Premier League 2016-17 season preview: Sunderland

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Sunderland hasn’t done much in the way of additions this summer, so can the Black Cats stay up again next season?

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Several key departures have left Sunderland at a severe disadvantage in comparison to the rest of the Premier League field, including Emmanuel Giaccherini and Steven Fletcher. Additionally, manager Sam Allardyce has left the club to take on a new challenge with England, while David Moyes has been tasked with keeping the Black Cats afloat again in 2016/17.

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One of the biggest stories to watch over the coming weeks will be how the Black Cats fare defensively. While the team’s attack is lacking depth, the side has much sorting out to do at the back, which is currently led by veteran center back John O'Shea.

U.S. defender DeAndre Yeslin has recently been linked with a move back to the Stadoum of Light after a successful loan spell in 2015/16, however, no move has been made yet to secure the full back.

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Cohesion will give the Black Cats an advantage over newcomers: While Sunderland has lost several talents this summer and added nothing up until this point, the team could very well benefit from keeping together much of its core. As long as the squad remains healthy, the players’ familiarity with one another could carry them as high as the top half of the table.

Most likely fight to stay afloat next season: A lack of additions this summer has put Moyes and co. behind the eight ball. While leading scorers Jermain Defoe and Fabio Borini remain at the club, Sunderland simply doesn’t have the firepower to contend with even the PL’s mid-table sides like Everton and Southampton.

Best Possible XI

—– Mannone —–

— Jones — O’Shea  — Kone — Kaboul —

— Cattermole — Khazri — Van Aanholt —

 — Lens —

— Defoe –Borini —


Transfers in: None

Transfers out: Wes Brown (Released), Danny Graham (Free, Blackburn), Steve Harper (Released), Martin Smith (Free, Kilmarnock), Emmanuel Giaccherini (Undisclosed, Napoli), Steven Fletcher (Free, Sheffield Wednesday), Mikael Mandron (Free, Eastleigh), Liam Agnew (Released), Adam Matthews (Loan, Bristol City), Santiago Vergini ($1 million, Boca Juniors)

Last season: Fans of the club were given a thrill (and likely a scare or two) but Sunderland’s escape of relegation at the tail end of 2015/16 was a memorable one for the Black Cats. A 17th place finish isn’t anything to brag about but a stay in the Premier League is all the supporters and squad members will care about.

Star player: Jermain Defoe – At 33 years old, Defoe has aged like fine wine and proven to be a steal for Sunderland since returning to the Premier League in 2015. The Englishman netted 15 goals a season ago, good enough for seventh in England. With the Black Cats undermanned up front, Defoe will be at the center of the team’s attacking duties for the second straight campaign.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - MAY 11: Jermain Defoe of Sunderland celebrates staying in the Premier League after victory during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Everton at the Stadium of Light on May 11, 2016 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Coach’s corner: David Moyes has faced difficult challenges before but 2016/17 could be his biggest yet. With Sunderland failing to make a splash this summer in the transfer market, the new boss will have to overcome several major hurdles with a roster that doesn’t boast a ton of talent. After narrowly escaping relegation in the final matches of the 2015/16 season, Moyes will have to get creative and hopefully bank on spending more in January if the team is to stay up by the end of May 2017.

METHIL, SCOTLAND - JULY 12: David Moyes manager of Real Sociedad looks on during the pre season friendly match between St Johnstone and Real Sociedad at Bayview on July 12, 2015 in Methil, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

PST predicts: Sunderland could very well be in a similar position this season as they were a year ago with the team’s lack of additions this summer. With the squad likely forced to rely heavily again on Jermain Defoe up front, it will be up to the veteran Englishman to duplicate his impressive form of a season ago if the Black Cats are to survive again. A finish near the bottom is more than likely barring a big spending spree this winter.

VIDEO: Top 10 players in the world as soccer resumes

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Who are the top 10 soccer players in the world right now as the season is about to resume in multiple leagues?

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With the Bundesliga in full flow for a few weeks, Spain’s La Liga will return next week and the Premier League and Serie A will follow the week after.

Given that there are so many superstars scattered across those four leagues, here’s a list of the top 10 players set to be in action over the summer months as we will be treated to a sort of bonus World Cup with multiple leagues spreading out games over multiple days as top four, title and relegation battles take center stage.

From Manchester to Milan and Barcelona to Berlin, there will be so many superstars in full flow in the coming months.

Of course, the Ligue 1 season in France is canceled so we can’t watch Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for at least a few months. If we could, the Paris Saint-Germain duo would be high up on the list of top 10 players in the world right now as the soccer world gets ready to resume in empty stadiums.

Top 10 players in the world who will be in action this summer

10. Ciro Immobile (Lazio)

9. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

8. Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

7. Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)

6. Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)

5. Bruno Fernandes (Man United)

4. Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)

3. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)

1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Which clubs have toughest, easiest remaining PL schedule?

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Now we know that the Premier League will return on June 17, which clubs have the toughest and easiest remaining schedule to navigate?

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Our partners at Sky Sports in the UK have taken a deep dive into the remaining schedule for all 20 Premier League clubs and it is intriguing to see this list. I love this kind of analysis.

