Premier League 2016-17 season preview: Swansea

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They were a completely different team during the second half of the 2015/16 season, but can Swansea City duplicate its strong efforts in Francesco Guidolin‘s first full year?

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The Italian will have his work cut out for him with many of the Premier League’s top sides spending big dollars on well-known commodities. Swansea don’t have the luxury of spending big, which could very well hamper their chances of succeeding, but Guidolin has been in similar positions before in Italy and still found results.

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With a good assortment of defensive options and Polish keeper Lukasz Fabianski in net, the Swans should put out a strong lineup from a tactical perspective. The biggest questions will be where the production comes from up top.

Modou Barrow didn’t do much on loan the past two seasons, but appears to be getting more of a run out this season, while Andre Ayew will have a lot expected of him as he prepares to build off of a strong second season at the Liberty Stadium.

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Swans will challenge for top half placement: Andre Ayew was a strong addition last season, and the team has the pieces to put together a dangerous attack. Gylfi Sigurdsson is coming off of a fantastic summer with Iceland at EURO 2016, while steady options like Jefferson Montero and Wayne Routledge can give the Swans a boost in the midfield.

Most likely it’ll be a mid-table finish: Despite bringing back many of the same starters from a season ago, Van der Hoorn is one of the few additions that will contribute regularly for the Swans, and the team still lacks talent up front. Bafetimbi Gomis‘ loan move to France puts the side at a disadvantage, leaving major concerns up front as to where the goals will come from.


Best Possible XI

—– Fabianski —–

— Van der Hoorn — Taylor — Williams — Naughton —

— Fer — Sigurdsson —– Montero

 — Routledge — Ayew —

—– Barrow —–


Transfers inLeroy Fer ($6 million, QPR), Mike Van der Hoorn (Undisclosed, Ajax), Mark Birighitti (Free, Newcastle Jets), Tyler Reid (Undisclosed, Manchester United), George Byers (Free, Watford)

Transfers out:

Eder ($4 million, Lille), Alberto Paloschi ($7 million, Atalanta), Bafetimbi Gomis (Loan, Marseille), Kenji Gorre (Loan, Northampton), Kyle Bartley (Loan, Leeds), Raheem Hanley (Free, Northampton), Liam Shephard (Loan, Yeovil), Oliver Davies (Loan, Kilmarnock), Matt Grimes (Loan, Leeds)

Last season: A 12th place finish that largely went unrecognized by many wasn’t what Swansea wanted in 2015/16, but their overall performance was admirable. Wins against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United at home were among the most notable efforts from the Swans, while the club also secured victories against Arsenal and West Ham on the road.

Star player: Andre Ayew — With 12 goals and four assists during the 2015/16 season, Ayew proved his worth to the Swans, and supporters will be holding their breath that the Ghanaian can duplicate his efforts again this season. While he isn’t always the most exciting player to watch, Ayew always puts in a solid shift and does the little things going both ways. Swansea will likely go as far as the 26-year-old takes them.

SWANSEA, WALES - SEPTEMBER 19: Andre Ayew of Swansea City and James McCarthy of Everton compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Everton at the Liberty Stadium on September 19, 2015 in Swansea, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Coach’s corner: After taking over during the second half of the season for the Swans in 2016, Francesco Guidolin provided a noticeable spark to his players.

Taking results in 11 of their 16 matches, Guidolin and his side were a significantly different team over the second portion of the PL campaign, giving supporters and the club confidence going into the future.

While Guidolin has previously worked extensively in Italy’s Serie A, the former Hellas Verona midfielder is looking to do something a bit risky in the Premier League; spend as little as possible and grind out results.

SWANSEA, WALES - FEBRUARY 13:  Francesco Guidolin, Manager of Swansea City looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Southampton at Liberty Stadium on February 13, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

PST predicts: As much as it would be nice to see Swansea make a jump into the next tier of the Premier League, the club’s offseason moves keep them as a very limited squad. While players like Ayew, Montero, and even Modou Barrow will perform well against lower half opponents, it will be hard to get consistent production out of them when it comes to facing the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United on a regular basis. A mid-table finish will likely be in this team’s future for the second straight season.

FIFA sees no obstacles for women to attend games in Iran

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ZURICH (AP) Soccer’s governing body FIFA says an inspection visit to Iran has shown “no noteworthy operational obstacles” to lifting the country’s 40-year ban and letting women attend a World Cup qualifying game next month.

