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.


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.


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.


Benzema: ‘I’m F1’ quality compared to ‘go-kart’ Giroud

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It would appear that Karim Benzema lives for exactly two things in life: scoring goals and creating/participating in very public drama.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Benzema, who hasn’t feature for France’s national team since he was allegedly involved in a scandal to blackmail teammate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape in 2015, slammed compatriot forward Olivier Giroud as the “go-karting” alternative to his own “F1” quality.

His main gripe with Giroud doesn’t appear to actually be with the player himself, but the fact the two get compared to one another so frequently. In Benzema’s absence from Les Bleus, Giroud has been the main beneficiary, leading many to wonder if the team could have reached greater heights with Benzmea in the team instead — quotes from Sky Sports:

“You shouldn’t confuse F1 and go karting and that’s me being kind. On to the next topic. I’m not talking about him [Giroud] anymore. I just know that I’m F1.

“He has his career, he does what he wants and scores the goals that he wants to score. He’s in his corner and I’m in mine, I’m not thinking about him. If we’re talking about playing style, his suits France well.

“It’s good because there are fast players like (Kylian) Mbappe and (Antoine) Griezmann who play out wide or feed off the centre-forward. When Giroud is up front, he’s a handful for defenses, which gives the other two plenty of space to show what they can do.

“He occupies defenders and it works. It might not be brilliant to watch and you won’t say, ‘Wow, that was incredible.’ Does everyone like that style of play? I don’t know, but it suits France well.”

Giroud: 39 goals (third-highest) in 97 appearances for France. Benzema: 27 goals in 81 appearances.

Guardiola: ‘We will come back stronger, kinder … and a bit fatter’

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Through all of the innumerable challenges and tragedies the world is currently facing during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is doing his best to not only help the fight back in his native Spain, but also give everyone a chance to smile and laugh at their own expense.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Guardiola, who last week donated $1.1 million to fight the virus in Catalonia, released a video message of encouragement and hope on Monday — encouraging everyone to stay inside, and hopeful of returning to a sense of normalcy in short order:

“We miss football. We miss the life that we had a few days ago but now is the time to listen, to follow our scientists, doctors and nurses.

“You are my football family and we are going to do everything possible to make you feel better. We’ll come back from this stronger, better, kinder … and a little bit fatter. Stay inside, stay safe.”

Germany’s UCL clubs pledge support for cash-strapped clubs

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DUSSELDORF, Germany — Four German soccer clubs have pledged a combined $21.9 million to support other teams struggling to stay afloat after games in the country were suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen will forgo $13.7 million in as-yet undistributed TV money and add another $8.2 million from their own funds. All four clubs played in the Champions League this season, giving them extra income.

The German Football League, which oversees the top two divisions, will decide how the money is distributed. The league has previously said it fears many clubs could face financial collapse if games can’t resume.

“In these difficult times, it’s important that the stronger shoulders support the weaker shoulders,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said on Thursday.

It’s the latest in a string of gestures to help those in need in German soccer. Players at clubs including Bayern, Borussia Monchengladbach and second-tier Karlsruhe have agreed to voluntary pay cuts to help other staff.

[ MORE: Tottenham offer stadium to help with coronavirus effort ]

Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said clubs had a responsibility to keep other teams running in what could be a long period without income from ticket sales and sponsors.

“We have always said that we would show solidarity if clubs, through no fault of their own, should run into difficulties that they can no longer overcome themselves,” Watzke said in a statement.

“BVB is currently having a major impact on society through a wide range of initiatives. And naturally we are prepared to help out other professional football clubs if it is ultimately a matter of cushioning the financial effects of the pandemic.”

Transfer rumor roundup: Sancho to Man Utd; Madrid’s Haaland backup plan

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A roundup of all of Monday’s biggest transfer rumors, including those involving Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: Tottenham offer stadium to help with coronavirus effort ]

Jadon Sancho is a virtual lock to leave Borussia Dortmund and return to the PL this summer, and the 20-year-old winger will almost certainly command a transfer fee of more than $150 million just three years after signing from Manchester City for just $10 million. Today, it’s Manchester United who are rumored as frontrunners for Sancho’s services, based upon reports that Sancho has “unofficially confirmed” he will choose to join Man United when the transfer window opens.

Updating a transfer rumor from last week, Real Madrid are still very much in on another Dortmund starlet, Erling Haaland, but that doesn’t mean they’re putting all of their eggs in one basket. Los Blancos are reportedly eyeing Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a former Dortmund man himself, as a backup option should Haaland remain at Dortmund or land elsewhere this summer. Aubameyang, who’ll turn 31 this summer, isn’t likely to move for less than $60 million, which could prove a stumbling block.

If the rumors are to be believed, this summer will be a costly one for Man United, who are also interested in Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez. The price tag on the 25-year-old? Close to $170 million. It would seem unlikely that United could afford Niguez (at that price) without getting $100 million (at least) for Paul Pogba.

Another current Arsenal (and former Dortmund) player, midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, hopes to turn his loan to Roma into a permanent move this summer. Arsenal are expected to ask $22 for the 31-year-old, but the Serie A side is hoping to pay closer to $12 million instead.