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A Closer Look: The opening 10 PL matches for the Big Six

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The release of the Premier League schedule marks the start of a new season, and with that the hopes and dreams of the millions of fans around the world.

As Premier League clubs gear up or are well into a busy summer of transfers, expectations can start to be set based on the schedule and where certain games fall.

With Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham all pushing for the Premier League title, we thought it would be good to go in depth and look at how each team will open the season, focusing on the first 10 games of the campaign.

Chelsea of course won its first three games before drawing with Swansea City and losing to Liverpool and Arsenal, which allowed manager Antonio Conte to make his famous switch to the 3-5-2 formation that paid such dividends for Chelsea down the road.

While we can’t predict a future like that, here’s our take on the opening 10 games of the season for each of the top six teams.

ARSENAL

Arsenal v Leicester City
Stoke City v Arsenal
Liverpool v Arsenal
Arsenal v AFC Bournemouth
Chelsea v Arsenal
Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion
Arsenal v Brighton
Watford v Arsenal
Everton v Arsenal
Arsenal v Swansea City

Arsenal’s initial run in isn’t too bad. While it has road matches at Liverpool and at Chelsea in the opening 10 games, the only two other top-10 teams from last year Arsenal faces is Everton on the road and West Bromwich at home. With six games against bottom-ten teams, Arsenal should be able to start the season on a positive note like it has in the past.


CHELSEA

Chelsea v Burnley
Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea
Chelsea v Everton
Leicester City v Chelsea
Chelsea v Arsenal
Stoke City v Chelsea
Chelsea v Manchester City
Crystal Palace v Chelsea
Chelsea v Watford
AFC Bournemouth v Chelsea

After facing Burnley, Chelsea faces three of the big six in Tottenham away and Arsenal and Manchester City at home as well as a pair of other London derbies at Crystal Palace and home against Watford. Having to face Tottenham so early in the season after the clubs’ physical battles in the past could be an issue if any new members of the squad haven’t adjusted to the Premier League pace at that point.


LIVERPOOL

Watford v Liverpool
Liverpool v Crystal Palace
Liverpool v Arsenal
Manchester City v Liverpool
Liverpool v Burnley
Leicester City v Liverpool
Newcastle United v Liverpool
Liverpool v Manchester United
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool
Liverpool v Huddersfield Town

Among the big six, Liverpool has arguably the toughest run-in to start the season. Jurgen Klopp‘s side will have to navigate both the UEFA Champions League as well as two back-to-back stretches against top six sides. Matches home against Arsenal and at Manchester City early in the season is split up by an international break while in October Liverpool will host Manchester United on the weekend, play a Champions League group stage match midweek, and then travel to Tottenham the coming weekend, a grueling gauntlet of games. Klopp may want to adopt former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez‘s rotation policy for at least that week.


MANCHESTER CITY

Brighton v Manchester City
Manchester City v Everton
AFC Bournemouth v Manchester City
Manchester City v Liverpool
Watford v Manchester City
Manchester City v Crystal Palace
Chelsea v Manchester City
Manchester City v Stoke City
Manchester City v Burnley
West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City

Like Arsenal, Manchester City have an easier start to the season, facing six teams who finished in the bottom half of the table last year as well as opening up the season against Premier League debutants Brighton and Hove Albion. Manchester City face just two of the big six, at home against Liverpool and at Chelsea, although that 11th game is against Arsenal, which could determine where each team finishes depending on the result.


MANCHESTER UNITED

Manchester United v West Ham United
Swansea City v Manchester United
Manchester United v Leicester City
Stoke City v Manchester United
Manchester United v Everton
Southampton v Manchester United
Manchester United v Crystal Palace
Liverpool v Manchester United
Huddersfield Town v Manchester United
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur

Like its crosstown rivals, Manchester United only faces two of the big six in the opening ten fixtures, at Liverpool and home against Tottenham, both well into the season. But unlike Manchester City, the schedule is balanced with games against mid-table sides such as trips to Southampton and Stoke and home games against Everton, West Ham and Leicester City. Jose Mourinho’s side will be plenty tested heading into the Tottenham match.


