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Premier League 2017-18 preview – West Ham United

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West Ham truly, truly struggled at times last season. Injuries were abound. There were questions asked of Slaven Bilic.

And yet through all that, they finished 11th. That seems to speak to the depth of the roster and the fantastic, sometimes underappreciated managerial job Bilic did to keep the Hammers afloat despite all the struggles.

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This year, the bad luck should turn around. West Ham shedded the excess fat on the squad and brought in a pair of impact players who should step right into the starting lineup. Marko Arnautovic especially is a fantastic addition, who along with Robert Snodgrass, Manuel Lanzini, Sofiane Feghouli, and Michail Antonio should provide plenty for new signing Chicharito to feast on.

Best, worst case scenarios – Best case, this is a Europa League team. With all the new attacking talent for Bilic to play with, he can rotate players to avoid or deal with injuries. At the back, Bilic will have to find his preferred formation, because the depth will give him headaches – a good problem to have.

Through all the problems last season, the team still finished strong and away from the relegation battle, proving they are not a relegation candidate this season, even if the injury troubles return. Worst-case is probably another early flirt with the bottom third, but ultimately they pull out of it for a 13th place spot.


Best possible XI is…

Hart

Fonte — Reid — Ogbonna

Antonio — Noble — Lanzini  — Kouyate — Arnautovic

Carroll — Hernandez

This is tough, and you can be sure Bilic will rotate plenty. Pablo Zabaleta and Aaron Cresswell will get time in a typical 4-man defensive line, while Robert Snodgrass and Sofiane Feghouli will rotate through on the wings. Diafra Sakho provides striker depth.


[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub ] 

Transfers In: Marko Arnautovic (Stoke City, $27 million), Chicharito (Bayer Leverkusen, $21 million), Joe Hart (Manchester City, Loan), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City, Free).

Transfers Out: Ashley Fletcher (Middlesbrough, $9 million), Havard Nordtveit (Hoffenheim, $8.5 million), Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough, $6.6 million), Raphael Spiegel (Boavista, Free), Stephen Hendrie (Southend United, Free Transfer).

Last season: 

— 11th place in Premier League
— FA Cup 3rd Round (lost to Manchester City)
— League Cup quarterfinals (lost to Manchester United)

Star Player: Chicharito — Last season, West Ham seriously missed a player who could finish chances with Andy Carroll either out or misfiring. Now, they have a guy who can provide that final touch. Chicharito is a top-class striker who will eat up the goals where last season the Hammers failed to find the back of the net.

Last year, West Ham was ninth in the Premier League in chances created. Add Arnautovic to that mix, plus a healthy Snodgrass and Lanzini, and this season could be a big return to England for the Little Pea.

Coach’s Corner: Slaven Bilic — If it wasn’t clear after his first season in charge at West Ham, last season should prove how valuable the 48-year-old Croatian is to the Hammers. Bilic is able to mix and match his tactics to fit who is available and on the field, such an important trait last season when players were dropping like flies. Now, with good squad depth, he’ll need to channel that ability again to get everyone’s best.

PST Predicts: With the creative talent and steadiness at the back, West Ham should seriously improve on last season. They’ll finish more chances, and with Bilic in charge, this should be a top-half team with a shot at a Europa League spot.

Watch Live: 2019 Women’s World Cup – Group E, F finales

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The United States women’s national team is hoping Wednesday’s 2019 Women’s World Cup action ends with a Group F title and a measure of revenge.

Old rivals Sweden are the opponents for the first time since June 8, 2017. It’s also the first time the Yanks will meet the Swedes in a tournament since they were knocked out of the 2016 Olympics at the quarterfinal stage.

[ MORE: Women’s World Cup news ] 

Whether Chile or Thailand is alive for a potential group stage match depends on the Noon ET starts.

Both would love to see a draw between New Zealand and Cameroon before a hopeful victory over each other.

Canada and the Netherlands also kickoff at Noon ET, with the Canadians needing a win since the Dutch hold the tiebreaker via goals scored.

You can watch every single game from the tournament live online in Spanish via Telemundo Deportes and via the NBC Sports App. All you have to do is click on the links below.

[ LIVE: Watch every single 2019 Women’s World Cup game ]

Here is your full schedule for Thursday, June 20 at the Women’s World Cup.


2019 Women’s World Cup schedule

Group E: Netherlands v. Canada – Noon p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE
Group E: Cameroon v. New Zealand – Noon p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE
Group F: Thailand v. Chile – 3 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE
Group F: USWNT v. Sweden – 3 p.m. ET – STREAM LIVE

Transfer rumor roundup: Many circle around Real Madrid

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Given the major buys of Real Madrid this summer, it’s no surprise that clubs are trying to take advantage of La Liga’s giants need to sell talent.

While Gareth Bale‘s future is the target of many transfer reports, there are many other pieces destined to move away from the Bernabeu.

Real has been tempting Financial Fair Player this summer, backing up the armored cars to the banks of Chelsea (Eden Hazard), Eintracht Frankfurt (Luka Jovic), and Eder Militao (Porto) amongst others.

AS says that AC Milan is asking about Dani Ceballos, Mariano Díaz and Martin Ødegaard.

