10 things to look forward to as the Premier League returns

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After the international break robbed us of the Premier League for nearly two weeks, don’t worry, it’s back!

Week eight of the PL kicks off on Saturday and below are 10 things to look forward from England’s top-flight.

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Remember, you can watch channels across the NBC Sports Group for our feature games and watch every single second of every single game live this season online via NBC Sports Live Extra and the NBC Sports Live Extra App. Via your TV you can watch the games live on Premier League Extra Time.

Here we go…

Guzan or Howard? Watch USMNT ‘keepers square off

USA! USA! USA! Nothing like a good old fashioned USMNT goalkeeper on goalkeeper battle, is there? Watch the video above to see myself, Mike Prindiville and Jenna Corrado discuss if Tim Howard or Brad Guzan is better. Well… who you got? Anyway, Everton host Aston Villa at Goodison Park with both teams without a win in three and while Howard is taking a year out from USMNT action, he’s had a bit of a stinker this far this season with Everton conceding 16 goals in seven games, the worst defense in the PL. Guzan is now the USA’s new no. 1 but will that still be the case next September when Howard returns from a self-imposed sabbatical? On Saturday they lock horns and we’ll get an up close look at who the better ‘keeper is.

Will City maul Spurs, again?!

Everything kicks off on Saturday morning at the Etihad, as Man City welcome Tottenham (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN) for what they hope will be another mauling. The Citizens have failed to click into gear this season but are sitting in second place and look solid, yet unspectacular. Against Spurs last season they won 6-0 and 5-1 and tore the heart out of the North Londoners. Mauricio Pochettino has come in and made Spurs a solid outfit, who looked back to their best vs. Southampton before the break. Will Spurs get their revenge of will City’s potent strikeforce give Hugo Lloris a bad back once again?

source: Getty Images
Costa to miss out vs. Palace?

Can Manchester United keep their roll going?

This is an intriguing question. Not so much of a roll, albeit it a subtle canter in the right direction. You felt that United’s 2-1 win over Everton before the break was a huge momentum builder but how many times have we said that over the past 12 months? One fine victory needs to be followed by another, and a trip to West Brom is a tricky affair for Louis van Gaal to negotiate. With Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao slotting in nicely, the Red Devils will look to smother the Baggies defense. Goals, goals, goals is the answer, as United aim to stay in the top four with a win.

Upset central: Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool face tricky tests

Last season Chelsea lost away at Crystal Palace 1-0, and they face the Eagles in a London derby on Saturday. It can’t happen again, can it? Arsenal host Hull with a depleted back line (more on that shortly…) and Liverpool head to QPR with question marks over Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge, to face a Rangers side battling for their lives. That’s why I’m pressing the buzzer for these three matches: UPSET ALERT!

Hull can rip apart Arsenal’s makeshift defense

More on that Arsenal defense. Calum Chambers is suspended, while Laurent Koscielny and Matheiu Debuchy are out injured. That means poor old Nacho Monreal has to switch from left back to center back for the first time in his career. This could go very badly for the Gunners, as Arsene Wenger admitted earlier this week that he should have bought more defenders in the summer. Uh, yup, you should have. With Abel Hernandez in fine form since signing on Deadline Day, Hull have scored two goals in each of their last four games since Steve Bruce’s shrewd business and look very handy going forward. They may rip up Arsenal’s patched-up back four at the Emirates.

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Will the curse strike Koeman, Pelle and Saints? Source: Southampton FC

Can Chelsea cope without Diego Costa at Palace?

Jose Mourinho confirmed that Diego Costa is struggling to be fit for Chelsea’s trip to Palace on Saturday. *Changing PL fantasy team.* Costa has scored nine goals in his first seven PL games and has been a revelation since arriving at Stamford Bridge from Atletico Madrid this summer. Can Loic Remy and/or Didier Drogba fill Costa’s void if he’s missing? Chelsea could struggle. They have so many great attacking talents, but that predator in a round the box was missing last season when they lost to the Eagles and it could be missing again this Saturday at Selhurst. Remy’s big chance to shine in Costa’s absence?

