates pack their bags for the Pan American Games, I decided to withdraw from the roster,” Bonsegundo wrote in her own Instagram post. “Today I have to take a step forward for this struggle that we all started and that few have the courage to do. I understand that in this way I am protecting you more [the fans] because I know that in a future with properly trained players, Argentina may be at the level of the world powers! I’m still dreaming of a country with greater equality, without discrimination and where the voice of women is taken into account with the same weight as that of a man”

Argentina was drawn into a group with Panama, Costa Rica, and Peru for the Pan American games, with their first match set for July 28.

Reports: De Rossi heads to Argentina to sign for Boca Juniors

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According to reports in both Italy and Argentina, Roma legend Daniele de Rossi, who left the Italian club this summer at the age of 35, is heading to Argentina to finalize a deal to play for Boca Juniors.

The reports state that De Rossi will sign a one-year contract worth $560,000.

The Roma youth product has spent his entire career with the Serie A side, making 616 career appearances for Roma across all competitions and scoring 63 goals.

There was rumored interest from MLS in the 35-year-old, with NYCFC the most frequently named club, but it seems that interest never seriously took off. De Rossi also reportedly had an offer to coach in the Italian youth ranks and interest from fellow Italian clubs Bologna and Fiorentina.

At Boca, he will look to return the club to the top of the Argentine Primera Division where they stood two seasons ago before dropping to third last campaign.