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Premier League 2017-18 preview – Southampton

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When Southampton were promoted to the Premier League five years ago, no one foresaw the south coast club becoming England’s model of structure and consistency, but after four top-eight finishes in a row (8th, 7th, 6th and 8th, beginning in 2013-14), that’s exactly what’s happened.

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How, against all odds, you ask? Simply put, a series of savvy managerial appointments, sky-high-upside dealings in the transfer market, a robust youth academy which has produced numerous first-team stalwarts, and a willingness to cash in on players at peak value.

The 2017-18 PL season could very well be something of a crossroads for Southampton, as they begin their sixth top-division campaign under the guidance of a fifth different opening-day manager, Mauricio Pellegrino.

[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub

From the day Pellegrino arrived at St. Mary’s Stadium, he’s been fighting an uphill battle to keep star center back Virgil Van Dijk at the club. Liverpool’s dogged pursuit (some have called it tampering) has made life difficult in the build-up to the new season. Though a transfer agreement has not yet been reached, the saga is probably far from over. As for incoming transfer activity, it’s been… well, pretty quiet

Best-, worst-case scenario: Saints’ starting XI is as good as (and, in most cases, better than) any of the non-top-six sides, and what’ll trickle down to the bench (the likes of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Steven Davis, Sofiane Boufal, Josh Sims, Charlie Austin and Shane Long) isn’t half-bad either. If the squad in place buys into Mauricio Pellerino’s philosophy early on, expect Southampton and Everton to fight it out for seventh, albeit a ways back of the big six. Anything down the bottom half of the league table would be a shock, and a huge disappointment.

Best possible XI is…


—– Forster —–

Cedric — Van Dijk — Yoshida— Bertrand—

—- Clasie —- Romeu —-

—– Tadic —– Ward-Prowse —– Redmond —–

—– Gabbiadini —–


Transfers In: Jan Bednarek ($6.5 million, Lech Poznan)

Transfers Out: Jay Rodriguez (West Bromwich Albion, $15.7 million)

Last season

8th place in Premier League
Group stage of Europa League
Runners-up in EFL Cup
4th round in FA Cup

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Star player: Nathan Redmond — Yes, the likes of Manolo Gabbiadini, Dusan Tadic and James Ward-Prowse are better known household names heading into the season, but Redmond seems the obvious choice to become “next Saints player to be transferred for $40 million after one spectacular season.” (See, for examples: Sadio Mane, Luke Shaw, Morgan Schneiderlin, Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne and Victor Wanyama) He checks all the boxes that PL clubs covet: outside-in attacker who does his damage cutting inside from the left wing; English; and, still only 23 years old.

Coach’s corner: Claude Puel was (somewhat) surprisingly fired three weeks after the end of last season, despite an eighth-place finish and a League Cup final appearance in his first season in the PL, and quickly replaced by Pellegrino. The 45-year-old Argentine takes over at St. Mary’s after one season as manager of Alaves, who he guided to a ninth-place finish in La Liga (including wins over Barcelona, Villarreal and Valencia) and a Copa del Rey final appearance in the club’s first season back in the top flight.

PST predicts: Given the money spent by the top-six sides (not only this summer, but in past transfer windows), the gap between the haves and have-nots is wider now than perhaps ever before. 2017-18 will make three managers in three seasons for Saints (Ronald Koeman before Puel), and while that’s bound to cause stress at the most well-run of clubs, Southampton have established themselves as a perennial top-eight side in the PL, which is exactly where they’ll finish once again this year.

Chelsea needs to wait “48 hours” to assess Mount

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Mason Mount‘s move from the Championship to the Premier League has been nearly seamless.

His adjustment to the Champions League was cut down too quickly to get an understanding of whether it would be too big of a jump.

[ MORE: Match recap | Barkley drama ]

Mount, 20, was chopped down by Valencia’s Francis Coquelin, the former Arsenal man, and had to leave the game after just 16 minutes.

Here’s Frank Lampard, from ChelseaFC.com:

“He’s got an ankle injury but we don’t know how bad it is. We’ll have to assess it in the next 48 hours to see the scale of the injury. It was a shame because he started the game well and it meant we had to make the change early on.”

Mount scored nine times with four assists on loan under Lampard at Derby County last season, and has already chipped in three goals for Chelsea this season.

