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Premier League 2016-17 season preview: Stoke City

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The Potters just keep plugging away.

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Steady progress has been the name of the game for Mark Hughes‘ side over the past nine years since they were promoted to the Premier League and this season will be no different. Having flirted with the top six for most of last season, they fell away at a pivotal stage of the campaign.

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Scoring goals has been a slight problem for Stoke but when everything clicks into place, they ooze class at the Bet365 Stadium. That venue is one of the most intimidating (and coldest) places to play in the PL and Stoke’s home record will once again be key if they’re going to finish in the top 10.

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Stoke will finally kick on and finish in the top six because… They have a strong defensive unit, plus new signing Allen will slot seamlessly into midfield to link up with the likes of Bojan and Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic.

Most likely they’ll finish ninth, again: After finishing in ninth in each of the last three PL campaigns, Stoke’s fans will want more but are unlucky to get it. With teams like Liverpool and Chelsea strengthening, plus Everton set for a new era under Ronald Koeman, they could struggle to finish in the top 10. The one area Hughes must strengthen up top with Diouf, Crouch and Joselu all hard workers but hardly prolific.


Best possible XI

—– Butland —–

— Cameron — Shawcross — Wollscheid — Pieters —

—– Allen —– Imbula —–

—- Arnautovic —- Bojan —- Shaqiri —-

—– Diouf —–


Transfers in: Joe Allen ($17 million, Liverpool), Ramadan Sobhi ($6.5 million, Al Ahly)

Transfers out: Ben Barber (Free, York City), Steve Sidwell (Free, Bright & Hove Albion), Yusuf Coban (Free, TGG 1899 Hoffenheim), Dominic Kurasik (Free, Brentford), Peter Odemwingie, Ed Dryden, Bobby Moseley, Ryan O’Reilly, Peter Skapetis, Maston Watkins-Clark (All released)

Last season: Stoke started the season superbly and in the first half of the campaign they’d racked up wins against Chelsea and Manchester City at home. They then faded towards the end of the season but still finished ninth for a third season running. Their aim was to better their record PL points tally of 54 from the previous campaign but they just came up short of that with 51 points on the board. All in all, another steady season for Stoke.

during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Chelsea at Britannia Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Stoke on Trent, England.
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Star player: Marko Arnautovic – Austrian forward signed a new contract over the summer which was a huge boost for the Potters. “Arnie” was their top scorer in the PL last season with 11 goals and he may be given more opportunity to play in his preferred role out wide if the club are successful in recruiting a new striker. When he’s on his game there are few who can stop him. Pace, power and trickery, Arnautovic is a mercurial talent.

Coach’s Corner: Hugheshy has done incredibly well in his three season at Stoke so far. He’s spent wisely and built solidly on what Tony Pulis left behind. The way he has changed Stoke into an attractive team to watch has been subtle but focused and bringing in players like Bojan and Shaqiri has had its ups and downs but has certainly taken Stoke to the next level as they’ve established themselves as a solid top 10 club in the PL. Hughes will now look to push for the top six but he may need a lot more cash to spend on one or two key new players to do it.

Mark Hughes, Stoke City FC

PST predicts: Another season of solidity for Stoke as they’ll be in and around 10th place and if everything clicks and their star man stay clear of injury, they could flirt with a top six finish. Like last season, expect a good cup run from them.

Premier League Friendly Roundup: Leicester, Norwich in action

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Ayoze Perez got off to a great start for his new club on Tuesday, as Leicester topped Scunthorpe United, 1-0.

Perez, who arrived earlier this month from Newcastle in a $38 million transfer, scored on a first-time strike in the box that proved to be the difference in the game.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Brendan Rodgers side got a chance to get minutes for plenty of first-team regulars. Johnny Evans, Jamie Vardy, Perez and Youri Tielemans all started. Wes Morgan, new signing James Justin, Rachid Ghezzal all came off the bench.

An interesting note was that Harry Maguire, the target of serious transfer interest from Manchester United, came off the bench at halftime and played the second half of the game. According to the latest reports, Man United and Leicester City are still very far apart regarding a transfer fee, so Maguire looks set to remain for the time being.

