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Week 15: Top Premier League storylines — Can Swansea stop Jamie Vardy?

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December football is upon us as Week 15 of the Premier League season gets underway this weekend.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The run from now until the January transfer window can shape a team’s season, as getting a good string of results before the New Year is crucial for a club’s title (or survival) hopes.

Here are five things to look out for in Week 15 Premier League action.

Will Swansea beat Leicester and stop the rot?

After a hot start to the Premier League campaign, Swansea City has hit a real rough patch, falling all the way to 15th on the table. With a big match at home against Leicester City on Saturday, Garry Monk‘s men have a massive opportunity to turn things around. The Swans are winless in their last four league matches, and have scored just two goals over that span. Bafetimbi Gomis needs to get back on the scoresheet, as a loss could see the Swans drop as low as 17th. Swansea needs a burst of life, and ending Jamie Vardy‘s scoring streak with a win at the Liberty Stadium would do just that.

Surprisingly-hot Sunderland look to stun injured Arsenal

Sunderland has rattled off consecutive wins to climb out of the relegation zone for the first time this season. While a trip to the Emirates is never an easy task, Sunderland is facing Arsenal at just the right time. Arsene Wenger‘s men have a plethora of injuries, with key men Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla both ruled out for this weekend’s match. With a must-win Champions League clash at Olympiacos next week, this is a trap game for the Gunners, who could be caught looking ahead. Look for the young Duncan Watmore to have a potential breakthrough performance for Sunderland, as Big Sam’s side could make it three wins on the spin.

[ RELATED: Koeman says Sadio Mane not for sale, not even for $150 million ]

Can Chelsea keep climbing?

Chelsea still sit 14th on the table, but Mourinho’s men have strung together two good performances in the Premier League, a win over Norwich City and a draw at Tottenham. Add in a Champions League win between those matches, and Chelsea are playing some of their best football of the season. With a home match on Saturday against a Bournemouth side that hasn’t won since September, the Blues will look to keep on climbing. What has been more encouraging than the recent results for Chelsea are the performances, as Eden Hazard is finally starting to pick up his play while Willian continues to impress. The key to Chelsea making a run into the New Year is Hazard playing like his old self, as he is the key man for the Blues’ success.

“Boring” Manchester United could kick-start a holiday run

Louis Van Gaal‘s Manchester United side has taken tons of criticism this year, as the goals have been lacking in LVG’s possession-based style of play. While United isn’t playing extremely attractive football, they’re playing extremely effective football. The Red Devils have conceded the fewest goals in the league and sit just one point off the leaders. Saturday’s match against a banged up West Ham side is a good opportunity for LVG to get a big win over a top-half opponent. After West Ham, the Red Devils have favorable matchups against Bournemouth and Norwich City, which means this “boring” United side could very well head into Boxing Day with 37 points, a five-point improvement from last season.

[ RELATED: Wayne Rooney ruled out with “nasty” ankle injury ]

McClaren’s future at Newcastle up in the air

Newcastle faces a tough test against a red-hot Liverpool side on Sunday, and the goal for the Magpies is to simply avoid embarrassment. After going up 1-0 against Crystal Palace last weekend, Newcastle broke down and ended up losing 5-1. Back in the relegation zone, Steve McClaren‘s first year in charge at St. James’ Park could be nearing an end. A result against Liverpool would be a bonus, but another heavy defeat could give the Newcastle board some big decisions to make.

Everton reportedly set for sale of $28M Lookman

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Will Everton regret its failure to find the right fit for Ademola Lookman at Goodison Park?

The Toffees are set to sell the 21-year-old striker to RB Leipzig this summer for just $8 million more than they paid Charlton for her services, according to Sky Sports.

[ MORE: De Gea wants captaincy ]

Lookman scored five goals with four assists in a half-season loan for RBL in 2018, but could not find regular feature time for the Toffees upon his return.

Yes, the $28 million is still a decent fee, but Lookman is an English striker with U-20 World Cup-winning experience, and was given just three starts from his 21 appearances in the Premier League for Marco Silva‘s men last season (posting two assists in 601 minutes.

Lookman prefers to play left wing, but also operates on the right. Everton has Richarlison, Bernard, and Theo Walcott amongst a relatively deep wing corps.