TOTTENHAM

Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea
Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley
Everton v Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur v Swansea City
West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur
Huddersfield Town v Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur v AFC Bournemouth
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham has a difficult start and finish to its opening ten-game stretch, with more manageable games in the middle. After visiting Newcastle for the season opener and then hosting Chelsea at Wembley Stadium, Tottenham only has a trip to Everton two weeks later before the schedule lightens up, with home games against Swansea City and Bournemouth as well as trips to West Ham and Huddersfield. But the slate ends with a home match against Liverpool followed by a trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United. If the team hasn’t shown its title-winning quality by the end of this ten-game slate, it may be too late.

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 15

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The congested schedule means we’ve had two match days since we last took stock of the Premier League.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

We’ve got a brand new Top Five (well, in terms of the four behind eventual champions Liverpool) and two teams dipping to season lows on our ol’ litmus test.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Watford — As many losses as goals (9), and that figure is one more than the Hornets’ total points. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them on the verge of full-time manager No. 3, as full-time manager of Watford is a bit more like seasonal help.
Last week: 18
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Southampton

19. Everton — A top half team in terms of talent seeks the manager who can organize its way out of the drop zone.
Last week: 17
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Leicester City

18. Norwich City — The first team to 10 losses is four points shy of 17th.
Last week: 16
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-0 at Everton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Arsenal

17. West Ham United — A gigantic ball of “blah.” Should thank the world Everton exists so people aren’t more focused on this particular collection of currently squandered talent.
Last week: 20
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-2 v. Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

16. Bournemouth — It’s just not good enough, is it? To have held onto Callum Wilson and get another step up in class from Philip Billing and still be so wildly inconsistent.
Last week: 11
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Wolves
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Spurs

15. Southampton — It really feels like the Danny Ings revival show could rival any story for the best individual one in the league this season. Happy to see Ralph Hasenhuttl get some good performances, as he was being scapegoated in a hurry.
Last week: 19
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Arsenal
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

14. Aston Villa — Allowing a league-worst 18.8 shots per game, but staying in the mix thanks to Nick Pope and Tyrone Mings.
Last week: 13
Season high: 8
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Newcastle United
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

13. Arsenal — The Gunners back line gets a lot of heat, and rightly so, but maybe a little help from the midfield would be nice considering Sokratis Papastathopoulos and David Luiz have combined for 39 blocks. Sokratis is third in the PL and Luiz fourth.
Last week: 12
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Drew 2-2 v. Southampton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Norwich City


12. Brighton and Hove Albion — First win ever away to Arsenal is another feather in the cap of Graham Potter, especially nice considering they had lost four on the bounce.
Last week: 14
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Liverpool

11. Newcastle United — No one is punching above its weight more than Steve Bruce‘s Magpies, and they’ve been aided in a big way by Martin Dubravka. The Slovakian goalkeeper has a league-best 44 saves from shots inside the 18.

Also, according to Understat’s xG numbers, they should’ve lost to the Blades. In fat, the xG table says they should be dead last. Life’s funny like that. It’s Steve Bruce’s world and we’re living in it.
Last week: 15
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Aston Villa
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Man City

https://understat.com/match/11786

10. Sheffield United — Just lost for the first time since September. That’s amazing.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 3-3 v. Manchester United
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

9. Burnley — Striker Chris Wood has been credited with 12 “big chances missed” by Sofascore, more than any player in the league.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 3-0 at Watford
Up next: 10 a.m. Saturday v. Crystal Palace

8. Spurs — Jose Mourinho learned Wednesday that Moussa Sissoko is nice for the squad, but not to be leaned on.
Last week: 9
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 3-2 at West Ham United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

7. Crystal Palace — Wilfried Zaha‘s 68 dribbles are 13 more than anyone else in the league.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

6. Manchester United — Ole had himself a moment in outfoxing Mourinho without Pogba or Martial.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Drew 3-3 at Sheffield United
Up next: 11:30 a.m. Sunday v. Aston Villa

5. Chelsea — We told you, Frank. WE TOLD YOU.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

4. Manchester City — Aymeric Laporte is still two months away and that’s two months too long.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Newcastle United