After meeting government and soccer officials in Tehran this week, FIFA says it will work with Iran’s soccer body to also open domestic league games to female fans.

FIFA wants Iran to end its ban on women entering stadiums which breaches international soccer statutes prohibiting discrimination.

Global attention on the ban followed the death this month of a 29-year-old activist, Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire outside a courthouse. She had been detained for dressing as a man to enter a soccer stadium in Tehran and faced six months in prison.

Ahead of Iran hosting Cambodia at the 78,000-capacity Azadi Stadium on Oct. 10, FIFA says the visit on Thursday focused on “international relations, security and ticketing matters.”

Iranian officials were told of FIFA’s “firm and clear position that women need to be allowed to enter football matches freely” with tickets sold to as many who wanted to attend.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Socce r and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

FOLLOW LIVE: Atlanta v. Quakes, Galaxy v. Impact on a busy MLS Saturday

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Eight games in seven hours, now that’s a jam-packed MLS Saturday.

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Things kickoff with Matias Almeyda’s San Jose Earthquakes visiting red-hot Josef Martinez’s Atlanta United, and comes to a close in Los Angeles, where league leaders LAFC host Toronto FC and LA Galaxy, who look to continue moving up in the Western Conference standings, host Montreal Impact.

In between, the New England Revolution look to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff picture as they welcome Kyle Beckerman and Real Salt Lake, while the Chicago Fire hope to jump level with the Revs in the standings as they take on FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium.

Saturday’s full MLS schedule

Atlanta United v. San Jose Earthquakes — 3:30 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps v. Columbus Crew — 5 p.m. ET

New England Revolution v. Real Salt Lake — 7:30 p.m. ET

FC Cincinnati v. Chicago Fire — 7:30 p.m. ET

Sporting Kansas City v. Colorado Rapids — 8:30 p.m. ET

Houston Dynamo v. Orlando City — 8:30 p.m. ET

LAFC v. Toronto FC — 10:30 p.m. ET

LA Galaxy v. Montreal Impact — 10:30 p.m. ET

Bundesliga wrap: Lewandowski’s Bayern keeps rolling, Leipzig stays top

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Week 5 of the Bundesliga season looked a lot like so many others since Robert Lewandowski arrived in the country from Lech Poznan in 2010.

He scored, and his team won.

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It wasn’t enough to put Bayern Munich atop the league, as the Bavarian side also saw RB Leipzig get a win and could sit third once Lewandowski’s first German team, Borussia Dortmund, plays on Sunday.

Bayern Munich 4-0 Koln

Robert Lewandowski is humming along, scoring two more goals to give him nine in Bayern’s first five matches of the Bundesliga season. The 31-year-old Polish superstar scored at midweek in the Champions League, and has scored in all seven matches he’s played since being skunked in the DFL SuperCup loss to Borussia Dortmund.

Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perisic also scored for Bayern, who will finish the weekend no lower than third on the table. A 59th minute red card to Koln’s Kingsley Ehizibue came with Bayern already leading 2-0, so it was a bit snoozy in terms of drama at the Allianz Arena.

Werder Bremen 0-3 RB Leipzig

A 64th minute red card to Konrad Laimer couldn’t slow down the table leaders, as Leipzig added a goal after going down to 10-men in the win.

Willi Orban and Marcelo Saracchi scored for the visitors, and Marcel Sabitzer scored a terrific free kick in the win.

American teenager Josh Sargent started and played 80 minutes for the hosts, covering 9.63 kilometers and getting a lone shot on goal.