Based on the current Premier League table, our partners have calculated the average position of teams who all 20 clubs have to face in their remaining schedule.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

First, here’s the list and below we will break down which Premier League clubs have the toughest or easiest remaining schedule and why.


Average opponent position

Man United: 12.3

Man City: 12.1

Wolves: 11.8

Southampton: 11.7

Newcastle: 11.4

Leicester: 11.3

West Ham: 11.3

Chelsea: 11

Norwich: 11

Everton: 10.7

Burnley: 10.6

Liverpool: 10.6

Arsenal: 10.5

Tottenham: 10.4

Watford: 10.1

Sheffield United: 9.4

Brighton: 8.6

Aston Villa: 8.4

Crystal Palace: 8.2

Bournemouth: 8.2


Analysis

This is very revealing when it comes to the ‘strength of the remaining schedule’ for all 20 Premier League clubs and explains why some fans are still hesitant to see their teams back in action, while others are licking their chops in anticipation of a late-season surge up the table.

In short: if you are Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Brighton you could struggle in this relegation battle. All three clubs have plenty of the big boys left to play, while fellow relegation rivals West Ham and Norwich have much easier schedules, on paper, to navigate.

As for the top four battle, Man United look to have a clear edge on Chelsea in the race for fourth place but Wolves are also high in this list so Nuno Espirito Santo’s side look well sit to finish off another remarkable season with a flourish. Sheffield United have a very tough remaining schedule so if they can stay in the top six it will be a fabulous achievement for Chris Wilder’s side, while we should keep an eye out for Southampton and Newcastle to potentially make a late surge up the table given the respective strength of their schedules.

However, this is just a study on the average position of teams they are facing. It doesn’t taken into account the players now available after recovering from injuries which impacted plenty of clubs in varying degrees, or the fact that different teams will adapt differently to playing in empty stadiums. If the Bundesliga is anything to go by, away teams have dominated so far and that could mean that the more away games Premier League teams have left in their schedule (six of Villa’s final 10 games are at home, while six of Sheffield United’s final 10 games are away) the more points they could pick up.

We all know funny things happen late in the season every season and with an intense scrap for the top four, Europa League spots and the battle against relegation, previous form can go out the window as desperation sets in. Still, stats like these are fascinating to sift through and give us an inclination as to wide to expect on a general level.

Liverpool, Man United show support for Black Lives Matter

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Liverpool FC
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Liverpool and Man United have joined the growing number of clubs and players across the world offering their support to the Black Lives Matter movement in the USA and honoring George Floyd.

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN last Monday there have been widespread protests across the USA.

A video showed former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than 8 1/2 minutes. Chauvin was arrested last Friday and charged with murder, authorities confirmed.

Over the weekend Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi revealed messages of support on their jerseys, while USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie wore an armband saying ‘Justice for George’ and Borussia Monchengladbach’s Marcus Thuram took a knee after he scored in the Bundesliga.

On Monday Liverpool players posted a photo of their entire squad taking a knee around the center circle at Anfield during a training session with the message Black Lives Matter and Unity is Strength, while Man United star Marcus Rashford released a powerful statement on the widespread protests across the USA.

Paris Saint-Germain and France superstar Kylian Mbappe also posted an image on social media with the caption “police with us, not against us.”

Across the soccer world clubs and players are speaking out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and honoring George Floyd.

Report: MLS threaten lockout, players on the clock

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Reports have emerged that MLS may lock out their players as the owners put the MLS Players’ Association (MLSPA) on the clock when it comes to negotiating a plan for the 2020 season during the coronavirus pandemic.

Per a statement released by the MLSPA late Sunday, they say that players have formally submitted a package to the league so that “players can return to competition as soon as they are safely able to do so.”

However, it is believed that package has been countered by the owners and the league want a decision by Tuesday or will sanction a lockout.

The MLS players’ statement detailed that they voted in favor of “economic concessions for the 2020 season, modifications to the recently agreed-upon CBA, including its extension by a year, and their agreement to participate in a summer tournament in Orlando.”

They also accepted salary reductions across the board, reduced bonuses and additional concessions to existing and future terms of the CBA.

Multiple reports, including this one from ESPN’s former USMNT striker Hercules Gomez, states that MLS owners are giving the players until Tuesday to come to an agreement or they will shut the league down.

MLS reportedly say they have already given the players their best offer and they are not budging, with a report from Jeffrey Carlisle of ESPN saying that the league want the players to take a 8.75 percent pay cut, while the players have agreed to 7.5 percent. There is also the ‘force majeure clause’ which would allow either side to back out of a CBA due to a diastrous event such as the coronavirus pandemic.

The top-flight of soccer in North America has been shut down since Mar. 12 and talks have been ongoing for several weeks between MLS and the MLSPA regarding the financial impact the coronavirus pandemic will have on the league.

With players making big concessions across the board, the fact that MLS shot that offer down so quickly suggests both sides still have a long way to go around the virtual negotiating table. Time is running out.

Right now, the 2020 MLS season looks like being a mini-tournament in Orlando for six weeks to hold things over and who knows what comes after that. But given the location of many of their teams in states which still have strict lockdown orders, plus fans not being allowed to attend sporting events across the country, the situation appears bleak for MLS for at least the next few months and probably much longer than that.