Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Epic title race set to take center stage

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Are Manchester United’s new boys up to the challenge?

Louis van Gaal has spent another $120 million on new signings this summer, as his total expenditure on transfer fees alone since taking charge at Old Trafford 12 months ago has risen to $320 million. With those huge amounts of cash comes a huge amount of expectation.

[ MORE: PST’s writers predict the final PL standings ]

With five new signings arriving this summer, this side is now a true reflection of van Gaal and his philosophy. The Dutchman delivered a top four finish last season, exactly what he promised, but if he doesn’t at least finish in the top two this season, serious questions will be asked. 

[ MORE: All of PST’s PL season previews

Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger have arrived to bolster the holding midfield positions, while Matteo Darmian will start at right back and the eccentric, but hugely talented, Dutch youngster Memphis Depay will support Wayne Rooney in attack. Following the departure of Falcao and Angel di Maria this summer after an unsuccessful year at United, van Gaal will be hoping his new signings have a significantly bigger impact.

On paper, United’s midfield is the strongest in the PL but if Rooney goes down following the departure of Robin van Persie, they only have Depay who can play centrally in a pinch, and young striker James Wilson. At the back, question marks remain in central defense, but if Chris Smalling and Phil Jones stay injury free they can provide the solidity needed to mount a serious title charge, providing Rooney and Co. take care of business at the other end of the pitch.

[ MORE: Can United mount a serious title challenge? ]

The big question mark heading into this season for United remains whether or not goalkeeper David de Gea will remain at Old Trafford. The 24-year-old Spanish international has yet to commit his future to United and with just one-year left on his current deal and the links with Real Madrid persisting, LVG could start with new ‘keeper Sergio Romero on the opening day of the season against Tottenham Hotspur. De Gea was the star of the show for United last season and was the reason they finished in the top four. If he leaves or this situation continues to drag on, the Red Devils’ chances of challenging for the title will be a lot slimmer.

Can Chelsea hold off the big spenders?

Reigning PL champs Chelsea have had a frugal summer, and Jose Mourinho is fine with it. The Blues have added Asmir Begovic in goal and Radamel Falcao on loan to boost their already strong squad. But have they strengthened sufficiently to deal with the challenge of United, Arsenal and Manchester City?

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

The main area of concern is up front. Diego Costa’s hamstring issues have continued throughout the summer and with Didier Drogba gone, Mourinho only has Loic Remy and Falcao in attack to replace Costa. Mourinho has admitted he cannot reassure Chelsea as to the future health of Costa and although Eden Hazard has been pulling off Lionel Messi-esque moments during preseason, he can’t do it all on his own. Losing the focal point of their attack for most of the second half of last season severely hampered Chelsea’s attacking prowess and if Costa is missing for large chunks of this season, relying on Remy and Falcao may not cut it. Defensively the Blues look as sound as ever, but as we saw during their Community Shield defeat to Arsenal, the competition is catching up fast which should make this a much tighter title race than last season.

Is Cech the final piece in Arsenal jigsaw?

Petr Cech’s arrival seems to have already given the fans, players and coaches at Arsenal a big lift, with the veteran goalkeeper finally adding what the Gunners have lacked for nearly a decade: a world class stopper. Cech, 33, finally got fed up of sitting on the bench behind Thibaut Courtois at Chelsea and after plenty of negotiations between Mourinho and Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich, Cech was allowed to leave for the club of his choice. That turned out to be Chelsea’s London rivals Arsenal, who are now serious rivals to Chelsea’s title.

[ MORE: Can Arsenal win the title with Cech on board? ]

For years Arsene Wenger’s side have played the most attractive soccer in the PL but have failed to win the league since 2004. The main reason for that has been defensive solidity and organization. However when  you sign Cech, a goalkeeper who has won 13 major titles during his 11-year stint at Chelsea, you don’t just get a great stopper. You get a guy who can organize the back line and with Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny solidifying their central defensive partnership, the Gunners looked an incredibly strong defensive unit against Chelsea in the Community Shield. Now, if Wenger can add a true 25 goal-plus striker (Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain continue to be linked) before the end of the transfer window, the Gunners will be legit title contenders.

Pellegrini under pressure, as City look for Sterling to deliver

Talking of title contenders, Manuel Pellegrini has been bullish about Manchester City’s title hopes this season but many, including most of our writers in their preseason predictions, have City slumping. Despite signing Raheem Sterling for an eye-watering $75 million, the only other additions this summer have been Fabian Delph and young striker Patrick Roberts. With Pellegrini signing a new contract extension on the eve of the new season, there is some stability but it is still a huge season for the Chilean manager.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news ]

City finished second last season but you feel that anything other than a title winning campaign will spark the end for Pellegrini, even with his new deal. The erratic form of Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure was crucial in City’s demise last season, but with Sergio Aguero as sharp as ever, plus Sterling and David Silva linking up well in preseason, that trio could dazzle this season. There will be plenty of pressure on Sterling but like his manager, there is faith in their abilities from City’s owner. Now, they must deliver.