The 25-year-old Diaz cost Madrid more than $22 million to buy back from Lyon last summer after an 18-goal Ligue 1 season in his only season away from Real. He scored three times in limited minutes last season, and has said he wants to prove himself at Real despite a link to Fenerbahce.

Odegaard’s recruitment was an exhaustive journey that ultimately landed him at Real. Now 20 with 18 Norway caps, Odegaard has made just one senior appearance for Real since choosing the Madrid side after his time at Stromsgodset. He posted eight goals and 11 assists for Vitesse in the Eredivisie last season.

Ceballos turns 23 in August, and scored a career-high three goals this season. His best position is unclear, but the six-times capped Spanish international has a Champions League crown and a U-21 EURO Player of the Tournament award.

The trio could earn Real somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 million, though, and Ceballos has been linked with Spurs while Odegaard linked with another loan (Bayer Leverkusen, another step in his progression).

Real is said to be willing to give Spurs a good fee, $57 million, and Ceballos in exchange for Christian Eriksen. That would not help the FFP argument, but would make a certain amount of sense to Tottenham should they value Ceballos.

Eriksen posted eight goals and 12 assists in Premier League play, adding two and four in the Champions League. He won’t turn 28 until February.

USOC wrap: Saint Louis, New Mexico knock out MLS sides (video)

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USL sides delivered the drama on Wednesday night and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup got five more quarterfinalists to join Atlanta United and Minnesota United.

Still to come Thursday, LAFC and San Jose will decide the eighth slot and a date with Portland Timbers.

[ MORE: VAR will not review GKs on PKs in PL ]


DC United 1-2 New York City FC

Wayne Rooney‘s 32nd minute goal gave the hosts a lead which would only last six minutes, as Alexandru Mitrita and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi made it 2-1 before halftime on the way to an away win at Audi Field.

Portland Timbers 4-0 LA Galaxy

Three goals in nine first half minutes helped spring Portland to an easy win over disinterested LA. Guillermo Barros Schelotto didn’t bring the majority of his first choice stars to Oregon, and the Timbers routed their Western Conference opposition to the tune of a 19-7 edge in shots.

Saint Louis FC 1-0 FC Cincinnati

They won’t be forgetting this any time soon; Saint Louis got a stoppage time goal from Sam Fink against their old USL rivals to book a place in the USOC quarterfinals.

Orlando City 2-1 New England Revolution

What began with stars on the bench and a 0-0 score line through 90 minutes really escalated quickly in extra time. Benji Michel and Tesho Akindele gave Orlando a 2-0 lead through 15 minutes of extra time, but Carles Gil set up Justin Rennecks early in the second frame to up the drama. Ultimately, Nani‘s men had enough despite New England’s 22 shots.

FC Dallas 1-2 New Mexico United

FC Dallas took the lead through U-20 World Cup star Brandon Servania, but Kevaughn Frater scored again, and ex-Colorado Rapids draft pick Sam Hamilton added the match winner.

Copa America: Messi penalty saves Argentina point, Colombia wins

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The 2019 Copa America isn’t going much better for Argentina than the 2018 World Cup, with a slow defense and a lack of playmakers in the middle of the park keeping the Albiceleste from making a real difference in the tournament.

Argentina followed up its 2-0 defeat to Colombia with a 1-1 draw against Paraguay, Wednesday evening at the Estadio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte. Lionel Messi scored the lone goal for Argentina on a penalty kick after the referee had consulted with the video assistant referees on a potential handball on a shot from Messi that was deflected wide by a flailing arm.

[ MORE: VAR will not review GKs on PKs in PL ]

That means Argentina though still hasn’t scored a goal in open play after 180 minutes with the likes of Messi, Sergio Aguero and Giovanni Lo Celso on the field.

Paraguay looked dangerous throughout the night, with speedy wingers like Almiron and attacker Derlis Gonzalez making life oh so difficult for Nicolas Otamendi, who ended up having to take a yellow card in the second half after being beaten for pace and not wanting to give up a breakaway.

It was one of those attacks in transition which led to the first goal. Miguel Almiron picked up a pass in his own half and went on a bursting, marauding run down the left wing all the way to the byline. Almiron then crossed into the middle where Richard Sanchez arrived and sliced a strike home.

Argentina was given a lifeline early in the second half after an attack that nearly produced a goal. Sergio Aguero chipped a ball into the middle where Lautaro Martinez had a shot go off the crossbar. Messi corralled a rebound, turned and fired in the 50th minute but his show went wide.

A VAR check though showed that it was deflected off the arm of Paraguay defender Ivan Piris, leading to an Argentina penalty kick, one Messi blasted home to tie the game.

Two minutes later, Paraguay could have taken the lead as Otamendi lost Gonzalez and tackled him from behind, making it an easy decision for the referee. However, Gonzalez produced a poor penalty and it was easily saved by Argentina’s Franco Armani.

Argentina now heads into basically a must-win game against Qatar if it wants to advance.

Earlier, Colombia topped Qatar, 1-0, in a pretty evenly-played game. However, it was the world class passing of James Rodriguez that made the difference.

The Colombian’s delightful chip into the box found the head of big-bodied Duvan Zapata, who powered a header home in the 86th minute to give Colombia the win, and earn it a place in the knockout round.