The stats seem to show that Lookman simply had trouble getting the ball at Everton in comparison to RBL. Maybe he needs to be a bigger part of the show, and we’ll find out whether he can do that with Tyler Adams and Co. in Leipzig.

De Gea hopes for Manchester United captaincy

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Given his seemingly biannual links to returns to Spain and bigger paydays, it might be a bit of a surprise to hear Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea preach up the badge.

Aside from a stumble late last season, however, the 28-year-old has been a dynamo at Old Trafford for several managers.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

He’s also been through the wringer from his early days struggling to find his form in the Premier League, and now has 362 appearances in the Red Devils shirt to go with trophies from the PL, FA Cup, League Cup, and Europa League.

So, yeah, he’s qualified to lead. And as we wait for United to announce his new expensive contract, De Gea is speaking out on his delight in captaining the team and hopes of doing so on a full-time basis.

From Sky Sports:

“I need to show that on the pitch and try to help the young guys know what Manchester United means and that’s important. We have to improve a lot. We are Manchester United; we need to fight for trophies.

“When you put on this badge, that’s what it means – fight for everything, give your best and bring the team again to the top.”

Is there a case to be made for anyone else on the current roster? Probably not, at least not in the form of players who will be expected to suit up nearly every match.

Chicago adds 2010 World Cup qualifying hero Bornstein

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There’s probably part of you who thinks Jonathan Bornstein is on an MLS staff somewhere, that he’s about 46 years old, and the news that he’s joined the Chicago Fire means he’s taken a coaching role like Josh Wolff (who is only 42. Don’t age shame).

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

And we’ll admit that “Chicago adds Jonathan Bornstein” gave us similar vibes, because, hey, didn’t this cat score an amazing, World Cup berth-clinching goal against Costa Rica at RFK in 2009? Yes! He was! I was there with my sister and a couple of buddies, and it was awesome.

Bornstein was, however, just 25 then and a member of Chivas USA (That was an MLS team, young bucks). Bob Bradley drafted him out of UCLA and turned him into a left back.

Now 34 and still a left back, Bornstein spent 2010-present outside of the United States. He’s played in Mexico for Queretaro, Tigres, and Atlante, as well as Israel last season with Maccabi Netanya. He won a Copa MX, a Supercopa MX, and an Apertura title while south of the border.


“We began pursuing Jonathan back in January but, unfortunately, his insertion into the lineup made him too invaluable to his former club,” said Chicago Fire President and General Manager Nelson Rodrίguez. “In addition to providing a steady presence and competition on the field, we believe Jonathan will be an excellent mentor for our younger players.”

As a returning USMNT international, even no caps since 2011, Chicago had to send $50,000 to Columbus for the top spot in the allocation order.

Bornstein will hope to help Chicago turn around a miserable season which began with such promise. Chicago has been extremely unlucky this season, with a difference of minus-11.7 between expected goals and goals scored.

And I will continue to remember nearly throwing my beverage miles into the air from the upper deck at RFK. Thanks for the memories, Jonathan.

Barcelona exec on Neymar: “We aren’t looking at it”

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Neymar’s reported discontent at Paris Saint-Germain has caused rumors to fly this summer about if he could leave, and where any potential destinations could be.

His old club Barcelona is thought to be a major contender to rescue the Brazilian superstar from his misery, but that may be dead in the water after Barcelona vice president Jordi Cardoner again claimed the club has no interest in his return.

“The president already spoke about it,” Cardoner said from Tokyo where the club is in preseason. “There is no Neymar saga. There is a lot of talk and he doesn’t appear happy there but we aren’t looking at it.”

This is not the first time Cardoner has gone public to deny Neymar rumors. Even as far back as last October, Cardoner said “No one on the Barcelona board has talked about the possibility of bringing back Neymar, right now we can’t talk about it because no one has even mentioned it.”

Cardoner is not the only Barcelona member talking down a potential Neymar return. New arrival Antoine Griezmann also made statements claiming the club would struggle to make it happen even if they wanted to. Speaking about possibly linking up with Neymar with Barcelona, the former Atletico Madrid striker spoke highly of Neymar’s playing ability, but admitted it would take some significant time to complete. “We have to get it done first because it is a difficult transfer, but he is a great player,” Griezmann said from Tokyo.

Neymar has had a troubled past 12 months, facing rape charges in Brazil, suspensions in both European and domestic French competitions, and even taking Barcelona to court last year for payments he believed he was owed.