Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Liverpool

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After spending over $100 million in transfer fees this summer, Liverpool need to challenge for a spot in the top four this season.

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Manager Brendan Rodgers will be under plenty of pressure to achieve qualification to the UEFA Champions League, but with Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard leaving, a new-look Liverpool could have plenty of growing pains. Traditionally the Anfield club are one of England’s most successful sides with 18 league titles, seven FA Cups, eight FA Cups and five UEFA Champions League titles during their rich history.

[ MORE: Full schedule for every PL club

Their Merseyside neighbors are Everton, who are based less than a mile away across Stanley Park, while Liverpool have a fierce rivalry with Manchester United.

Best possible XI:

—– Mignolet —–

— Clyne — Skrtel — Sakho — Moreno —

                                                                       —  Firmino  — Henderson — Milner — 

Coutinho

Benteke — Sturridge

Transfers In: James Milner (Free, Manchester City), Danny Ings (Tribunal fee, Burnley), Adam Bogdan (Free, Bolton Wanderers), Nathaniel Clyne ($20 million, Southampton), Roberto Firmino ($40 million, Hoffenheim), Joe Gomez ($5 million, Charlton Athletic), Christian Benteke ($50 million, Aston Villa)

Transfers Out: Raheem Sterling ($75 million, Manchester City), Steven Gerrard (Free, LA Galaxy), Brad Jones (Released), Glen Johnson (Free, Stoke City), Sebastian Coates ($6 million, Sunderland), Iago Aspas ($7.5 million, Celta Vigo), Javier Manquillo (Loan cancelled, Atletico Madrid)

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Coutinho will be the main man this season.

Last season: 6th in the Premier League, FA Cup semifinals, Champions League group stage – The Reds had an up and down season as they got off to a poor start and never really recovered. Despite going on a 13-game unbeaten spell at the turn of the year, Rodgers’ side could not remain in the top four after they had come agonizingly close to winning the title in 2013-14. It was a season of struggle as new players failed to bed in quickly and Daniel Sturridge’s long-term absence through injury, coupled with the sale of Luis Suarez, really hurt the Reds offensively. One high point was the form of Philippe Coutinho, as the Brazilian dazzled in midfield.

Star player: Philippe Coutinho – The Brazilian playmaker slots everything together and his play in-between midfield and attack will be crucial to the Reds’ success this year. If he can link up with countryman Firmino on the right and Lallana on the left to provide assists for Sturridge, Ings and Benteke, Liverpool will be in business. Still just 23, Coutinho now has two full PL seasons under his belt and he is getting better and better each month. With Gerrard gone, now is his time to step up and be the main man in midfield for Liverpool.

Coaches’ Corner: Rodgers is under pressure, there’s no doubt about that. Heading into his fourth season as Liverpool boss, he has yet to win any silverware and fans of the Anfield club are growing impatient as key players continue to leave. Will the likes of Milner, Ings, Firmino and Benteke settle immediately and help replace Gerrard and Sterling? Rodgers’ future as Liverpool boss depends on it, as despite preaching a free-flowing style of play, he reverted to a more defensive approach last season and the Reds struggled. His squad seems to be stronger this year with key additions throughout, but defensively the Reds still need help.

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Rodgers under pressure at Liverpool?

PST predicts: The Reds need to finish in the top four but it all depends on how quickly the new players settle in. This season Rodgers has added lots of talent who already have PL experience, so that should help. Expect Liverpool to be in and around the top four all season, but it may be another fifth or sixth place finish. Winning a cup competition could be vital to calling this season a success.

FOLLOW LIVE, Gold Cup: USMNT closes out group v. Panama

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It’s a fully-changed starting XI for the U.S. Men’s National Team as it closes out the group stage against Panama at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

Omar Gonzalez and Matt Miazga start together in the backline, Jozy Altidore returns to the starting lineup up top, and Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis feature on the wings alongside Altidore. Ten of the 11 players now ply their trade in MLS, including the Gonzalez, who recently moved to Toronto FC.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT takes on Panama in Kansas City]

Hit the link above to follow along for the next two hours, and check back on PST for a full recap and in-depth analysis after the final whistle.

Must-See Goal: Wayne Rooney v. Orlando City

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I’m going to go out on a limb and say it. Wayne Rooney just scored the most amazing goal in Audi Field’s young history.

In the 10th minute of D.C. United’s match against Orlando City SC on Wednesday evening, Rooney noticed Orlando’s Brian Rowe straying way off his line. And so, with an audacious but accurate attempt, Rooney let fly from 65 yards and SCORED. Just check this goal out below.

[FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT v. Panama]

Rooney took advantage of a crazy bounce and with his literal first touch, unleashed a thunderbolt that Rowe couldn’t catch up to. It automatically becomes one of the top contenders for the MLS Goal of the Year, and should make it on every top ten countdown this evening and tomorrow.

Benfica: Atletico Madrid make $143 million bid for Felix

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The legend of Joao Felix appears to have reached full market value potential.

The 19-year-old Portuguese striker is coming off a breakout year for Benfica, and now the Portuguese giants have received an impressive $143 million offer from Atletico Madrid for Felix. The club confirmed the offer in a statement on its website, stating it was analyzing the deal. Felix has a $136.5 million release clause in his contract, but it appears the additional $7 million is in processing costs.

[READ: Kroos wants to retire at Real Madrid]

Felix was outstanding at Benfica last year, scoring 15 goals with seven assists in 26 league games and three goals and one assist in five Europa League game. Felix has already made his international debut for Portugal.

If confirmed, Felix would become the fifth-most expensive transfer in world history, and the second-most expensive transfer for a teenager behind Kylian Mbappe.

AFCON: Nigeria 1st team through to round of 16 at African Cup, joined by host Egypt

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CAIRO (AP) Former champion Nigeria became the first team to reach the last 16 at the African Cup of Nations after defender Kenneth Omeruo‘s second-half goal delivered a 1-0 win over Guinea on Wednesday.

The Nigerians were unimpressive in the first half in Alexandria but lifted their game in the second. Alex Iwobi‘s rasping shot was pushed away by Guinea goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone and Ahmed Musa almost set up Odion Ighalo on a counterattack.

The former Chelsea defender Omeruo did what the forwards had not been able to do when he beat Kone with a glancing header at the near post off Moses Simon’s corner in the 73rd minute.

Nigeria, which won the title in 2013, has two wins from two games in Group B. It beat Burundi 1-0 in its first match and now needs a draw from its last fixture against Madagascar to finish top and stay in Alexandria for the last 16.

There was more good news for Nigeria when Samuel Kalu came on as a substitute near the end. The midfield player collapsed at a training session the day before the first game, suffering from dehydration, and was hospitalized.

Coach Gernot Rohr rested captain John Obi Mikel against Guinea.

Elsewhere, Egypt also confirmed a place in the knockout stages with a 2-0 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ahmad Elmohamady and Mohamed Salah each scored in the first half to lead the Pharoahs to victory, the hosts second-straight win in the competition.

In the other match of the day, Uganda tied Zimbabwe, 1-1.