Premier League Sunday preview: Arsenal, Liverpool, Southampton kick off 2015-16 seasons

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While fans of 12 Premier League teams were fortunate — or unfortunate, in some cases — enough to enjoy — or endure — their team on opening day of the 2015-16 season on Saturday, eight more fanbases were made to wait. Oh, those poor souls sitting around and waiting for Monday.

[ MORE: Saturday’s opening day roundup ]

On Sunday, six more sides kick off their 2015-16 campaign, as two potential title challengers and four other sides hopeful of breaking into or remaining inside the league’s top eight or 10 places take the field.

Arsenal vs. West Ham United — 7:30 am ET, on NBCSN and Live Extra

Arsene Wenger’s men open the 2015-16 season by welcoming one of their London neighbors, Slaven Bilic’s Hammers, to the Emirates Stadium. Petr Cech will make his competitive debut for Arsenal, though the Gunners will be without Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Danny Welbeck due to injuries. Meanwhile, West Ham’s star striker Enner Valencia is set to miss 12 weeks with a damaged fibula.

Coming off of last week’s Community Shield triumph over Chelsea, Arsenal will be looking to parlay both form and confidence into three points on opening day in order to begin their PL title chase. Arsenal swept the home and away fixtures with West Ham last season, winning 3-0 at home and 2-1 away.

ARSENAL SEASON PREVIEW | WEST HAM

Newcastle United vs. Southampton — 8:30 am ET, on Live Extra

With Steve McClaren now in charge, Newcastle welcome last season’s seventh-place finishers in the league, Southampton, to St James’ Park. Despite the departures of Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne over the summer, Ronald Koeman’s Saints are aiming for yet another top-half finish, though doing so with one tricky wrinkle throw into the mix — juggling the Europa League.

For the Magpies, any hints at a repeat of last season, in which they finished 15th and fought relegation into the final days of the season, could very well see McClaren’s employment terminated early. Southampton swept the home and away fixtures with Newcastle last season, winning 2-1 away and 4-0 at home.

NEWCASTLE SEASON PREVIEW | SOUTHAMPTON

Stoke City vs. Liverpool — 10:30 am ET, on NBCSN and Live Extra

What to make of Liverpool’s summer transfer dealings and their subsequent prospects for the 2015-16 season? Out went Raheem Sterling, but in came Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino and James Milner, among others. Sunday presents a chance for Brendan Rodgers’ side to avenge a humiliating thrashing on the final day of the 2014-15 season.

As for Mark Hughes’ side, positive momentum seems to be squarely in their corner following a ninth-place finish last season and further reinforcements in the form of Glen Johnson, Ibrahim Affelay and Philipp Wollscheid. Stoke and Liverpool split last season’s fixtures with both side winning at home — 1-0 for the Reds and 6-1 for the Potters.

STOKE SEASON PREVIEW | LIVERPOOL

FOLLOW LIVE: Seattle v. Portland, ATLUTD v. DCU on a busy MLS Sunday

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Strap yourself in for a very busy Sunday of soccer, as four MLS games are set to consume your attention for the rest of the day.

[ FOLLOW: MLS scoreboard, for the next 7.5 hours ]

The day begins with Atlanta United hosting D.C. United in a 3-versus-2 matchup in the Eastern Conference, and ends with the Seattle Sounders hosting the Portland Timbers in arguably the biggest and best rivalry in MLS.

In between all that, a suddenly resurgent Orlando City SC hosts the New York Red Bulls, and FC Cincinnati hosts the red-hot (unbeaten in nine games) New England Revolution, in case you feel the need to cram a little more soccer into your afternoon/evening.

Sunday’s full MLS schedule

Atlanta United v. D.C. United — 4 p.m. ET
FC Cincinnati v. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Orlando City SC v. New York Red Bulls — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders v. Portland Timbers — 9:30 p.m. ET

Rumored Neymar for Bale swap: Who wins?

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Who would gain more of an advantage from the rumored, sensational Gareth Bale for Neymar swap: Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid?

Both players are currently problems for their clubs, though neither is known as a true rabble-rouser; Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wants to be done with the newly-minted 30-year-old Bale, while PSG knows Neymar wants to leave and would love to satiate Kylian Mbappe’s appetite to be the man at their club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

Presumably some money would be headed PSG’s way in addition to Bale, and both clubs would be getting a motivated megawatt star.

Neymar doesn’t turn 28 until February, but the difference in age may be offset by the Brazilian’s track record of injuries.

In fact, his injury status last season combines with an off-field accusation of sexual assault and a red card for confronting a fan to overshadow his production: Neymar’s 23 goals and 13 assists in just over 2300 minutes last season, including five and two in the Champions League (and a goal and an assist against defensively-stout Liverpool).

Bale presents very few personality challenges, and PSG won’t have a problem with his massive wages (especially with Neymar off the books). His numbers have dipped in two of three seasons since his otherworldly 2015-16, but La Liga is a more difficult scoring league than Ligue 1.

Neymar has twice been a Ballon d’Or finalist and, presuming his legal troubles don’t persist, could be a title fight changer in La Liga. Imagine the Neymar, Eden Hazard, and Luka Jovic trying to outgun Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and Luis Suarez? Insane.

We’d say Real would be winning the straight-up swap, and that it’s pretty unlikely to go down that way. So it depends what PSG does with the relative Financial Fair Play freedom that would come with the money that also arrives from Spain. Is it Idrissa Gana Gueye? Someone else who helps take PSG’s Champions League hopes to the next level?

Manchester United in ‘concrete talks’ with Lille over Pepe

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Manchester United are reportedly in “concrete talks” to agree a fee with Lille for much-tracked playmaker Nicolas Pepe.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been linked with Liverpool and Arsenal amongst others, and Lille has admitted he’ll be leaving the club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

United’s reported salvo was around $87.5 million. He’d give them a star who could play across from Anthony Martial or as an attacking midfielder under Romelu Lukaku.

Only Kylian Mbappe and Teji Savanier garnered better season-long ratings than Pepe in the 2018-19 Ligue 1 campaign, and Pepe’s 22 goals and 11 assists stand out from the pack. Only Mbappe had more goals and only Savanier more assists.

Pepe has four goals in 11 caps for the Ivory Coast, and made three starts in Les Elephants’ five-match run at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He’s a fit for the Premier League, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s system. And if the Red Devils can keep him from Liverpool, well, all the better we’re sure.

Report: Manchester United, Leicester agree to monster Maguire fee

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Manchester United and Leicester City have agreed a fee for Harry Maguire, clearing the way for the English center back to join the Old Trafford set.

That fee is a whopping $100 million, according to Bleacher Report’s Dean Jones. That’s about $4 million more than the world record for a defender, set when Liverpool purchased Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton.

[ MORE: USMNT CB to West Ham? ]

Maguire has been a statistical monster for Leicester City, and he passes the eye test, too.

Manchester United has needed to upgrade its stable of center backs for some time, and now the biggest question is who will work best alongside the 6-foot-4 26-year-old.

The former Sheffield United, Wigan Athletic, and Hull City defender is now 20-times capped by England.

The move could have a ripple effect on the Premier League, as the Foxes have been expected to bid for Burnley star James Tarkowski should Maguire leave the King Power Stadium.