Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Stoke City

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Stoke City will be expecting another season of progress, with Mark Hughes’ side finishing in the top 10 last year and looking to build on that with some astute signings over the summer months.

[ MORE: All of PST’s season previews ]

The Potters have only won one major trophy in their 152-year history, which was the League Cup in 1972, but their history is rich as they were one of the founding members of the Football League back in 1888.

Stoke’s main rivals are third-tier Port Vale, but in the PL they are close to both Manchester clubs and the likes of Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion.

Best possible XI:

— Butland —

— Johnson — Shawcross — Muniesa — Pieters —

— Afellay — Adam — Cameron — Arnautovic —

— Bojan —

— Joselu —

Transfers In: Joselu ($9 million, Hannover 96), Phillip Wollscheid (Undisclosed, Bayer Leverkusen), Jakob Haugaard (Undisclosed, FC Midtjylland), Shay Given (Free, Aston Villa), Glen Johnson (Free, Liverpool), Moha El Ouriachi (Free, Barcelona), Dom Telford (Compensation, Blackpool), Mark Waddington (Compensation, Blackpool), Ibrahim Afellay (Free, Barcelona), Marco van Ginkel (Season-long loan, Chelsea)

Transfers Out: Wilson Palacios (Released), Thomas Sorensen (Released), Andy Wilkinson (Released), Robert Huth ($7 million, Leicester City), Steven Nzonzi ($10 million, Sevilla), Jamie Ness (Free, Scunthorpe United), Asmir Begovic ($12 million, Chelsea)

source: Getty Images
Bojan ripped it up in his debut PL season.

Last season: Ninth in Premier League – Stoke recorded their highest-ever points tally in the PL and it was also their highest ever PL finish. All in all, a great campaign for the Potters. If Bojan hadn’t gone down injured, they may have racked up even more points. Tough to break down, they pulled off big wins against Arsenal and Liverpool at home and everyone is aware that Stoke are an emerging team.

Star player: Bojan Krkic – The tiny Spanish playmaker has recovered from rupturing the ACL in his left knee and the man who will forever be know as “the next Messi” will be Stoke’s go-to guy this season. It will take him a little while to regain his best form, but when he does he knits everything together seamlessly for Stoke. With him, they are a completely different team as his creativity improves their offensive play substantially.

Coach’s corner: Mark Hughes has done a wonderful job at Stoke over the past two seasons to put them in the top 10 and this year they will look to push into the top eight. The Potters have been transformed into a team who loves to spray the ball around and although they still retain that physical power that made them into a PL mainstay, Stoke are a very good team to watch. Hughes has used his links at Barcelona from his playing days to bring in Bojan and Affelay, as the Britannia Stadium is a tough place to go. Hughes deserves a lot of credit.

source: Getty Images
Hughes has done a great job at Stoke since 2013.

PST predicts: Another season of progress for Stoke. Yes, they lost two key players in Begovic and Nzonzi, but they aren’t irreplaceable and they have added plenty of depth to their squad. Given their strong second half to last season, expect the Potters to be in the top 10 and challenging to win silverware in both the FA and League cups.

Russell hat trick snaps Sporting KC’s win streak (video)

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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Struggling, short-handed Sporting KC needed a star show to kickstart its summer, and Johnny Russell was ready to go.

Maybe the 29-year-old Scotsman was feeding off the buzz of his old club Derby County preparing for the Championship Playoff Final, but Russell scored thrice as Sporting took care of Seattle 3-2 in Washington on Sunday.

[ MORE: USWNT wins final match before World Cup (video) ]

The right winger scored his fifth, sixth, and seventh goals of the MLS season as Sporting won its first match since March 30.

Russell scored 35 goals with 34 assists in 205 matches with the Rams, but has destroyed that mark with KC. He now has 19 and 16 in 55.

Seattle loses ground on LAFC in the race for the Supporters’ Shield, while KC is now within four points of the playoff places.

 

 

Report: Newcastle in takeover talks with UAE billionaire

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Reports out of Northeast England say Newcastle United supporters who want owner Mike Ashley out at all costs have new hope.

United Arab Emirates billionaire Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayan is said to be in talks with Ashley about a takeover of the St. James’ Park-based club, though there’s a lot of work to do for a deal to be complete.

[ MORE: USWNT wins final match before World Cup (video) ]

One report goes as far as to say Ashley has agreed to accept $444 million for the Premier League club.

Sheikh Khaled, 61, was educated at American colleges Boston University and Michigan State. He’s the cousin of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and was turned down with a $2.5 billion bid for Liverpool last season.

From The Chronicle:

NUFC have confirmed some talks with Sheikh Khaled. But say there is still “some way” to go on a deal. Newcastle United refusing to make any further comment at this time.

Takeover talks are nothing new at Newcastle, and there does seem to be some heat to these reports, but Ashley and his crew have spun these stories of interest in the past. And with Magpies supporters waiting for news on Rafa Benitez‘s new deal, some will be way of a smoke screen for an inability to reach an agreement with the celebrated Newcastle manager.

Wondolowski scores 149th, 150th goals; Earthquakes win

Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP
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TORONTO (AP) Chris Wondolowski scored his 149th and 150th MLS goals in the San Jose Earthquakes’ 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday night.

The MLS career goals leader scored both from close range.

[ MORE: Kante to miss Europa League final ]

Wondolowski got a yard’s separation from Drew Moor and deftly redirected in Cristian Espinoza’s cross in the 37th minute to tie it at 1. The go-ahead goal in the 81st minute was a virtual replay, with Espinoza finding Wondolowski in space.

The San Jose striker has six goals in two games. He scored all four goals in a 4-1 victory over Chicago last weekend to surpass Landon Donovan’s league record of 145 goals and up his career total to 148.

Richie Laryea opened the scoring for Toronto (5-6-2) in the 28th minute

San Jose (5-6-2) won for the first time in six road games this season.

Chairman Mubarak: Other clubs are ‘jealous’ of Man City’s success

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Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak believes that other clubs — namely those who have fallen miles back of the back-to-back Premier League champions — are “jealous” of the club’s success.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante to miss Europa League final with new injury ]

The root of the perceived jealousy is, of course, Man City’s seemingly unlimited spending power which dwarves that of just about — if not — every other club in the PL. There’s a growing sense around the league — and around the world — that clubs like City, just to name one, are doing the game a disservice by distorting the transfer market and building an infallible super-team with the aid of unprecedented financial resources.

Mubarak believes that these feelings also stem from other clubs’ failed dealings in the transfer market: spending comparable — if not more — money on players who don’t justify that price tag the same way some of City’s big-money buys have done — quotes from the BBC:

“With success, there is a certain level of jealousy, envy, whatever you call it. That’s part of the game.

“It’s not easy for our competition, we know that. But the reality is, we didn’t buy the most expensive player in the Premier League [Paul Pogba], we didn’t buy the most expensive goalkeeper [Kepa Arrizabalaga], we didn’t buy the most expensive midfielder, we didn’t buy the most expensive striker [Romelu Lukaku].

“People make decisions, they’ve got to live by them. This is a well-run club.”

City’s financial dealings have regularly been in the headlines of late, as they are believed to have circumvented FFP rules by lying about sponsorship deals so as to balance a larger expenditure on transfer fees and player wages with revenue generated by the club.