Elsewhere, Norwich City continued its preseason tour of Germany with a friendly match held behind closed doors. Norwich beat Bonner SC, 4-1, with goals from Adam Idah, Onel Hernandez and Teemu Pukki.

UCL Roundup: Red Star, The New Saints (Wales) advance to second round

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Second legs are underway in the UEFA Champions League first qualification round, and both Red Star Belgrade and The New Saints from Wales are through to the second round.

Here’s a short roundup of UCL action on Tuesday:


Red Star Belgrade 2-1 Sudova (2-1 on Aggregate)

The Serbian giants advance to the next round with a big 2-1 win over Lithuanian Champions Sudova. Richmond Boakye and former Chelsea midfielder Marko Marin both scored in the first half. Red Star Belgrade was set to keep a clean sheet but Sudova scored late.

With the win, Red Star Belgrade moves on to face HJK Helsinki in Finland in the second round.


The New Saints 1-0 Feronikeli (3-2 on aggregate)

Welsh Premier League side The New Saints defeated Kosovan club Feronikeli, 1-0, thanks to a goal from Irish forward Dean Ebbe. Ebbe came off the bench and headed home a lofted ball into the box.

Feronikeli had chances to take the lead early, including twice in the first ten minutes, but blasted shots in the box well over the wall.

UEFA Champions League Second Leg Results

Shkendija 1 – 2 Nõmme Kalju 
Saburtalo 1 – 3 FC Sheriff
Valletta 1 – 1 F91 Dudelange
HB 2 – 2 HJK 

Solskjaer: ‘We just need consistency’

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In a vague, general word, Manchester United manager knows exactly what his club have been missing. Consistency.

More specifically, consistent success.

In a sit-down interview with the BBC, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer mentioned striving for consistency in performances on no less than four occasions, including when speaking about Alexis Sanchez. Man United won eight straight matches in all competitions and 10 of its first 11 under the Norwegian manager.

[READ: De Ligt lands in Turin ahead of Juventus move]

And yet, the consistency wasn’t there late in the season, when Man United faltered down the stretch and won just two of its last ten matches to close the season on a sour note. Man United finished in sixth place, and while Solskjaer said he believed it would be a challenge to break into the top four, he said with some consistent performances, Man United could achieve its goals.

“We have to aim for further up than fourth,” Solskjaer told the BBC. “I would rather be an optimist and be wrong than a pessimist and be right. I am not used to us being fifth or sixth but that is where we are at. That is the size of the challenge. I love that challenge.

“We have to work with the players, sign the right types and gradually make our way to the challenging line. Our players do have quality. They do have a chance. We just need consistency. We have to keep working every single day and not take our eyes off the target. Everyone gets off line at some point but you can’t let it drift too far because then you won’t get to the overall goal.”

Some Man United fans have been mumbling and rumbling due to the slow start in this summer’s transfer window. Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia have both departed on free transfers, while only Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have come in. While it’s not the improvements some fans were hoping for, it’s helped give some of the young players, like James Garner, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenword, some hope that they can get minutes.

Perhaps the push from the young players for first team minutes will make Man United a bit more competitive in training again, which can only help in terms of having success on the field.

The big question remains, which Man United team will we see this season. The one from Solskjaer’s first two months on the job, or the one from his last six weeks.

MLS Notes: Shea out for season with torn ACL, and more

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It appeared Brek Shea had finally gotten his career back on track, only for a serious injury to end his season prematurely.

Atlanta United announced on Tuesday that Shea had suffered a “right knee injury” that will involve season-ending surgery. An earlier report from the Athletic stated it was a torn ACL, which could leave Shea sidelined into the start of next season.

[READ: de Ligt arrives in Turin]

Shea has made 10 starts out of 19 appearances so far this season for Atlanta, where he’s often played as a left wing back or left midfielder, offering speed down the flank and a deeper starting position to connect with Atlanta’s talented attackers. A good season from Shea could have propelled him back into the USMNT conversation, especially if he took part in next season’s January camp. Now, that option is off the table.

Here’s some more MLS news and notes:

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