Liverpool’s rebuild; can Spurs and Saints challenge top four?

For the second summer in a row, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has undertaken a huge revamp of his squad after key departures. Last summer Luis Suarez left, this summer it was Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling departing as over $115 million has been spent on the likes of Christian Benteke ($50 million) and Roberto Firmino ($40 million) to significantly boost their chances of returning to the top four after a disappointing sixth-place finish last season. Add in the Nathaniel Clyne, James Milner and Danny Ings singings and Rodgers has added players with plenty of PL experience to guide his side back to the top four, plus Daniel Sturridge will return from injury in September.

[ MORE: Second rebuild in a row for Liverpool ]

With the Europa League a distraction for Liverpool, their main aim will be to finish above Chelsea, Arsenal, and the two Manchester clubs. Whether or not that’s attainable will become quickly apparent and the pressure will pile on Rodgers if another new-look side struggles in the early part of the season.

Tottenham and Southampton finished either side of Liverpool last season in fifth and seventh respectively, and both harbor hopes of once again flirting with a top four position. Spurs have strengthened their sieve-like defense consisderably (Toby Alderwiereld is the key addition) but with Mauricio Pochettino in his second season in charge at White Hart Lane, his players know his philosophy and his young squad must finally fulfill its potential and achieve a top four finish. As for Pochettino’s old club Southampton, they will have a struggle on their hands to replicate their best-ever PL finish of seventh from last season. Ronald Koeman has once again wheeled and dealed admirably in the transfer market but after losing Schneierdlin to Manchester United and Clyne to Liverpool, plus having a potential Europa League group stage to deal with, the Saints may not go marching on much further this season. Another intriguing storyline to look out for is the emergence of Swansea, Crystal Palace and Stoke City as established PL clubs. All three finished in the top 10 last season and have made shrewd signings this summer. They may not challenge for a top four berth yet, but these clubs will be vying for the top eight.

New boys on the block

Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich City join the part this season as the trio were promoted from the English Champions (second-tier) last season. For Bournemouth, their tiny Vitality Stadium holds under 12,000 fans but under a wealthy Russian owner and a progressive, young head coach in Eddie Howe, the Cherries should cause plenty of upsets along the way and have a good chance of staying up in their first-ever season in the PL.

As for Watford, they have a host of new signings (12 in total) and new manager Quique Flores will have his work cut out to gel everything together. The Hornets have been relegated straight away in their previous two seasons in the PL, but they can expect a little better this time around with Troy Deeney up front.

Finally there’s Norwich; Make sure you sit down and read Joe Posnanski’s brilliant longform article on the Canaries, as young manager Alex Neil took charge midway through last season and guided them straight back to the PL. Norwich have bags of PL experience but not strengthening this summer could haunt them.

Foreign imports: top five to look out for

With over $750 million spent on new signings by Premier League clubs already this summer, there are plenty of new players to look out for.

In the video above I select my top five new guys who will grace the PL for the first-time in their careers this campaign.

New managers have tough task to turn things around

Steve McClaren and Slaven Bilic have tough jobs on their hands to steady the ship and progress Newcastle United and West Ham United respectively. Both have been given plenty of money to spend this summer, but McClaren will be feeling plenty of pressure to deliver a top 10 finish for a club whose fans and owner always demand more. As for West Ham, they have turned to their former defender Bilic to lead them in their final season at their famous Upton Park stadium and although they have brought in plenty of players with experience of European soccer, the Hammers already crashed out of the Europa League in the qualifying rounds to start the season off on a bad note.

Although these two new managers have the talent in their squad to be in the top 10, they could well see their teams embroiled in a relegation battle this season. Elsewhere, Claudio Ranieri has a big job on his hands at Leicester City. The veteran Italian manger — infamously known as “The Tinkerman” during his time at Chelsea — has inherited a squad of players signed by Nigel Pearson and following his firing this summer, despite keeping the Foxes up against all the odds last year, Ranieiri will have to hit the ground running. Other managerial storylines to keep on eye on include Roberto Martinez at Everton and Dick Advocaat. Both will be on a short leash if they have a poor start to the season.

