Premier League 2017-18 preview – Huddersfield Town

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We have another fairytale story in the Premier League.

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Huddersfield Town were promoted to the PL for the first time in club history via the lottery of the Championship playoffs as they beat Reading on penalty kicks at Wembley in May. It is the first time in 45 years that they’ve been in the top-tier of English soccer.

Managed by German-American David Wagner, the Terriers wheeled and dealed in the transfer market last season to build a team full of cast offs from some of the PL’s big boys and clubs across Germany. It worked a treat as they fostered a strong sense of togetherness with their fans and dug deep at the end of the season to win the playoffs. Bankrolled by local businessman Dean Hoyle, Huddersfield are set to become the new minnows of the PL everyone adores: think, a northern English version of Bournemouth.

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Huddersfield have been champions of England in the past, winning the title for three consecutive seasons from 1923-24, while they also won the FA Cup in 1922. Their main rivals are Leeds United and Bradford City, but it’s now Huddersfield who are Yorkshire’s lone representatives in the PL.

Best, worst case scenario: Staying up is the best case scenario and they just don’t want to ‘do a Derby’ and finish rock bottom of the table.

Best possible XI is…


—– Lossl —–

—- Smith —- Heffele —- Schindler —- Lowe —-

—- Ince —- Williams —- Mooy —- Palmer —– Kachunga —-

—– Mounie —–


Transfers in: Steve Mounie ($15 million, Montpellier), Tom Ince ($11.2 million, Derby County), Aaron Mooy ($10.5 million, Manchester City), Laurent Depoitre ($4.6 million, FC Porto), Scott Malone ($6.6 million, Fulham), Mathias Jorgensen ($4.6 million, Copenhagen), Danny Williams (Free, Reading), Elias Kachunga ($1.4 million, Ingolstadt), Jonas Lossl (Loan, Mainz 05), Kasey Palmer (Loan, Chelsea)

Transfers out: Kyle Dempsey ($992,000, Fleetwood Town)

Last season
– 4th in the Championship (promoted to PL after winning playoffs)
– FA Cup 5th round
– EFL Cup 1st round

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Star player: Steve Mounie is Huddersfield’s record signing and the Benin striker has already been in fine form in preseason. His pace and power will provide the Terries with an outlet and with Kachunga, Mooy, Ince and Palmer underneath him, expect Mounie to get plenty of chances to score. Ince is another who has excelled in preseason and will be looking to finally make his mark in the PL after several stellar seasons in the second tier.

Coaches’ Corner: German-American coach David Wagner is as charismatic as they come and the man who spent most of his coaching career working under Jurgen Klopp at Mainz 05 and Borussia Dortmund has now built something really special on his own. Wagner’s team are like Klopp’s with plenty of high-pressing and pace in attack, but the Terriers are also capable of sitting back and soaking up pressure when they have to. After bringing in plenty of new faces early in the summer, the signs are good that Wagner can help Huddersfield achieve much more than just battling against relegation. Whatever happens this season, Wagner has a bright future.

PST predicts: Whatever way you want to slice this up, it will be a tough season for Huddersfield as most of their squad have yet to play in the PL. A strong togetherness and a lively home atmosphere will get them so far, but Wagner will everyone to play to their maximum to just stay out of the bottom three. Expect a season-long scrap, but it will be plenty of fun and I wouldn’t bet against Wagner keeping the Terriers up.

La Liga roundup: Barcelona, Real Madrid remain level on points after wins (video)

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Routine wins from league favorites Barcelona and Real Madrid, highlight La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Barcelona 5-2 RCD Mallorca

It was a special night at Barcelona’s Camp Nou.

Fresh from winning the Ballon d’Or for a record sixth time, Lionel Messi was greeted by his three children on the field, who handed him a shinny, golden ball – given yearly to the best player in the world – prior to the first whistle.

From that point on, it was evident that it would be all smiles for everyone tied to the defending champions at the stadium (and for those watching remotely) on Saturday.

 

That was the case.

Antoine Griezmann – a topic of conversation due to lack of productivity at Barcelona this season – kicked off the game with a solo run and subsequent goal in the seventh minute, opening the floodgates.

As a celebration of his latest, individual accomplishment, Messi showcased the power and precision of his left foot at the tune of a hat-trick. The Argentine ace scored twice in the first half and another in consolation time, putting his season total mark at a league-best 12 goals.

The moment and goal of the night (possibly of the season) didn’t directly involve Messi, however. With a daring, emphatic and genius back-heel strike, not only did Luis Suarez put the home side up 4-1, but cemented himself in the ballot for best goal of the season.