Will the monthly award voodoo strike Southampton?

Saints picked up both monthly awards for September from the Premier League, as Ronald Koeman was named Manager of the Month and Graziano Pelle was named Player of the Month. Usually that means one thing: an almighty downward spiral. So many times managers and players get these awards and suddenly they’re struck with a curse. Southampton are third in the table and will fancy all three points at home to Sunderland. Will Italian international Pelle (who scored his first goal for the Azzurri on his debut last Monday) be the game-winner for Koeman’s men once again?

This is it: Newcastle, Burnley might win this weekend…

Seven games in and fans of both Newcastle and Burnley are salivating. “This is it lads… we might win this weekend!” With Newcastle suffering a horrendous start to the campaign and newly promoted Burnley (Read Joe Posnanski’s amazing longform piece for SportsWorld on the Clarets) just hanging on in games after going over six matches without scoring, supporters of both teams have been struggling. However battling 2-2 draws before the break were cause for optimism and Newcastle host newly-promoted Leicester, while Burnley welcome West Ham to Turf Moor. Great chance to get that first ‘W’ this week.

source: Getty Images
Sterling to play or be rested vs. QPR?

Will Liverpool rest Raheem Sterling? Plus Daniel Sturridge’s return delayed

Over the international break little Raheem Sterling was at the center of plenty of controversy. After telling England manager Roy Hodgson he was “too tired” to play for the Three Lions vs. Estonia, fingers were pointed at Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool who were still smarting from losing Sturridge to injury while on international duty last month. Liverpool deny telling Sterling what to do, but the teenage winger was under plenty of scrutiny for speaking out about his tiredness. It will be interesting to see if Sterling starts against his old club QPR for Liverpool on Sunday at Loftus Road or is rested. He may start, as Sturridge’s return has been delayed by another three to four weeks after another injury. Boy, do they miss him.

Harry Redknapp on the chopping block

Defiant. Sassy. Bullish. Redknapp was all three of those things in his pre-match press conference on Friday when asked if he worried about losing his job.Newly-promoted QPR have lost five of their first seven games and are bottom of the standings after shipping 15 goals. All is not well. If QPR get a hiding at home to Liverpool on Sunday, many feel ruthless R’s owner Tony Fernandes will fire Redknapp. After the first seven games of the season, QPR look out of their depth. Redknapp needs a win on Sunday or it could be ‘adios.’

Pulisic Watch: Goal, hamstring injury in FA Cup final

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Christian Pulisic had both a dream and nightmare outing in the FA Cup final, as he became the first USMNT player in history to score in the FA Cup final but looked to have severely injured his hamstring.

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Pulisic, 21, scored a superb opener at Wembley as he dazzled for Chelsea early on but right at the start of the second half he raced clear of the Arsenal defense, again, but appeared to injure his right hamstring badly before he took a shot.

Injury update, latest news on Pulisic

Frank Lampard gave a Pulisic injury update after the game and said that the USMNT star would not be fit to play in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg game at Bayern Munich next Saturday. Lampard also confirmed that Pulisic will have a scan on his injured hamstring to determine the severity of the damage.

Here’s a close look at a superb display for Pulisic which ended in injury.


2nd minute: Found on the ball and plays it back to Rudiger. Chelsea looking to play the ball direct early on.

7th minute: GOALLL! Finds Giroud centrally, then surges forward and finds Mount on the left.  A cross from Mount is flicked to Pulisic by Giroud and he dinks home over Emiliano Martinez. Pulisic becomes the first USMNT player in history to score in an FA Cup final.

9th minute: Man, is he up for this. Pulisic puts Bellerin under pressure and wins the ball back for Chelsea.

11th minute: Lovely feet from Pulisic as he ran past two Arsenal defenders and at another two, before hitting a shot right at Emiliano Martinez.

14th minute: A nice flick to Giroud who didn’t quite read it. Lovely creativity.

20th minute: Picks up the ball on the left and is calm and composed on the ball. Always looking to drift inside.

31st minute: Cuts in from the right and flies past two players but Alonso fouls and the attack is over. Chelsea struggling after Arsenal’s equalizer.

38th minute: Found by Kovacic and plays it wide as Chelsea try and possess the ball after losing captain Azpilcueta to injury, who had given away the penalty kick Arsenal equalized from.

41st minute: Almost gets away but Arsenal stop him. A real nuisance.

45th minute: Tackled by Kieran Tierney, as Arsenal win a free kick right on the edge of the box but it is flashed wide.

47th minute: Right at the start of the second half he accelerates towards goal and is away from the Arsenal defense, but he pulls up in agony with a right hamstring injury before getting a shot away which is just wide. Somehow he still had a shot despite being in agony.

48th minute: Pulisic is in agony as he is helped off the pitch and Pedro replaces him. A dream start to the FA Cup final ends in agony for the American. Chelsea and USMNT fans everywhere will be waiting anxiously to hear the latest Pulisic injury update.

UPDATE: Pulisic went straight down the tunnel and was seen late in the second half as the other Chelsea players sat in the stand and watched their team.

Ranking new Premier League kits for 2020-21

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Premier League kit rankings are absolutely one of our favorite things to do each summer.

New kits have been dropped by plenty of Premier League clubs ahead of the new 2020-21 season, with fresh looks galore.

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Some teams have kept it simple, while others have gone for something very different.

With big name kit suppliers arriving on new deals at clubs, there will be some very different looks for next season and beyond.

Check out our 2020-21 Premier League kit rankings from the shirts released, so far.


1 – Sheffield United: Absolutely stunning design. Simple and striking at the same time. Love it.

2 – Southampton: Classy retro kits to celebrate their 135th anniversary, as Saints return to their original look.

Southampton

3 – Aston Villa: Clean, sharp look and you can’t go wrong with claret and blue. Love the larger badge too.

 

4 – Arsenal: Loving the retro vibes and yet another fine Arsenal kit.

 

5 – Brighton: Gone for an all blue number with white pinstripes. This is very good and a big chance from the bigger blue and white stripes. Retro, again.

6 – Tottenham Hotspur: Very sleek look and Spurs have kit it simple. Like the away kit, a lot.

7 – Manchester United: Nice little design throughout the kit which adds something extra.

8 – Liverpool: New Nike kits for the first time in history. The teal trim looks smart. Kept it simple and safe.

9 – Wolves: Another team which has gone for the retro look and it works.

10 – West Brom: The barcode stripes are slightly jarring but the colors, badge and design are good.

11 – Man City: A little too much going on with the home and away kits.

12 – West Ham: The Hammers are celebrating their 125th anniversary in style. Very nice. Classic look with a massive badge. Maybe a bit too plain?

13 – Chelsea: The new sponsor logo and the size of it has been ridiculed and it does ruin the very snazzy looking kits.

14 – Similar look for Leicester and this is a nice design. Big fan of the sleeves.

15 – Everton: Hummel are underrated and this has a nice retro look to it.

16 – Newcastle United: Does what it says on the tin. Black and white stripes, and that’s it.

Alexis Sanchez close to permanent Inter move; Ceballos update

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Alexis Sanchez is close to a permanent move to Inter Milan and there’s an interesting update on Dani Ceballos heading to Arsenal on a permanent basis.

[ MORE: Bundesliga plan for fans’ return ]

Starting in Milan, several reports claim that Alexis Sanchez is finally leaving Manchester United and will sign for Inter permanently on a free transfer. Other reports claim that Inter are paying a $17.6 million transfer fee for Sanchez, who still has two years left on his current Man United contract of $730,000 per week.

Sanchez’s departure will allow Man United to wrap up the $140 million signing of Jadon Sancho, with Sanchez’s huge salary finally off their wage bill as they’ve been paying a big chunk of his wages since last summer when he joined Inter on a season-long loan.

As for the details of the permanent deal, our partners in the UK at Sky Sports have some more details.