Don’t miss a second, all season long

For the third season in a row we will bring unprecedented coverage of the Barclays Premier League. From video highlights, injury and team news, analysis, recaps and more, here at PST we will give you all the important information you need from the PL.

And of course, you can stream every single game live online via NBC Sports Live Extra and the NBC Sports Live Extra App. Plus there will be at least four feature games on NBCSN, NBC and USA every weekend. If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here. Looking for game highlights? Try this.

Right, are you ready? Let’s do this.

Messi, Griezmann, Suarez turn on style with stunning goals in Barcelona win

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Barcelona are still in the La Liga title race. Just.

Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez combined to score stunning goals in a 4-1 win for Barcelona at high-flying Villarreal on Sunday.

Barcelona’s win means they are now four points behind Real Madrid in the La Liga title race with five games to go, as Real beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 earlier on Sunday.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule

Barcelona took the lead as Messi crossed for Griezmann and he didn’t convert his clever flick but Pau Torres put the ball into this own net.

Villarreal then equalized as Samuel Chukwueze launched a counter which Gerardo Moreno finished off after Santo Cazorla’s shot was saved.

Then Barcelona kicked on.

Suarez made it 2-1 with a stunner as Messi set him up and then Griezmann turned on the magic as Messi grabbed another assist.

Another Barcelona attack saw Suarez find Messi on the edge of the box and the Barcelona legend set up Griezmann with a delicious back heel flick.

The French striker, who was criticized by his manager Quique Setien in recent weeks, then clipped home a majestic chip to put Barcelona 3-1 up at El Madrigal.

Ansu Fati scored late on to seal the win as Messi hit the crossbar and scored another which was chalked off via VAR, as Barcelona kept the pressure on Real Madrid ahead of the final weeks of the La Liga season.

Barca aren’t giving up their La Liga title without a fight and they looked in superb form ahead of the Champions League resumption in August.

Tottenham – Everton preview: How to watch, odds, team news, prediction

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Tottenham – Everton is an intriguing clash on Monday (start time, 3pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) between teams who are separated by just one point and one place in the table but have been heading in very different directions since new managers arrived midseason.

TOTTENHAM – EVERTON STREAM LIVE

Spurs lost last time out at Sheffield United in very controversial fashion as Jose Mourinho now has a very tough task to guide them back to the Premier League ahead of the final six games of the season.

Carlo Ancelotti has Everton surging as they have lost just three of his 14 Premier League games in charge and those defeats came at Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea.

Tottenham – Everton is a game both teams will go all out to win in their pursuit of European action and this should be a beauty.


Team news

Tottenham may have Dele Alli available, as he suffered a slight hamstring injury after coming on as a sub in their defeat at Sheffield United. Aside from that Japhet Tanganga will return to training next week.

Everton should have Richarlison back fit as the Brazilian suffered a knock in their win against Leicester City.

What they’re saying

Jose Mourinho on Carlo Ancelotti: “I think everyone in football admires Carlo as a coach and as a person. If you don’t know him as a person, at least you know him as a coach. It’s not because I like him so much as a person that I’m going to say the obvious, which is: he’s one of the top managers in the world of the last two decades and of course now. I think it’s a privilege for the Premier League to have Carlo back, it’s a privilege for Everton to have Carlo as manager, or head coach, whatever way you want to call him.”

Carlo Ancelotti on teenager attacker Anthony Gordon: “He is doing really well and is ready to play for Everton, no doubt. He improved in the past six months and how he is playing [in training and games] gives me a lot of confidence and trust in him. He is a player with personality. You can find a lot of players with quality, but you have to show strong personality. In football, you need players with personality and character. Players who are not afraid to make decisions. Anthony is one of these. He is ready to be with us and part of what we are doing.”

Odds and ends (full matchweek odds)

Tottenham (+107) are the slight favorites but this should be a very tight game as Everton (+265) have been in really good form and look solid defensively. The value here is in a win for Everton or a tie (+250) in north London.

Prediction

Tottenham basically have to win all of their remaining games to have a chance of finishing fifth and a potential Champions League spot. Mourinho’s side won’t really want to be in the Europa League next season so if they don’t win here, what do they do? Everton would be delighted to be in the Europa League and I could see the Toffees edging this, especially if Richarlison is fit. I’m going for Tottenham 1-2 Everton.

Heroic Southampton stun Man City

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Southampton beat Manchester City 1-0 thanks to a heroic defensive display and a Che Adams wondergoal at St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Adams lobbed home from over 40 yards out in the first half to score his first Premier League and Southampton goal in style and Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side dug deep and held off wave after wave of Man City attack, as Pep Guardiola’s side followed up their 4-0 demolition of Liverpool by losing in disappointing fashion.