Elsewhere
Schalke 2-1 Mainz — Friday
Freiburg 1-1 Augsburg
Hertha Berlin 2-1 Paderborn
Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Union Berlin
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Fortuna Dusseldorf — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Borussia Dortmund — Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 RB Leipzig 5 4 1 0 13 3 10 1-1-0 3-0-0 13
 Bayern Munich 5 3 2 0 16 4 12 2-1-0 1-1-0 11
 SC Freiburg 5 3 1 1 11 4 7 1-1-1 2-0-0 10
 FC Schalke 04 5 3 1 1 10 5 5 2-0-1 1-1-0 10
 Bayer Leverkusen 5 3 1 1 8 7 1 2-1-0 1-0-1 10
 Borussia Dortmund 4 3 0 1 13 5 8 2-0-0 1-0-1 9
 VfL Wolfsburg 4 2 2 0 7 3 4 1-1-0 1-1-0 8
 Mönchengladbach 4 2 1 1 5 4 1 0-1-1 2-0-0 7
 Eintracht Frankfurt 4 2 0 2 5 5 0 2-0-0 0-0-2 6
 Werder Bremen 5 2 0 3 8 12 -4 1-0-2 1-0-1 6
 FC Augsburg 5 1 2 2 7 11 -4 1-1-0 0-1-2 5
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 4 1 1 2 6 7 -1 0-1-1 1-0-1 4
 1899 Hoffenheim 4 1 1 2 3 6 -3 1-0-1 0-1-1 4
 1. FC Union Berlin 5 1 1 3 5 10 -5 1-0-2 0-1-1 4
 Hertha BSC Berlin 5 1 1 3 5 11 -6 1-0-1 0-1-2 4
 1. FC Köln 5 1 0 4 4 11 -7 0-0-2 1-0-2 3
 FSV Mainz 05 5 1 0 4 5 15 -10 1-0-1 0-0-3 3
 SC Paderborn 5 0 1 4 6 14 -8 0-0-2 0-1-2 1

Nothing to separate Newcastle, Brighton at St. James’ Park

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A bright performance from the visitors produced nothing, as Newcastle United and Brighton played to a scoreless draw at St. James’ Park on Saturday.

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Brighton had more than 70 percent of the ball and an advantage in shots, but couldn’t get a goal over the line. Newcastle only arrived late after the introduction of Allan Saint-Maximin and Andy Carroll, and would not truly challenge Mathew Ryan.

The Seagulls rise 15th with six points, two spots and one point ahead of the hosts.


Three things we learned

1. Relegation candidates for sure: Both Graham Potter and Steve Bruce are new managers of their sides, but neither looks much better than their predecessor. Maybe Brighton is on a slightly better trajectory than the Gulls side that survived by two points last season, but the Magpies looked very poor over two formations in the first half. Maybe that’s a symptom of the sick, but a winner of this game might’ve ended up pointing to the points as what kept it up come May.

2. Brighton cannot capitalize vs. awful Newcastle midfield: The match was screaming out for Glenn Murray as Brighton was the brighter side but oh-so-wasteful in the 18. The Seagulls press befuddled Newcastle’s midfield and kept the back line on edge, but every chance was wasted.

There was a gulf between the Magpies’ back line and center forward Joelinton, who himself struggled to assert himself on the game. It’s telling that Steve Bruce’s 73rd minute subs were Allan Saint-Maximin and Ki Sung-yeung for Miguel Almiron and Jonjo Shelvey, as the Magpies had little possession and less threat.

3. Carroll back in black (and white): Hometown hero Andy Carroll last played for the Magpies in a Premier League game on Dec. 29, 2010, against Spurs before being sold to Liverpool for a massive fee. The oft-injured but powerful striker came on for the final 10 minutes to a rousing “One of our own” chant from St. James’ Park, and cued Allan Saint-Maximin up for a chance during his cameo.

Man of the Match: Schar — It just has to be. Martin Dubravka was beaten by Neal Maupay, but his dink could not cross the goal line before Schar leapt to clobber the ball to safety with an overhead clearance. What a play, and indicative of how often the Swiss centerpiece has saved Newcastle at either end of the pitch over the last two years.


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Martin Dubravka was tasked with making the match’s first save after Pascal Gross blazed down the right and toward the six-yard box.

Almiron came close to getting his first goal with a well-timed run and shot which was saved by Mat Ryan in the 22nd minute.

The Magpies’ season record of wobbly starts continued, and Dubravka and Jamaal Lascelles needed to make borderline heroic plays to keep it 0-0 by the half-hour mark.

Joelinton came very close to nodding a corner kick home as Lewis Dunk forgot to mark the Brazilian. His free header just missed the far post.

Steven Alzate had the ball in the back of the goal, as Newcastle was at sixes and sevens at the back, but was offside in the 34th.

The Magpies were booed off the pitch at halftime, and started brightly with a 46th minute shot punched wide by Christian Atsu.

Almiron made a delightful turn on the right side before dribbling into the 18 for a low shot saved by Ryan. Closer, but still not enough. The ex-Atlanta United man two more extremely bad giveaways on the day, and isn’t offering too much hope.