“The Chile international would receive a payout from United for cancelling his contract, which still has two years to run. The details of the payout are unknown but the value of the remaining two years in wages is around £55m. Sanchez is set to sign a three-year contract with Inter worth £6.3m a year. A deal should be finalised this week and would mean Sanchez is eligible to play for Inter in this season’s Europa League competition.” 

Alexis Sanchez, 31, has been in good form for Inter Milan since the restart (three goals and seven assists says as much) as he finally seems to have shaken off injuries. In 18 months at Man United the Chilean star struggled to make an impact after joining in January 2018 as part of a swap deal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan as he left Arsenal after a lengthy contract saga.

Ceballos to Arsenal
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As for another player who could be joining his loan club permanently, there is an intriguing update from Real Madrid and Spain midfielder Dani Ceballos.

Ceballos, 23, starred on loan at Arsenal and helped Mikel Arteta’s side win the FA Cup as he put in a man of the match performance in a new deeper role in central midfield.

The Spaniard has been instrumental so far during Arteta’s rebuild of the Gunners and although the Arsenal boss is keen for the club to work out a deal to extend the loan of Ceballos, or even try and sign him permanently, it appears the silky midfielder may not be so keen on staying in London.

Speaking to Spanish outlet El Partidazo de COPE, here’s what Ceballos said about his future as he will chat with Real after their Champions League Round of 16 clash with Man City later this week.

“I haven’t spoken to Real Madrid yet, but anyone who wears that shirt is happy,” Ceballos said. “Madrid are better than any club in the world. We’ll see about my future. I’m not thinking about whether or not I can play for Real Madrid, Arsenal or another club. Now it’s time to disconnect. I have to be calm and think clearly with my family about the coming year.”

Ceballos has also stated his love for his boyhood club, Real Betis, as he could end up back in Spain but not at Real Madrid.

Arsenal and Arteta want Ceballos to remain at the Emirates, badly, and they must do all they can to bring him back to north London for the 2020-21 season. His partnership with Granit Xhaka in the two deeper central midfield roles was a big surprise as they added stability, vision and composure to the engine room.

Bundesliga agree on plan for fans to return when government allows

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The Bundesliga has agreed on a plan for fans to return to stadiums, but only if the government gives them the green light later this month.

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In a meeting of clubs from the top two tiers of German soccer on Tuesday, clubs voted in favor of allowing some fans back into stadiums when the 2020-21 season starts on Sept. 18, with German Cup games scheduled for the week before that.

Germany has dealt with the coronavirus pandemic particularly well but there are concerns about a second wave after a rise in infections in recent weeks.

The parameters for how Bundesliga fans would be able to return to each stadium, and the protocol for pulling it off safely, is generally as follows:

  • No visiting fans until the end of 2020
  • No alcohol sold in stadiums until at least Oct. 31
  • No standing in stadiums until at least Oct. 31
  • Contact info and ID data to be collected for all fans inside the stadium

Now it is all about the meeting next week between the health ministers of each region of Germany, as they will have the final say on whether or not some fans can return to stadiums.

The Bundesliga was the first of Europe’s top five leagues to return to play, as they restarted the season in May amid the coronavirus pandemic. The protocols the Bundesliga put into place set the framework for leagues in England, Spain and Italy to resume action later in the summer.

Speaking in a news conference German Football League (DFL) CEO Christian Seifert had the following to say on the matter via Yahoo.

“If and when fans will return to the stadiums is not a decision for the DFL but for the political leaders,” Seifert said. “The DFL does not expect or demand anything but we are preparing to take this small step (with fans in stadiums) when the time comes. Priority is not full stadiums but the health situation. We should not take unnecessary risks but we should also not capitulate and just expect it to go away.”

“No one at the DFL will demand a specific number of fans. That would be irresponsible. Professional football can only come back in steps. There is no magic switch for politicians to give the green light for full stadiums. That will happen in steps. We will have to reclaim normality in small steps.”

The soccer and sporting world will have all eyes on Germany to see if this plan is approved and how things go from mid-September onwards.