With the win Southampton move up to 13th in the table and have 43 points as they are three points off ninth, while Man City stay in second on 66 points and they are now 23 points behind Premier League champions Liverpool.


Three things we learned

1. Saints can defend: They had a few slices of luck but Saints’ defensive unit stood tall and they deserved this marquee win. Center backs Jan Bednarek and Jack Stephens were particularly brilliant, throwing themselves in the way of everything and leading by example. Full backs Kyle Walker-Peters and Ryan Bertrand covered so much ground, Alex McCarthy made a string of fine saves and Oriol Romeu in front of them shielded the back four superbly. What a result for Hasenhuttl as his project at Saints is kicking on very nicely since the restart. It take a lot to come back from the start they had this season (ahem, 9-0 defeat to Leicester) but the spirit is good and the spine of this team is solid. With Ings, Redmond and others in attack, Saints could be a top 10 team next season.

2. Man City leggy: You can forgive City for this win. They were bright and went close on several occasions but let’s not forget, they tore Liverpool apart on Thursday and had just over 48 hours rest before this game. Southampton had a week of rest and a week to prepare. It showed. Man City had an off day and just kind of ran out of ideas. That dominate the game but they lost and that has happened to them a few times this season (Norwich away, Chelsea away) and that is why they are so far behind Liverpool.

3. Priority is FA Cup, Champions League: Pep Guardiola clearly wants to focus on winning the FA Cup and the Champions League and that is fine. People will point to Guardiola losing three consecutive league games away from home for the first time in his career as a sign that Man City are in decline, but they lost at Man United and Chelsea and luck wasn’t on their side at Southampton. Let’s get some perspective here. Man City proved their point by hammering Liverpool 4-0 on Thursday and they will be back better next season. The changes Pep made for this game underlines that Man City’s head is elsewhere. They are going to finish second in the Premier League so why not focus on winning more trophies.

Man of the Match

Jan Bednarek – Basically every Saints player deserved this but I’m going for Bednarek, closely followed by Stephens, McCarthy and Ings. The spine of this Saints team worked so hard to preserve their early lead and they actually looked dangerous on their rare forays forward. What a win and win a defender Bednarek has become, as the ‘Polish Maldini’ continues to improve from a positional point of view.


The first real chance of the game arrived for Southampton and they took it in some style.

Oleksandr Zinchenko gave the ball away and Adams lobbed Ederson from 40 yards out to score his first Premier League goal in style as his teammates mobbed him.

Gabriel Jesus then almost finished at the back post as Man City kicked on after falling behind.

Raheem Sterling then sent in a wonderful cross to the center of the goal which almost found Jesus but Ings cleared away from danger. Sterling was then denied by Alex McCarthy, then Fernandinho hit the post and McCarthy denied David Silva as Man City came roaring back.

McCarthy then denied Mahrez at the near post as Man City continued to press for an equalizer, while Nathan Redmond had a shot which Ederson saved. Before the break Southampton settled themselves and Ings volleyed over after a great ball from Kyle Walker-Peters.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

At the start of the second half Jesus flicked a header from a corner just wide as Man City continued to create chances.

McCarthy then denied Jesus’ header and Stephens hacked away as Southampton were under severe pressure with McCarthy then denying David Silva.

Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden came on for the final 30 minutes as Man City cranked through the gears with James Ward-Prowse blocking a goalbound Bernardo Silva shot. Jesus had another header saved by McCarthy as Saints had a brief break which saw Adams close down Ederson who cleared.

Substitute Shane Long ran in on goal and that led to Stuart Armstrong having a shot on goal which Ederson saved brilliantly down low.

Late on Man City chucked everything at Southampton but some heroic defending sealed a huge win for Hasenhuttl’s side.

NBC Sports Premier League schedule

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The new NBC Sports Premier League schedule for the 2019-20 season has been released, with time and dates for the upcoming matchweeks confirmed and here’s how you can watch it all live on TV in the USA.

[ WATCH: Premier League video ] 

With games spread out across multiple days and many in separate time slots, there are lots of changes to your regular schedule as the league returns on June 17 after being suspended on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Games will be played in empty stadiums and at home venues for the most part, with the venues for a handful of games TBC due to UK government and police concerns.

The full TV schedule for the games this month are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com, the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold and the new Peacock streaming service from NBC.

Below is the new schedule for the Premier League on NBC Sports from June 17 to July 22, as we will release the dates and times for the final matchweek of the 2019-20 season when they become available.