3. Wolves — This is going to sound nuts, but there are days I’d rather see Liverpool on my schedule than Wolves. The Reds are obviously better weaponized, but Wolves come at you in waves, man, and Nuno Espirito Santo is doing it without his best center back.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-1 at Bournemouth
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Sheffield United

2. Leicester City — How’s this for an unsustainable stat? Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira rank first and second in the league in tackles, with 67 and 62.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 2-0 at Brighton and Hove Albion
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Everton
1. Liverpool — Big Virgil Van Dijk is on track to become the first Premier League player to complete 1000 passes this season, currently at 953.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 at Crystal Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Brighton and Hove Albion

Report: Everton targeting former Porto, Fener boss Pereira

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Everton might be looking to the Chinese Super League for its next manager.

Vitor Pereira is the top target for the Merseyside set, report our partners at Sky Sports, as the Toffees begin life after Thursday’s firing of Marco Silva.

Pereira, 51, has been in management since 2002, leading Porto, Olympiacos, Fenerbahce, and current club Shanghai SIPG amongst others.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

He’s won titles in Greece, China, Saudi Arabia, and his native Portugal, but there are suitors beyond the Toffees’ reported interest.

The 51-year-old is currently one of the highest paid coaches in the world and was recently offered the job of managing the Chinese national team.

It is understood he is currently considering a new contract offer from Shanghai, which will guarantee he earns £30m a year.

Duncan Ferguson is the interim boss as Everton hosts Chelsea this weekend.

MLS teams no longer will play every opponent each season

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NEW YORK (AP) Major League Soccer is breaking away from soccer’s tradition of having each team play every opponent in its league.

MLS is expanding to 26 teams in 2020 with the additions of Miami and Nashville but will keep a 34-game regular-season schedule. A team will play each of its 12 conference opponents home and away, and will face only 10 of the 13 teams in the other conference.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Nashville opens Feb. 29 at home against Atlanta and David Beckham’s Inter Miami starts March 1 at Los Angeles, the league said Thursday in announcing all home openers. Defending champion Seattle opens March 1 against Chicago.

Other Feb. 29 openers are Colorado at D.C., New England at Montreal, LA Galaxy at Houston, Toronto at San Jose, Philadelphia at Dallas, Salt Lake at Orlando and Kansas City at Vancouver. Games the following day include New York City at Columbus, Cincinnati at New York Red Bulls and Minnesota at Portland.

Home openers on March 7 are Chicago at New England, Red Bulls at Salt Lake, NYC at Toronto, Cincinnati at Atlanta, Houston at Kansas City, Orlando at Colorado and Vancouver at LA Galaxy. Four more home openers are set for March 14: Dallas at NYC, LA Galaxy at Miami, D.C. at Cincinnati and San Jose at Philadelphia.

The final home openers are Red Bulls at Minnesota on March 15 and Atlanta at Chicago on March 21 as the Fire return downtown to Soldier Field, their home from 1997-2005. The played in suburban Bridgeview from 2006 through last season.

More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Saint-Maximin proud to score first Premier League goal on mom’s birthday

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Newcastle United is reveling in another win, the Magpies claiming a point for the fifth time in six matches with a 2-0 win at Sheffield United.

Allan Saint-Maximin was richly rewarded for his effervescent season with a first Premier League goal, though it came in unexpected fashion.

[ RECAP: Blades 0-2 Newcastle ]

The dribbling wizard rose above his mark to head a Javi Manquillo cross past Dean Henderson for the first goal of the match at Bramall Lane, and he was quite happy to do it on a memorable day for his family.

“It’s special because I score with my head and I never think I can score with my head,” he said, via The Chronicle.  “I’m really proud because today is the birthday of my mother, and I score my first goal for my mother and I’m really happy to do that.”

Saint-Maximin has quickly become a fan favorite, and the Frenchman showed he’s ready with a joke, too, when noting midfield Jonjo Shelvey scored his team-best fourth goal of the season thanks to some decisive refereeing from Stuart Atwell and VAR.

[ MORE: Wilder enraged with VAR ]

“I’m happy for the best striker in Newcastle – four goals.”

Funny stuff from the man his manager Steve Bruce once described by saying, “He’s only 22 and he’s got more outfits than I’ve seen.”