Lampard turned to Pedro off the bench on Tuesday, but any lengthy absence for Mount will spell more time for American youngster Christian Pulisic.

UEFA Champions League Wednesday preview: Man City, Spurs debut

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Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur begin their UEFA Champions League campaigns on very different results and with very different vibes.

City is coming off a stunning 3-2 loss to injury-hit Norwich City, and is set up in Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk for the third-straight season, a side which beat Pep Guardiola once in four tries between 2017/18 and 2018/19 in the UCL.

[ MORE: UCL Tues. wrap ]

But on Wednesday, Guardiola’s men are going to carry a similar feel to one of his old Barcelona teams, as Pep seemingly will have Fernandinho pull a Javier Mascherano and drop into the back line.

Yes, Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi are Manchester City’s hopes at center back, now that John Stones has joined Aymeric Laporte on the shelf.

“For me as a manager it’s an incredible challenge,” said Pep Guardiola. “But I believe a lot, people don’t know the spirit and resolve to solve this problem. The players going to come back with Dinho, Eric Garcia, Taylor Harwood-Bellis. … It’s happened, but what we are not going to do is complain. We have to have 11 players on the pitch and I like it, to find a solution. For the players as well to find an incredible step forward.”

Spurs, meanwhile, will simply be trying to build on any momentum gained by a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at the weekend, a win which came after manager Mauricio Pochettino begged his side to “re-focus” after a relatively poor start to the season.

Now a bit more relaxed, Spurs head to Greece as the clear favorites against stingy Olympiacos. These are, after all, the finalists of last season’s tournament.

Pochettino won’t be sleeping on the challenge, from The London Evening Standard:

“They have good players and if we are not focused and don’t take our best game we are going to suffer. But last season we played in the final of Champions League, so it’s normal people think before the game, Tottenham is one step above Olympiacos but in the end you need to show it on the pitch.”

Spurs are one of two early kickoffs on Tuesday.

Full UCL Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Tottenham Hotspur

3 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Paris Saint-Germain v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
Dinamo Zagreb v. Atalanta
Bayern Munich v. Red Star Belgrade
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester City

American coach Marsch speaks after landmark Champions League day

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Jesse Marsch made his UEFA Champions League debut on Tuesday, a historic first for not just the Wisconsin native but also his country.

Marsch, 45, oversaw Red Bull Salzburg’s 6-2 demolition of Genk, becoming the first American to win a UCL match as manager.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. wrap ]

“We knew we were going into the match full of confidence,” he said, via the Salzburg site. “We knew too that we could put in a performance of this quality. I wasn’t pleased with a few situations, such as conceding for 3-1. That shows our incredible mentality though as it prompted us to give a few more percent and immediately score two goals.”

The ex-New York Red Bulls manager and RB Leipzig assistant manager got another three goals from incredible 19-year-old striker Erling Braut Haland, who nows has 17 goals in nine matches this season.

“It is an absolute joy to work with this team. We have a lot of players who just know how to battle, and that rubs off on the others. You can see that on the pitch on nights like tonight.”

There will be tougher nights ahead for Marsch, who is in a group with Liverpool and Napoli, but Tuesday was a fine start for the tactician. And it was a banner moment for American coaches abroad, who’ve been led by past and present USMNT coaches Bob Bradley and Gregg Berhalter.

Maybe one day that’ll be Marsch’s title… but it seems like he may have some loftier ground to cover on his path through world soccer.

Klopp: Liverpool made wrong decisions; Penalty also incorrect

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is going to bat for his left back after Andrew Robertson gave away what became the decisive penalty in a 2-0 loss to Napoli in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it’s a penalty,” Klopp said. “What can I say, for me, it is clear and obvious no penalty. He jumps before any contact, we can’t change that.”

[ RECAP: Napoli 2-0 Liverpool ]

For what it’s worth: It sure seemed like both a foul on Robertson and a comical embellishment from Callejon, but we digress.

Liverpool just didn’t have it on the day, like when Sadio Mane played a terrible pass to Mohamed Salah on what could’ve been an easy 1-0 lead.

In the moments they did have it, there was Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret making a splendid save.

“We played a lot of good football but didn’t finish it off. We controlled moments but had not enough chances in the end. We made decisions that were not right and have to accept the result. It was very often the final ball that was not right.”

Also, forgive Klopp if he has stopped enjoying the beautiful country of Italy.