Premier League: How to watch, schedule in USA (all times EST)

Matchday 29

Wednesday, June 17: Aston Villa 0-0 Sheffield United
Wednesday, June 17: Man City 3-0 Arsenal

Matchday 30

Friday, June 19: Norwich 0-3 Southampton
Friday, June 19: Tottenham 1-1 Man United
Saturday, June 20: Watford 1-1 Leicester
Saturday, June 20: Brighton 2-1 Arsenal
Saturday, June 20: West Ham 0-2 Wolves
Saturday, June 20: Bournemouth 0-2 Crystal Palace
Sunday, June 21: Newcastle 3-0 Sheffield United
Sunday, June 21: Aston Villa 1-2 Chelsea
Sunday, June 21: Everton 0-0 Liverpool
Monday, June 22: Man City 5-0 Burnley

Matchday 31

Tuesday, June 23: Leicester 0-0 Brighton
Tuesday, June 23: Tottenham 2-0 West Ham
Wednesday, June 24: Man United 3-0 Sheffield United
Wednesday, June 24: Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa
Wednesday, June 24: Norwich 0-1 Everton
Wednesday, June 24: Wolves 1-0 Bournemouth
Wednesday, June 24: Liverpool 4-0 Palace
Thursday, June 25: Southampton 0-2 Arsenal
Thursday, June 25: Burnley 1-0 Watford
Thursday, June 25: Chelsea 2-1 Man City

Matchday 32

Saturday, June 27: Aston Villa 0-1 Wolves
Sunday, June 28: Watford 1-3 Southampton
Monday, June 29: Crystal Palace 0-1 Burnley
Tuesday, June 30: Brighton 0-3 Man United
Wednesday, July 1: Everton 2-1 Leicester
Wednesday, July 1: Bournemouth 1-4 Newcastle
Wednesday, July 1: Arsenal 4-0 Norwich
Wednesday, July 1: West Ham 3-2 Chelsea
Thursday, July 2: Sheffield United 3-1 Tottenham
Thursday, July 2: Man City 4-0 Liverpool

Matchday 33

Saturday, July 4: Norwich City 0-1 Brighton
Saturday, July 4: Leicester 3-0 Crystal Palace
Saturday, July 4: Man United 5-2 Bournemouth
Saturday, July 4: Wolves 0-2 Arsenal
Saturday, July 4: Chelsea 3-0 Watford
Sunday, July 5: Burnley 1-1 Sheffield United
Sunday, July 5: Newcastle United 2-2 West Ham
Sunday, July 5: Liverpool 2-0 Aston Villa
Sunday, July 5: Southampton 1-0 Man City
Monday, July 6: Tottenham v. Everton

Matchday 34

Tuesday, July 7: Crystal Palace v. Chelsea, 1 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 7: Watford v. Norwich City, 1 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 7: Arsenal v. Leicester City, 3:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: Man City v. Newcastle United, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: Sheffield United v. Wolves, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: West Ham v. Burnley, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: Brighton v. Liverpool, 3:15 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 9: Bournemouth v. Tottenham, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 9: Everton v. Southampton, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 9: Aston Villa v. Manchester United, 3:15 p.m. ET

Matchday 35

Saturday, July 11: Norwich City v. West Ham, 7:30 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Watford v. Newcastle United, 7:30 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Liverpool v. Burnley, 10 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Sheffield United v. Chelsea, 12:30 p.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Brighton v. Manchester City, 3 p.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Wolves v. Everton, 7 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Aston Villa v. Crystal Palace, 9 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Tottenham v. Arsenal, 11:30 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Bournemouth v. Leicester City, 2 p.m. ET
Monday, July 13: Man United v. Southampton, 3 p.m. ET

Matchday 36

Tuesday, July 14: Chelsea v. Norwich, 3:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 15: Burnley v. Wolves, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 15: Man City v. Bournemouth, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 15: Newcastle v. Tottenham, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 15: Arsenal v. Liverpool, 3:15 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 16: Everton v. Aston Villa, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 16: Leicester v Sheffield United, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 16: Crystal Palace v. Man United, 3:15 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 16: Southampton v. Brighton, 3:15 p.m. ET
Friday, July 17: West Ham v. Watford, 3 p.m. ET

Matchday 37

Saturday, July 18: Norwich City v. Burnley, 12:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, July 19: Bournemouth v. Southampton, 9 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 19: Tottenham v. Leicester, 11 a.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Brighton v. Newcastle, 1 p.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Sheffield United v. Everton, 1 p.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Wolves v. Crystal Palace, 3:15 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 21: Watford v. Man City, 1 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 21: Aston Villa v. Arsenal, 3:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 22: Man United v. West Ham, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 22: Liverpool v. Chelsea, 3:15 p.m. ET