With 34 and a better goal differential than Real Madrid, Barcelona remain atop of La Liga ahead of their clash with Inter Milan on Tuesday, while Mallorca hope Ante Budimir can score another brace; this time against a struggling Celta Vigo next weekend.

Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol

With goals from Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane, Real Madrid comfortably cruised past a struggling Espanyol.

With the majority of Real Madrid in Espanyol’s final third following a recovered free-kick attempt, Benzema charged his way into the box before laying off a ball to Varane, who not a proven goalscorer whatsoever, placed the ball into the back of the net with ease.

It was the 37th minute, and the home side were up 1-0 against a poor Espanyol.

With a notable superior style at hand, Los Blancos continued to surge forward. Opportunities at goal were generated but the ball wouldn’t go past ex-Real Madrid ‘keeper Diego Lopez.

Then, in the 79th minute, Benzema registered his 11th goal of the season, finishing an off-balance pass from Federico Valverde inside the box.

Winners in their last La Liga bouts, Real Madrid now prepare for their Champions League Group Stage finale against Club Brugge midweek. Espanyol, despite being in the drop zone, host CSKA Moscow in their Europa League Group Stage finale. The Catalonian club lead Group H with 11 points after five matches.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Granada 3-0 Alaves

Levante 2-4 Valencia

Ancelotti’s future uncertain after Napoli draws at Udinese

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ROME (AP) Carlo Ancelotti’s future as Napoli coach is uncertain after his team failed to beat Udinese on Saturday in Serie A.

The 1-1 draw extended Napoli’s winless run to nine matches in all competitions. Piotr Zelinski saved Napoli with a late goal that salvaged a point for the visitors.

Amid reports that Ancelotti could soon be fired, Napoli, which had won its last six league matches against Udinese, went a goal down after a counterattack which was finished by Kevin Lasagna in the 32nd minute.

Napoli improved after Fernando Llorente replaced an uninspired Lorenzo Insigne in the second half. It equalized after a good combination between Dries Mertens and Zielinski, who wrongfooted the Udinese ‘keeper with a shot into the bottom corner.

Also, Atalanta twice came from behind after Samuel Di Carmine’s two goals to beat Hellas Verona 3-2 with a late winner from Berat Djimsiti, who volleyed home from close range.

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

Kyle Walker: City catching up to Liverpool ‘difficult’ after derby loss to United

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After a crushing 2-1 loss to archrival Manchester United at home, 14 is the new magic number for Pep Guardiola and company.

14 is the number of points that Manchester City trail league leaders Liverpool by, an uphill battle that is influencing many people on the outside looking in to think that City’s chances of lifting the league’s silverware for a third straight season are officially done and dusted.

That’s not the narrative that is occupying Kyle Walker‘s train of thought, however. Speaking on behalf of his City teammates and himself, the defender is keen on fighting until they’re mathematically out of contention for the title, regardless if the standings show that Liverpool have yet to suffer a defeat this season after 16 matches.

“Can’t fault the manager,” Walker told Sky Sports following City’s second Premier League loss in five games. “He has won numerous trophies. I can’t put my finger on it. It is going to be difficult, Liverpool are on fire. They [Liverpool] are getting wins and we are not. It is a big gap but we will fight until the end.”

A consolation goal from Nicolas Otamendi in the 85th minutes wasn’t enough for the Cityzens, who endured a fourth league loss this season, matching last season’s number of losses throughout 38 games.

After the dispiriting derby day performance from City, the defending champions stand at 32 points after 16 bouts, the lowest point haul for Guardiola in his 11-year top-flight management career.

No team in league history has overcome a 14-point deficit. Since late October, City are yet to record a clean sheet, an apparent issue that Walker believes he and the rest of the team’s defenders need to address in order to return to old ways.

“Us as defenders need to hold our hands up,” he said. “We need to keep clean sheets and strikers maybe need to put more away. They had a game plan and it worked. They have quick players in quick areas and they are going to hurt you on the counter. Credit where credit is due, they stepped up today. Fair play.”

WATCH: Luis Suarez delivers one-of-a-kind back-heel goal

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At 32 years of age and with a 15-year career behind him, Luis Suarez has scored some emphatic goals.

On Saturday, however, he painted a fine piece of art, a goal that became an instant classic the moment the ball came off of his backheel. With Barcelona already up 3-1 against RCD Mallorca, Ernesto Valverde’s men continued to push forward, comfortably and strategically ping-ponging the ball around the defensive-oriented visitors.

And then Frenkie de Jong found the ball at the top of the box.

The Dutch international smoothly placed a through ball, finding Suarez, who with precision and expertise that only he has, belted the ball into the bottom-right corner of Manolo Reina’s goal.

It’s only December, but the Uruguayan’s goal is an automatic La Liga goal of the season contender: